The difference between success and failure in football is often measured in inches, and so it proved for Uruguay and star striker Diego Forlan on Saturday.
With the last kick of the game in the third-place playoff against Germany, Forlan’s free-kick cannoned off the crossbar and Germany held on for a 3-2 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Inches lower and Uruguay would have taken Germany to extra-time and Forlan would have become outright leading scorer at the tournament with six goals.
“Only a tiny thing was missing with the free-kick,” Forlan said as Uruguay lost 3-2 in a thrilling match - and missed out on third place and its best finish at a World Cup in 60 years.
Despite the small margin, Forlan made a big impact for his country at the World Cup with his five goals, tying him with three other players - Germany’s Thomas Mueller, Spain’s David Villa and the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder - as leading scorer.
“For the Uruguayan team Forlan is a very important player,” said coach Oscar Tabarez. “He is the top football player for us.”
“He has achieved many things. He has taken the leading role in our team. We almost can’t do without him.”
With his help, Uruguay got to the brink of the final before a 3-2 semifinal defeat by the Dutch.
Forlan scored from a vicious long-range shot in that semifinal. There was also a swerving, dipping free-kick in the quarterfinals against Ghana and a spectacular volley against the Germans in the third-place playoff.
Forlan has now scored 29 times for his country, two off Hector Scarone’s all-time Uruguay record.
He will also share the World Cup’s Golden Boot award in 2010 - provided Sneijder or Villa don’t score in Sunday’s World Cup final.
The goals from the 31-year-old Atletico Madrid forward were a major reason for Uruguay’s best World Cup performance since a fourth-place finish in 1970.
“It’s something spectacular to be among the top four,” said Forlan. “If someone would’ve asked us at the beginning, we would’ve liked it. It’s something positive.”
Tabarez said there may be one more World Cup in Forlan, who will have just turned 35 when the 2014 tournament kicks off in Brazil.
“It will depend on what Diego has in his mind,” Tabarez said. “Physically there is nothing stopping him.”
“He takes care of himself so it all depends on what perspective he has himself for his future. He will go on contributing for our team. “He is not like any other player.”
Keywords: 2010 FIFA World Cup