Uruguay may be enjoying their best FIFA World Cup™ campaign in 40 years yet Diego Forlan insisted he and his teammates were taking it all in their stride.
In-form Forlan set up Luis Suarez for the first goal of his double in Uruguay's 2-1 last-16 defeat of Korea Republic Saturday to continue the former Manchester United player's stellar year and seal Uruguay's first FIFA World Cup quarter-final appearance since 1970. He scored a double in Atletico Madrid's UEFA Europa League final win and has also hit the back of the net twice for his country in South Africa.
"We're all very proud and happy and just enjoying everything we're doing and trying to do the best for each other," said Forlan. "Of course everyone wants to make it to the final, we're only two games away now, but that doesn't give us any added pressure, we're taking it one step at a time and will now start to focus on our next game, the quarter-final. It doesn't matter who we face along the way now, every game is tough."
Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez revealed what he had told the players in his pre-match pep talk before their last-16 victory in Port Elizabeth. "I said to them 'you as a group must go out there and show South Korea what you can do and give your best on the pitch'."
Forlan and Co did just that against a South Korean side that nevertheless gave them a fright or two along the way, although Tabarez said that, ironically, when the Koreans got their equaliser it only served to spur his team on. "When they drew level my team reacted well," he observed.
"This result gives us our ticket for the quarter-finals, it's taken us such a long time to achieve that. We are among the eight best teams in the world. Now we are in the quarters, our intention is to win the next game, we have six days to work and prepare for it. We have an extraordinary squad, we don't have to improve many things, we'll be giving it our all on July 2 - the quarter-final will be like a final."
Tabarez suggested his team's success at the FIFA World Cup was founded on his players' young age, their experience from playing for major clubs, and a bond that has been created between them. "They are capitalising on those things," he said. "We haven't had our players together for very long but we have great harmony. This team sticks together, they are very united. You could see that after South Korea levelled and how we fought back and scored with a great goal."
"I don't want to sound cocky but this solidarity and unity among the players is a very good weapon to have against any team."
Uruguay's dream run is all the more noteworthy as the nation only numbers three million people. "Our success means a lot to a small country like ours, we've been a long time looking forward to something like this and now it's happening and our motivation is to give our people joy. Judging by all the text messages and phone calls we've started to get, people back home are absolutely delighted."