Though delighted as he left the dressing room on a night when Uruguay had seen off tough opponents in Nigeria to put themselves on the brink of a place in the semi-finals, thanks to his superbly struck winner on his 100th international appearance, Diego Forlan’s evening was still not quite complete.
On climbing the steps that brought him from the press conference in which he received the Budweiser Man of the Match award, Forlan was clearly on the hunt for something else. That something else was the ball with which he struck La Celeste’s winner, his 34th for his country – another landmark – and he was determined to have it, as a collective and individual memento.
“Everything’s coming home with me tonight,” the No10 told FIFA.com shortly after leaving the Arena Fonte Nova. “After everything we’ve been through in the last few months, the fact that we’ve stayed alive in the FIFA Confederations Cup and can carry on enjoying a tournament of this stature is very important. It also makes this 100th game of mine even more special. It’s a real shot in the arm.”
While it is no easy task to get the 34-year-old to talk about himself and not the team, the thumping left-foot drive that beat Nigeria keeper Vincent Enyeama at his near post and brought his side three points presented an obvious topic of conversation. How long had it been since he had scored a goal like that?
Fielding the question with good humour, the beaming century man said: “Listen, I scored a similar goal for Internacional in the Copa do Brasil a few days ago, only for the referee to disallow it.”
In fact, it had been a while since Forlan last scored one of his trademark piledrivers, and that may be due to other factors than his age and the inevitable loss of some of the explosive power that helped him win the adidas Golden Ball at South Africa 2010. Since moving to Brazilian club Internacional, he has gradually evolved from the lethal two-footed finisher he made his name as into an attacking midfielder with a more withdrawn role.
It is a switch he is happy to discuss: “It might sound like a cliché but I can honestly say now that I feel comfortable in any position, including the one I played in today, further out on the left and trying to set play up more.”
After starting Sunday’s defeat to Spain on the bench, having made way for Gaston Ramirez, Forlan was restored to the side against the Nigerians, to great effect. Typically reluctant to discuss his contribution, he inevitably turned the spotlight on to others.
He said: “Obviously I’m comfortable about having the chance, at my age, to play a little bit further back, especially as we’ve got two fantastic strikers (Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani) and because they’re younger than me. It’s good because it’s less of a chore for me to get back into midfield from there.”
That last remark is delivered with a mix of good humour and relief, not without good reason. Not so very long ago, Forlan would have been hard pressed to picture a night like this. Now approaching the twilight of an exceptional career, he is only too happy to savour it.
“There’s no hiding the fact: it’s great to experience nights like this again," he enthused. "When you reach my age, you never know how many you’ve got left.”