For a tournament shrouded in infamy from the vuvuzela to the Jabulani, 2010 is a year that Diego Forlan may remember more positively than anyone else in the world.
The Politics Behind the 2010 World Cup
It wouldn’t be a World Cup without a bit of corruption, would it?
Naturally, you’d want one of two things from a World Cup host:
- They’d already be a football-obsessed nation with the infrastructure that goes along with it, therefore their bid is garnished with a longstanding history of fanfare and love for the sport that will carry through into their hosting efforts e.g. Brazil.
- They’re not that into the sport but would like to be, and therefore commit to logistically understandable tournament with the financial backing required to make good on their promises to FIFA and the world e.g. USA
South Africa somehow falls in between these two categories.
Football is undoubtedly a major force in South Africa (and Africa as a whole) – as we can see from this region’s influence on the game and regular participation in other campaigns.
But with ex-FIFA executive Chuck Blazer – with a spattering of others – admitting that “I and others on the FIFA executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa as the host nation for the 2010 World Cup”, this whole thing sticks almost as much as this Qatar stuff in 2022, but anyway, we digress …
Controversy in South Africa 2010
Continuing from the above, it wouldn’t really be a World Cup without controversy.
Be it a play-focused type like we saw in our recent post about Zinedine Zidane and the infamous headbutt against Marco Materazzi in 2006, or something more sinister lurking in the background of the boardrooms governing the game, scandal is never far away.
Thankfully, Netflix’s latest documentary ‘FIFA Uncovered’ has done a better job of communicating these issues than perhaps I’ll ever be able to do.
In relation to South Africa, they centre on ex-CONCACAF leader Jack Warner.
Who was believed to be instrumental in organising the bid and subsequent acceptance of said bid for South Africa to take on hosting duties for 2010.
It would be the first ever World Cup to be held in the continent of Africa and was said to be a driver for the future of football on this side of the world to bring them to somewhere near the prominence enjoyed by sporting institutions of the Western world.
Thereafter, the idiosyncrasies of the country took over.
The Vuvuzela and the Jabulani
I can’t imagine there’s a fan in the world that liked either of these things.
But let’s begin with the most annoying; the vuvuzela.
It was this plastic elongated horn (around 70cm in length) which looked nowhere near as effective as it proved to be for destroying the atmosphere of a World Cup.
Fans from this era can easily pinpoint the vuvuzela as its presence was incessant right throughout South Africa 2010 – forcing through this horrific bee-like humm through the crowd to drown out any celebration or fan display at any point through the tournament.
Such was the hatred for this thing, that they were officially banned by local football organisations in their country’s leagues for the forthcoming seasons.
As was the Jabulani ball. Much to Diego Forlan’s dismay.
Its apparently ‘simplistic’ design was supposedly intended to improve the aerodynamics of the ball as it flew through the humidity of the South African air, but in reality, the ball became almost impossible to predict as it travelled, and seemed to bounce higher than we’d grown accustomed, so many players struggled to get used to how it moved.
However, Diego Forlan’s Uruguay were not amongst those ‘strugglers’.
Uruguay at the 2010 World Cup
Teams who kept the ball on the ground were always going to succeed here.
Hence why Holland and Spain made it to the ultimate final.
But Uruguay were a different prospect. As the first ever winners of the tournament way back in 1930, it’s difficult to write them off in any succeeding edition of a World Cup.
At a glance, their squad was bereft of technical, on-ball quality right from the base of the defence to the tip of their attack. Godin and Lugano had adapted to the Spanish and Italian leagues well to keep things close in control where possible. Gargano was the kind of tough, uncompromising midfielder needed for the attackers to flourish.
There, they had Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and, of course, Diego Forlan.
We’ve already written about what Luis Suarez’ involvement was for South Africa 2010, but the efforts of his attacking teammates mustn’t go unnoticed.
Edinson Cavani has and may always go down as one of the greatest strikers ever produced by Uruguay, and has been a phenomenal asset to the country and his own teams for the majority of his career. As, it must be said, was Diego Forlan.
Diego Forlan in South Africa
To be honest, I’ll never get bored of speaking about Diego Forlan.
He was one of my favourite players to watch.
Here at Ultra UTD, we’ve spoken of Diego Forlan and his rise to prominence as a forward at Villarreal after a tough time as a Manchester United starlet.
By now, he was a focal point for Atletico Madrid and knee-deep into a four-year period at the Spanish club. For Uruguay, he was just coming into his own, and an impressive hat-trick against Peru in the qualifiers set the tone for an unprecedented World Cup.
Whilst everybody was getting to grips with the Jabulani, Diego Forlan’s technique to generate an unerring amount of topspin on the ball was key to controlling the wayward projectile to get closer to the target than most other players were capable of doing.
Just ask England’s Frank Lampard – he could never get used to it. And when he did, the authorities were on hand to undo a lot of his hard work, anyway!
Two brilliant goals against the hosts South Africa set things off to the perfect start for his nation following a fair draw against a struggling France side in the opening game.
Suarez stole the show for the next few games, including that game against Ghana, but it was Forlan’s goal there too which forced them to the shootout in the first place.
Losing the semi’s and ‘bronze final’ was a crushing blow, but Diego Forlan managed to score twice in those games to finish as the World Cup’s top scorer.
Diego Forlan: Golden Ball Winner & Dream Team Striker (2010)
This was a zenith of Diego Forlan’s footballing powers.
He was the only Uruguayan to make it to the Dream Team of this tournament, and his compatriots will do a great job in trying to unseat him, especially as we now await for the controversial Qatar 2022 tournament to take place later today!
But still, for what he achieved in South Africa, it should never be forgotten.
At club level, Diego Forlan would go in to replace the great Samuel Eto’o with Inter Milan and wind down a fantastic career representing three top clubs in three equally top leagues in Europe from this period. Even his ‘tougher period’ results in adulation.
“He has been just fantastic and we’re all proud of him…..There was never a problem with him at Old Trafford…..He could have been a hero. He was a great lad and a magnificent professional.”Alex Ferguson on Diego Forlan at Manchester United (c. 2004)
Without his silky link-up play to bring the ball down and take control of that infamous Jabulani ball, who knows where Uruguay would have been without him.