THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SAO PAULO, Brazil — Uruguay striker Diego Forlan is trying to turn goals into fan support in Brazil.
Forlan, voted the best player at the 2010 World Cup, has been criticized by Internacional fans for not playing up to expectations after arriving as one of the Brazilian league’s most high-profile signings.
His latest performance could turn his season around.
Forlan scored twice in Internacional’s 2-1 win over Vasco da Gama, keeping the team in contention for a Copa Libertadores berth next season.
"I’m very happy for the match yesterday," Forlan said Thursday on his Twitter account. "Thank you very much for the support."
The performance could be what Forlan needed to get the fans behind him again. He has been struggling since arriving in July and was even jeered in some matches.
After a recent loss by Internacional, fans painted messages on walls near the team’s Beira-Rio Stadium calling the 33-year-old Forlan a "former player."
Forlan has scored five goals in 14 matches with Internacional so far. His first goals only came in September, though, when he scored twice in a 4-1 win over Flamengo. He also scored again later that month in a match against Bahia.
"Forlan is very important to this team," Internacional striker Dagoberto said. "Not only because of the goals — his presence alone helps."
Internacional coach Fernandao said the good performance against Vasco was a sign of things to come.
"I think 2013 will be Diego’s great year in Brazil," Fernandao said. "After 10 years in Europe, it takes some time to get readapted, it’s not easy. But I have no doubt that he will be able to come through for us next year."
Forlan, who previously played for Manchester United, Atletico de Madrid and Inter Milan, has scored only four goals in his last 17 matches with Uruguay since 2011.
Internacional is sixth in the 20-team Brazilian league standings with 48 points, seven behind fourth-place Sao Paulo, the last team currently secured in the 2013 Copa Libertadores, Latin America’s most important club competition. There are only six rounds of matches left in the league.
Internacional’s next match is Saturday at the Beira-Rio against Palmeiras, which is an eight-time national champion but is in relegation zone. Before the win over Vasco, Inter had lost to two other teams facing demotion — Figueirense and last-place Atletico Goianiense.
Internacional won the Copa Libertadores in 2006 and 2010. It beat Barcelona in the final of the club World Cup in 2006.