Diego Forlan's Goal Against Nigeria Shows He Is Still a Key Player for Uruguay

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2013

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JUNE 20:  Diego Forlan of Uruguay looks on 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

With one swing of his left boot, Diego Forlan demonstrated exactly what he can still provide for Uruguay.

The 34-year-old striker was the engine behind Uruguay finishing fourth at the 2010 World Cup and then winning the 2011 Copa America.

After that win, it looked like La Celeste would become a serious threat for the 2014 World Cup. Instead, they're struggling to qualify from their group in CONMEBOL.

Much of that decline is due to the aging of Forlan. He simply can't be the kind of talisman he was three or four years ago. You wouldn't expect any player his age to remain at that level.

Look at the way his league goals have declined since the 2008-09 season.

The other part of it is that Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez haven't clicked in the way Oscar Tabarez would have hoped. You'd think putting two world-class strikers together would be a surefire way to create a strong attack. That hasn't happened, though, and it's largely down to Cavani.

His performance against Nigeria was symbolic of his career in a Uruguay shirt. Cavani hasn't been a terrible player. He just hasn't been able to play as well for Uruguay as he does for Napoli.

Luckily, Forlan is still capable of putting in a strong performance. He can remain a key player for La Celeste, albeit in a bit of a different role.

You look at a guy like Andrea Pirlo, 34 years old and still a world-class midfielder. What makes Pirlo so good is that he doesn't have to run around as much. He's surrounded by capable players at Juventus and Italy, who can do all the running for him. Pirlo can sit back and pick his passes and take free kicks close enough to goal.

Forlan was primarily a striker at Atletico Madrid, but he did so well sitting in behind Suarez and Cavani. Tabarez might be able to drop him a little deeper in the pitch.

While Pirlo is a much better player than Forlan, the principle still holds to a certain extent. Both players can remain very successful by having their teammates accentuate the player's best qualities and cover for his worst.

Forlan's goal proved that his ball-striking abilities haven't gone anywhere. There aren't a lot of players who would be able to hit the corner like that. If Forlan plays maybe a central midfield role, then he could become almost the same as Pirlo. Forlan would play slightly more advanced, attacking position.

He would be able to pick his passes and make the occasional attempt on goal. Suarez is a very good set-piece taker, but Forlan could offer a secondary option.

Perhaps, it's a bit concerning that Uruguay would have to rely on a 34-year-old to hold down a starting place, but nobody is really sounding any alarms over Pirlo's inclusion on Italy.

In a year's time, maybe Forlan will suffer a massive drop in form that would mean he couldn't possibly be selected by the Uruguay squad. For now, though, he's more than capable of remaining a playmaker in the attack.