PRETORIA, June 18 – Uruguay's Diego Forlan memorably scored a double for Manchester United to secure a win against bitter rivals Liverpool at Anfield but otherwise struggled to impress at Old Trafford.But his latest brace – which saw hosts South Africa swamped 3-0 on Wednesday – indelibly stamped his class on the World Cup to leave the South Americans on the brink of a place in the last 16.
While South Africa now face a battle to avoid becoming the first World Cup host to crash out in the opening round, Atletico Madrid star Forlan has buried for good any lingering impression from his time in England that his finishing skills leave something to be desired.
With United, 27 matches went by following his move from Argentina’s Independiente before he found the net – and he would score only 17 goals in 95 appearances before being ushered out of the exit door – just as a certain Wayne Rooney arrived – to Villarreal, where he flourished.
This season, Forlan’s scoring touch was there for all to see, not least when he netted twice in the final against Fulham to help Atletico to the inaugural Europa League title, the successor to the UEFA Cup.
In the World Cup qualifiers, Forlan netted a hattrick against Peru and hit seven goals overall as the Uruguayans booked their tickets for South Africa and his spectacular opener and consummate penalty in Wednesday’s game briefly left the 31-year-old top of the scoring charts.
Although Gonzalo Higuain’s treble for Argentina against South Korea swiftly deposed him, Forlan – full name Diego Martin Forlan Corazo – can now look forward to an extended campaign.
His exploits at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld Stadium took his international tally to 26 goals in 64 games with his season total now standing at 33.
Nobody should really be surprised since Forlan had no sooner left Old Trafford than he finished top scorer in Spain’s La Liga with his next club, modest Villarreal.
Since joining Atletico three seasons ago Forlan has continued to average around 20 goals a season and now Uruguayan fans hope he can produce some more fireworks as they dream of a third World Cup success after 1930 and 1950.
"First, we have to make sure we can get through to the last 16 and then we will see who we play. We will have to play better than we did against South Africa," noted Forlan after the hosts imploded once goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune had been red-carded ahead of his penalty.
As regards his personal scoring ambitions Forlan insists he is not on an ego trip.
"I am not thinking of being the top scorer at the World Cup. I am thinking of helping my team to win."
South African coach Carlos Alberto Parreira was effusive in his praise of the striker, despite his own disappointment at the result.
"Forlan can decide the outcome of a match on his own – he is a real handful for defenders as he can score at any moment."
Final group opponents Mexico will surely beware.