Centurion Forlan Shines as Uruguay Keep Confederations Cup Dream Alive

Daniel EdwardsFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2013

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JUNE 20:  Diego Lugano of Uruguay celebrates with Diego Forlan (r) after scoring the opening goal during the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Group B match between Nigeria and Uruguay at Estadio Octavio Mangabeira (Arena Fonte Nova Salvador) on June 20, 2013 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Uruguay hero Diego Forlan had the perfect response for those who doubted the veteran still had the quality to lead the Celeste to glory. The 34-year-old star assisted on one goal and scored the other to see his nation through a tricky Confederations Cup tie with Nigeria, the perfect way to mark his 100th cap for the South Americans. 

For any player, reaching a centenary of appearances in the national shirt is momentous achievement. But even more so in Uruguay. 

No player before Internacional's forward had reached the landmark, in spite of a football history to rival almost any other team in the world game. Obduilio Varela, Enzo Francescoli, Alvaro Recoba; the country has boasted countless outstanding talents through the years, but not until Forlan had one gone on to reach three-figures in the famous sky-blue shirt. 

Therefore, the ex-Atletico Madrid and and Inter star had to mark the occasion with something special. On that front, he most definitely did not disappoint. 

Playing in the hole behind off-colour strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, the onus fell on the World Cup Golden Ball winner to do the damage in a game Uruguay had no choice but to win. As happens so often with the new Forlan, careful to preserve his fitness and come to prominence when the moment requires him, it was from a set-piece that he first unlocked Nigeria. 

Forlan's corner was at first cleared by Nigeria, but he responded with a delicate cross that caught the Super Eagles unawares. Diego Lugano was ready, though, and in a sequence that has been repeated many times between the two over the years the defender poked home from close-range to hand Uruguay the lead. The captain then turned villain with a less than impressive marking effort that allowed John Obi Mikel to equalise, and Forlan was once more called upon to make the difference. 

That he did, in glorious fashion. With six minutes played of the first half, Cavani's pass played in the veteran out on the left. He had little sight of the goal, but responded with a perfect left footed piledriver that flew past Vincent Enyeama and restored the Celeste lead. Cavani should really have put Uruguay out of sight when yet another great Forlan delivery found him unmarked, but the Napoli man continued his rotten Confederations Cup form with a header directed well wide. 

What Forlan did on the pitch will no doubt grab the headlines, but of greater significance was his completing the full 90 minutes of a game finally won 2-1 by Uruguay. Doubts have circulated over his fitness as the years advance without pity, but in the subtropical conditions of Salvador Forlan stood up and showed he has plenty left in the tank. 

The forward's place in the Uruguay hall of fame is already assured thanks to his heroics in 2010, but the South Americans must look forward. Currently tied for fifth with Venezuela in the Conmebol World Cup qualifying stage, Oscar Tabarez's men need to show their best form in the four matches remaining if they are to return to Brazil in 2014. 

It is dangerous to look ahead, and qualifying is the key objective right now. But if the Celeste do book their place, do not be surprised if one year from now the tireless Forlan is still inspiring them to great things.