React: Uruguay 3 – 0 South Africa
Diego Forlan never met a deflection he didn’t love. His first-half strike from at least 4 yards outside the box came off a defender and banked perfectly off the top of the crossbar to stymie RSA goalie Khune. Forlan seems to score a lot off deflections, but he seems to score a lot in general, so perhaps that’s just the result of a guy who loves to pull the trigger. Either way, Uruguay deserved the lead after a smart half of dictating tempo.
South Africa spent the first half not finding Steven Pienaar with the ball, which is a shame. One of the few times he handled it on the break, he sent a wild pass to no one, so many his teammates decided he needed a time out. More likely, though, he was marked closely by a Uruguayan team that knows how to play tight, physical defense. (One of the disadvantages to having to watch on a small feed on a monitor is the inability to track off-the-ball behavior closely.)
Despite Pienaar’s disappearance, despite Forlan’s gut-wrenching strike/bounce, South Africa played with the hop in its step of a team full of self-confidence. Few chances turned up, but they showed no signs of wilting… which is what makes the foolish play by Khune at the 76′ mark such a shame.
Let’s get this out of the way: Suarez dived. And it was also a penalty. I know there’s no black-and-white position when something like this happens, but I’ll make the case for why the dive doesn’t negate the foul.
Suarez had a clear chance on goal and the keeper came at him with both feet and didn’t touch the ball. If Suarez continues his run, he goes down hard. Instead, he tripped himself just before contact to make sure he went down hard. I’m not a fan of Suarez pretending to fall when he would’ve done so naturally, but he still would’ve done so naturally. It was a reckless challenge, it didn’t even get a whiff of the ball, and anyone who’s been complaining about a lack of scoring cannot support that kind of defending. If players can get away with those sorts of assaults, it’ll be even harder to get the Beautiful Game in gear. Disagreements welcome, of course.
In the aftermath, Diego Forlan blasted a perfect, undefendable penalty at 100mph into the top left corner. Even a correct guess and solid dive from the ice-cold back-up could do nothing to prevent the clinching goal. Forlan was the best player on the pitch this day and his brace is fitting. Pereira added insult with a late goal when South Africa seemed to lay down at the last.
RSA is now the first host nation not to win one of their first two games, thanks in part to a well-oiled Uruguay, Steven Pienaar being kidnapped, quitting at the end, and reckless play at the back. The fairy tale of advancement hangs by a thread. Or is that a card?