Diego Forlan celebrated his 100th appearance for Uruguay in style,setting up one goal then scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory over Nigeria on Thursday to move his team within sight of the Confederations Cup semifinals.
Forlans decisive goal came in the 51st minute with a sweetly-struck left-footed drive,when he finished off a swift counterattack that involved all three of the South American champions forwards,starting with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
Malaga defender Diego Lugano put Uruguay ahead in the 19th following a cross from Forlan and Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel equalized for Nigeria in the 37th.
Forlan is a top striker with the way he uses both feet and the way he handles the ball, Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said. He showcased that talent tonight.
Uruguay and Nigeria are level with three points each in Group B but Uruguay will be expected to win its next match against underdog Tahiti while Nigeria faces World Cup holder Spain.
Since the draw we knew that this was the huge match to play, Tabarez said. We have taken a huge step toward the semifinals but were not there yet.
At the Arena Fonte Nova on a warm and humid evening,the sparse crowd supported Nigeria,or rather rooted against Brazils southern neighbor Uruguay. Nigeria relied on long balls while Uruguay relied on a more deliberate approach.
The 34-year-old Forlan won the Golden Ball trophy as the best player at the 2010 World Cup when Uruguay finished fourth and he rekindled some of that form in this match.
For the opening goal,Forlan crossed toward the center of the area and Edinson Cavani fooled Nigerias defense by letting the ball pass through his legs to the waiting Lugano,who slotted it in from close range.
However,Lugano struggled at the other end and Mikel dribbled by him to launch a powerful shot into the top of the net to draw Nigeria level.
Suarez started off the action that led to the winner by taking the ball near midfield then passed it across to Cavani who flicked it on to Forlan for an angled shot inside the area.
BACK ON TOP
It was Forlans 34th goal for Uruguay,moving him one ahead of Suarez into the squads all-time lead.
Tabarez had considered removing Forlan from the lineup for this match but he played from the start in an offensive 3-4-1-2 lineup behind Cavani and Suarez.
We had never played with the three strikers this way, Tabarez said. Our intention from the outset was very clear. We played in Nigerias half at the start but then Nigeria turned the tables. At halftime we decided we needed to take over supremacy again. It wasnt showy football. We had to work hard.
In the final round of group matches on Sunday,Nigeria faces Spain in Fortaleza and Uruguay meets Tahiti in Recife.