Soccer fans have long memories. From time to time their recollections
become somewhat selective, but in the same way they never forget great
players, they also remember the duds. Depending who you talk to Diego Forlan is either a national treasure, or an over-hyped misfit.
Soccer fans have long memories. From time to time their recollections become somewhat selective, but in the same way they never forget great players, they also remember the duds.
Depending who you talk to Diego Forlan is either a national treasure, or an over-hyped misfit.
In his native Uruguay, there is no debate. At the age of 34, Forlan is edging towards the conclusion of a stellar career. In some parts of Europe, where he spent more than a decade before returning to South America, his contributions are remembered rather less fondly.
The man who led his country to the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup has just reached another milestone. First it was Andrea Pirlo scoring on his 100th appearance for Italy. Now Forlan has followed suit at the Confederations Cup, smashing an unstoppable winner for Uruguay, to mark his entry in the elite club of international centurions.
The hard fought 2-1 win over Nigeria was critical. In a group where Spain stands supreme and Tahiti is out of its depth, the battle for a semifinal berth in Brazil was always going to come down to the clash of the respective African and South American champions.
Forlan ran the show. Having been left on the bench for Uruguay's Group B opening loss to Spain, he was recalled to the starting line-up for the must win tussle against Nigeria. With Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani also featuring, the attacking intent was clear and Forlan was in the mood.
The hairline is beginning to recede. The blonde, flowing locks of his 20's are long gone but his ability is undiminished. Now employed in a deeper, playmaking role, Forlan has the experience to dictate the game. But when the chance presents itself, as it did against the Nigerians, he is often still the centre of attention.
Which is more than he was at the two of the world's biggest clubs.
Tough time settling in
When Manchester United hijacked Middlesbrough's move to bring him to the English Premier League in early 2002, Forlan was hailed as the next great South American hotshot. Perhaps it was the culture, the style of soccer, or the weather. Whatever it was, or wasn't, Forlan never settled with the English champions. He scored just 10 goals in two and a half seasons before moving onto Spain.
Seven seasons, and well over 100 La Liga goals later, Forlan was tempted to join Inter Milan. He would replace Samuel Eto'o and duly scored on his debut. It took nearly six months before he found the net again and his contract was cancelled after a single forgettable campaign at the San Siro.
Forlan wants one more crack at the World Cup. Whether or not he gets the chance to return to Brazil in 2014 may well hinge on his leadership qualities in the coming months. Uruguay is playing catch-up in South American qualifying and with four games to go is sitting right on the cut line.
For the time being Forlan and company can look forward to filling their boots. Anything other than a sizable victory over Tahiti on Sunday will be a major shock and, having beaten Nigeria, a place in the final four seems Uruguay's for the taking.
Spain's record 10-0 mauling of the Tahitians presents the head coach with an interesting dilemma. Vicente del Bosque's B-team ran riot in Rio with Fernando Torres scoring 4 and David Villa completing a hat-trick. It will be interesting to see if either or both did enough to earn a promotion to his first choice team for the remaining round robin game against Nigeria.
Pedro and Roberto Soldado both scored in the win over Uruguay and are likely to be recalled after a rest but there is little more Torres or Villa could have done to press their respective claims.
The waters are beginning to clear. The group standings are almost sorted. By the end of the weekend we'll know for sure. Brazil and Italy have both qualified, but neither will want to face Spain in the semi-finals. All to play for on Saturday in Salvador.