JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Uruguay's Diego Forlan is adding international acclaim to his European success.
The Atletico Madrid striker has played a key role in Uruguay's march to the World Cup quarterfinals, its best run in 40 years. Forlan, winner of two golden boots as Europe's top club scorer in 2004-05 and 2008-09, has two goals in South Africa.
"All I do is play and try to keep going the same way," Forlan said. "Enjoying it, that's all."
Now Uruguay has a good chance to go even further, taking on Ghana in the quarterfinals Friday in Johannesburg. Ghana is ranked 16 spots lower than the South Americans, but the Black Stars showed those listings mean little by knocking off the United States in the round of 16. Ghana is the last African team at the World Cup.
"We are lucky to have a footballer with the experience and ability he (Forlan) has and the desire to help the team," coach Oscar Tabarez said.
Forlan, 31, is playing his second World Cup after appearing in the 2002 edition. He was a young prospect then who scored just once as Uruguay failed to get out of its group. This time, Forlan arrived in South Africa as a seasoned performer, fresh from scoring both of Atletico's goals in the 2-1 victory over Fulham in the Europa Cup final in May.
His goal-scoring form in Spain, first with Villarreal and now with Atletico, has erased memories of his two years with Manchester United, where he scored 17 goals in 95 appearances, featuring mostly as a substitute.
International success was the only thing missing from Forlan's resume — until now.
"Forlan is a natural leader," midfielder Alvaro Fernandez said. "He's kind of the one who takes command from the middle of the pitch up to the front, so we pay a lot of attention to what he says."
Strike partner Suarez has outscored Forlan with three goals, but it's not a statistic that Forlan worries about.
"I've been chosen to play a bit further back, trying to arrive later on goal," Forlan said. "If (Suarez) is to get more goals, then so be it, and hopefully that helps us go as far as possible."