South Africa facing early exit after Forlan double

South Africa 0 Uruguay 3
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The Independent Online

At the end of a public holiday commemorating the Soweto uprising of 1976, South African football was left with nothing to celebrate, and the probability of making unwanted history as the first host nation to be eliminated from a World Cup before the knockout stage. They must beat France in the final group match on Tuesday to have any hope of progressing and could still be squeezed out. The first-choice goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, who was sent off in the second half, and Fulham's midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi will both be missing.

Khune had conceded a penalty from which the former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan scored his second goal of the night, effectively confirming a victory that gives Uruguay a good chance of going through now that they top the section with four points. Forlan, who has reinvented himself at Villareal and Atletico Madrid, carried his club form into last night's game and propelled his country towards the second round. They were too strong and too knowing for Bafana Bafana, who suffered their first defeat since the experienced Carlos Alberto Parreira returned as coach last autumn.

Whether Parreira was venting genuine anger or merely deflecting the heat from his outclassed players, he gave voice to strong criticism of the Swiss referee Massimo Busacca, claiming: "The players are very angry and disappointed and we said it's the worst referee in the competition so far. You give fouls that were not fouls and yellow cards that were not yellow cards, then leave the pitch smiling. I hope we won't see his face again."

The red card was one of those unfortunate triple punishments. As the lively striker Luis Suarez went past him with quarter of an hour to play, Khune made contact with his foot; it was a penalty but in those circumstances a sending off and ban are heavy punishment. The goalkeeper trudged off in disgust to be replaced between the posts by his deputy Moneeb Josephs, who stood no chance with Forlan's well struck spot-kick. Steven Pienaar was the outfield player to be sacrificed, having again failed to make an impression in the key role just behind South Africa's one striker, Katlego Mphela.

Pienaar added pressure on himself by collecting a yellow card in only the sixth minute for encroaching at a free-kick, and Dikgacoi ruled himself out of the final group match with his second card of the tournament before half-time. He could also have been sent off for a bad tackle later that put Jorge Fucile out of the game.

Fucile regularly rampaged down the left flank in an interesting system featuring three men at the back and three at the front, with Forlan flitting in between Suarez and Edinson Cavani, whom Uruguay had introduced as an extra striker in a bold move that was well rewarded.

The passionate home supporters soon had to resign themselves to the fact that, as in the first half against Mexico, their team found the going hard, and this time instead of clinging on they found themselves a goal down. It came out of nothing, the hard-working Forlan collecting a pass some 25 yards out and hitting a shot that would probably have cleared the bar had it not deflected off the shoulder of Aaron Mokoena and dipped just underneath it.

The hosts failed to match the vim of their followers and by the end had barely tested the Uruguayan goalkeeper. Many spectators were drifting away before, in the final minute, Alvaro Pereira headed the third goal.

South Africa (4-4-1-1): Khune; Gaxa, Mokoena, Khumalo, Masilela; Modise, Dikgacoi, Letsholonyane (Moriri, 57), Tshabalala; Pienaar (Josephs, 79); Mphela. Substitutes not used Ngcongca, Sibaya, Davids, Booth, Thwala, Parker, Nomvethe, Sangweni, Khuboni, Walters.

Uruguay (3-4-3 ): Muslera; M Pereira, Lugano, Godin; Perez (Gargano, 90), Arevalo, A Pereira, Fucile (Alvaro Fernandez, 71); Cavani (Sebastian Fernandez, 89), Suarez, Forlan. Substitutes not used Castillo, Victorino, Eguren, Abreu, Gonzalez, Scotti, Caceres, Silva.

Referee M Busacca (Switzerland).

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