The second round of group stage games kicked off this evening with Uruguay beating host nation South Africa 3-0. The goals came from Diego Forlan, first undoubtedly the goal of the tournament (so far), the second resulting from a dubious penalty decision. Alvaro Pereira then added salt into the wounds of the home crowd with a third late on.
There were plenty of Talking Points, none less important then the red card and penalty conceded by South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune – so let’s get down to it.
Deadly Diego on the Double
Nobody can deny the quality and class Diego Forlan has produced since leaving dreary Manchester. Tonight, there was no drop in form from the Atletico Madrid striker who’s goal won them the Europa League last month. Spearheading a front three along with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, Forlan didn’t stop running for the whole game, receiving the ball deep, making darting runs and generally being a constant threat to South Africa. His work ethic was rewarded with the goal of the tournament so far, a cracking strike from about thirty yards out which took a slight deflection off Aaron Mokoena. But nonetheless, it was a stunning goal which silenced the vuvuzelas. The second goal, a terrific spot kick which he rifled into the top corner, personified his calmness and quality. On a sidenote, his odds of finishing top scorer have been slashed from 50/1, to 9/1.
The penalty awarded to Uruguay as a result of Khune’s challenge of Luis Suarez has attracted some debate. Suarez, who narrowly avoided being offside, made a run to the ‘keepers right, darted to his left and Khune (who I had been praising for his superb distribution and passing all game) stuck out a leg, clipping the Ajax striker. On further inspection, it’s fair to say Suarez made the most out of the challenge and if you were being further microscopic, he seems to “fall” into the leg of Khune, attracting the tackle and duly going down, a tactic used many times throughout the match. Penalty – probably so. Red card – very harsh indeed, but due to the obvious goalscoring opportunity and the fact the referee saw it as a penalty, a correct booking from his point of view.
Uruguay: Fucile and three-pronged attack paid off
I felt Tabarez’s changes in set up, particularly replacing Ignacio Gonzales with Cavani and using an attacking full back, Fucile, really paid dividends. The front three of Forlan, Suarez and Cavani was versatile and much more flexible then the front line which drew 0-0 with France. Fucile was impressive at left back, and his attacking instincts added a much needed fresh dimension to Uruguay’s attack.
South Africa: Isolation, void in creativity
South Africa failed to show any of the spark and impression left from early on in their game against Mexico. Katlego Mphela was left isolated as Pienaar spent most of his time behind the ball, while there were no Tshabalala-like pieces of magic to witness. None of the front four were creative, dynamic or basically good enough to cause Uruguay any stir. Perhaps playing Pienaar starting in a deeper role, or out wide, would involve him more. This line-up would have an uphill task against France if it wasn’t steep enough already.
Uruguay one step closer to knockouts
The comprehensive win tonight means Uruguay have put one step into the knockout stages. With one final game remaining against Mexico, a draw tomorrow night between France and the Mexicans will favour Uruguay to win the group – probably deservedly. Winning Group A means Uruguay could face possibly Nigeria on their home continent, or the very impressive South Koreans. Or in the worst case scenario – fellow South Americans Argentina. If they keep playing like tonight, and if Forlan managed to continue his scoring form, Uruguay are a match for either of the first two possibilities, although a mouth watering clash with Argentina would be very difficult.
Africa down, but far from out
Tonight’s loss heaps fears on South Africa that they could be the first home nation ever not to get out of the group stage. In what would be an awful dampener on the tournament, it is looking increasingly likely that Bafana Bafana will make void a terrific World Cup record. Them not making the final sixteen would have a cataclysmic effect on the whole tournament, as was seen tonight as the crowds headed home after going 2-0 down. With bad attendances all around the games, no home representation would compound the terrible turnouts. However, all is not bad for Africa as a continent – Ghana, Ivory Coast and to a certain extent Nigeria are all in a terrific position to qualify in what would be an unbelievable achievement to see a couple of African nations in the latter rounds. Ghana opened with a win against Serbia, while Ivory Coast held firm against Portugal and looked very impressive. While Nigeria lost against Argentina, they looked impressive and more than capable of progressing.