In the end it was not broadcaster pressure that silenced the vuvuzela. It was not the complaints from viewers or players. It was Diego Forlan. The Uruguayan played out of his skin last night, giving his side a first World Cup win since 1990 in a match that soured the carnival atmosphere that has surrounded this World Cup.
Uruguay now top their group and Bafana Bafana must win their final game against France to stand any chance of progressing to the group stages. Should they fail to qualify they will become the first host nation ever to do so. Locals will have spent the night praying France and Mexico cannot be separated this evening as a win for either side would make it even harder.
The first of Forlan’s two goals looked fantastic in real time – he became the first player to score from outside the box, if we assume Clint Dempsey doesn’t count, with a fiercely dipping drive that left the keeper helpless – but replays showed that but for a deflection off Aaron Mokoena it would have sailed well off target.
This was a vastly different Uruguay to the side that played out a tedious 0-0 against France last Friday. Luis Suarez, the highly-rated Ajax striker, was poor once again, caught offside far too many times and wasteful in possession. He also made himself a hate figure by winning the penalty for Uruguay’s second.
Suarez had sprung the offside trap and, seeing Itumeleng Khune rushing out of goal towards him, flicked the ball sideways and was already on his way to the floor before Khune made any contact. When the two players’ studs did meet Suarez yelped in pain and buckled to the ground. There was clear contact, and it was a penalty, but this did not excuse the reaction.
The ground fell briefly silent as the referee showed Khune the red card for preventing a clear goalscoring opportunity. Then the boos began. Forlan had to wait a full five minutes in this atmosphere while South Africa readied their substitute goalkeeper, Moeneeb Josephs. The Uruguayan looked briefly nervous as he finally placed the ball but his penalty was beautifully struck into the roof of the net, and a nation fell silent.
With that the match seemed over as a contest, a sentiment shared by a large part of the crowd who cameras soon showed were streaming towards the exits. Reports from the local fan parks brought similar tales and it is to be hoped that a likely early exit for the hosts does not bring down the atmosphere that has thusfar surrounded the tournament as a whole.
South Africa coach Carlos Pareirra chose to focus on a lacklustre refereeing performance, but will know his side just weren’t good enough. Tshabalala was unable to repeat his performance against Mexico, Steven Pienaar was poor once again and they were struggling to contain Uruguay well before the red card and penalty decided things. There was still time for a third goal, Pereira tapping home from a Suarez cross.
This has left South Africa with a real mountain to climb and they will have to do so without Kagisho Dikgacoi, who picked up a second yellow in as many games and as such will be suspended for the France match. It will require the Bafana Bafana performance of a lifetime, and a certain amount of luck, if he is to play again in this World Cup.