Uruguay blasts Paraguay for South American title
Diego Forlan's scoring drought ended at a perfect time for Uruguay, his two goals on Sunday helping beat Paraguay 3-0 to win the Copa America title.
Forlan, voted the best player at last year's World Cup, hadn't found the net in 12 matches entering the final at Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires. But he scored the team's second and third goals to secure Uruguay a record 15th title in the South American competition.
Forlan joins his father, Pablo Forlan, and grandfather, Juan Carlos Corazzo, as Copa America winners with Uruguay.
The Atletico de Madrid striker teamed up nicely with Liverpool forward Luis Suarez, who also scored in the final and was selected the tournament's best player.
"This has been a lot of work, going back many years," Forlan said. "It's been a job of doing things well and it's yielded results."
Forlan scored five times in the World Cup in South Africa but had since been going through a bit of a slump. He had blamed his lack of scoring on the team's positioning in attack, with him playing behind Suarez and farther from the goal.
He kept saying he wasn't worried, though, and that he knew the goals would start coming again soon.
And his first goal on Sunday was key, helping Uruguay fend off Paraguay's attempt to recover from Suarez's early strike. Forlan fired a powerful left-footed shot from 12 metres into the far post beyond goalkeeper Justo Villar in the 42nd minute.
Forlan's second goal sealed the victory in the 90th, taking a pass from Suarez on a breakaway and easily scoring in front of Villar.
Forlan and Suarez worked well for Uruguay throughout the tournament. Suarez ended the Copa America with four goals, one fewer than leading scorer Paolo Guerrero of Peru.
"We played as a group," Suarez said. "I think when groups are united like this, everyone together and going for the same thing, you can get things done."
Paraguay finally ran out of luck after finishing with three draws in the group stage and then winning by penalties in both the quarter-finals and semifinals
Hands on their hips, the Paraguayan players watched on as the nearby Uruguayans jumped in celebration, the losers hugging each other in consolation.
Paraguay was trying to win its third South American trophy, after victories in 1953 and 1979.
The team was badly outplayed by defending champion Brazil in the quarters, only holding on thanks to an outstanding performance by Villar, who was selected as the tournament's best goalkeeper.
Villar also starred in the semis against Venezuela, playing well in regulation and extra time and making a stop in the penalty shootout. Paraguay was saved by the woodwork three times against the Venezuelans.
There was nothing Villar could do on Sunday, though.
It looked like things were going Paraguay's way again when Brazilian referee Salvio Fagundes failed to see a clear handball by a Paraguayan defender early in the first half, but shortly after the team conceded the first goal.
Without injured star striker Roque Santa Cruz, Paraguay had difficulties breaking through the Uruguayan defence.
The team's only chance in the first half came from a long pass to striker Nelson Haedo Valdez in the 16th, but his shot from close range went over the crossbar. It was the team's only shot on goal in the first half.
Valdez also had the best chance in the second period, his volley hitting the crossbar after a fingertip touch from goalkeeper Fernando Muslera in the 54th.
Against Brazil in the quarter-finals, Paraguay's first shot on goal came in the 88th minute.
Paraguay advanced from the first stage in third place in Group B, behind Brazil and Venezuela. The team drew 0-0 with Ecuador, 2-2 with Brazil and 3-3 with Venezuela en route to the second round.
Paraguay's Argentine coach, Gerardo Martino, couldn't count on Santa Cruz after the striker injured his leg earlier in the tournament. He had already missed the quarter-final match against Brazil and played only a few minutes in the semifinal against Venezuela. Midfielder Aureliano Torres and midfielder Edgar Barreto also were left out of Sunday's lineup because of injury.
Martino himself could not watch the match from the bench after being sent off in the semifinal when he and assistant Jorge Pautasso repeatedly argued with the referee. Pautasso also was absent from the dugout.