Football Football

Forlan leaves Super Eagles forlorn


FORLAN-NIGERIASALVADOR, Brazil, June 21 – Diego Forlan said he had enjoyed a perfect evening after capping his record 100th international appearance with a goal that took Uruguay to the brink of the Confederations Cup semi-finals.

The 34-year-old arrowed a glorious left-foot shot into the top-left corner to earn his side a 2-1 win over Nigeria in their pivotal Group B encounter at Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova on Thursday.

Uruguay must now better Nigeria’s result against world champions Spain when they tackle minnows Tahiti in their final group fixture on Sunday, and Forlan said he could not have scripted a better outcome.

“That was match number 100,” he said after being awarded the man-of-the-match trophy at a post-game media conference.

“It was an important match for us in order to keep our chances of qualifying for the next round.

“I had an opportunity to score a goal and it was great, because the team had to win and we got the three points we needed. It was a lovely goal, and a lovely victory. Everything was good.”

Oscar Tabarez said the secret to his side’s victory had been a more attacking approach in the second half, after he had seen a 19th-minute goal by skipper Diego Lugano — set up by Forlan — cancelled out by Nigeria’s Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi.

“At half-time, we decided we had to take the match where we have supremacy, and that meant the opposing half,” said the Uruguay coach.

Uruguay’s 51st-minute winner saw Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani combine to tee up Forlan, and Tabarez said the goal was a fitting reward for the first player to reach the 100-cap mark for La Celeste.

“Diego Forlan is a man with a brilliant past and above anything, it has to do with his huge professionalism,” said Tabarez.

“He’s a top striker — the way he uses both feet, the way he handles the ball. He showcased his talents today, and that’s what’s taken him all the way to play in so many matches.”

Despite Nigeria finding themselves in the unenviable position of needing to take a positive result from their final game with Spain, who enjoyed a tournament-record 10-0 win over Tahiti earlier on Thursday, coach Stephen Keshi said he had faith in his team.

“Of course we do have a chance,” he told reporters.

“In 90 minutes, you can never tell. That’s why you call it a game. It lasts until the last minute. Anything can happen against Spain.”

He also praised his young players for a spirited performance against Tabarez’s more experienced side, many of whom played in the squad that reached the 2010 World Cup semi-finals and won the 2011 Copa America.

“I’ve been impressed with what my boys did, considering the difference in experience between Uruguay’s team, which has been together for almost six years, whereas ours has been together for a year and a half,” he said.

“So I hope we can sustain this performance and add a little bit of concentration and professionalism.”