Bold decisions required from Parreira
Uruguay's comprehensive victory was the type of result Bafana Bafana fans had long feared and coach Carlos Alberto Parreira had worked meticulously to avoid.
The Brazilian must be feeling crushed after his charges froze on a bitterly cold night in Pretoria and now face the very real - and unwanted - prospect of becoming the first World Cup hosts to fail to reach the second phase.
Furthermore, it is next to impossible to see where Parreira can take a glimmer of optimism from a desperate display as he plots to beat a French side on Tuesday that is far superior on paper.
Wednesday night was a disaster as the cherished hopes of a nation celebrating its historic Youth Day fizzled out - the resulting damage a potentially crippling goal difference and the suspensions of Kagiso Dikgacoi and Itumeleng Khune, although Parreira has adequate replacements in both positions.
The pair's surviving World Cup dreams are dependent upon some bold decisions from the Brazilian coach because the evidence so far suggests that either Steven Pienaar or Teko Modise would be better off being replaced by a second striker.
Striker Katlego Mphela has shown he can score goals, although he was horribly exposed against a doughty Uruguayan defence as Pienaar sat behind, unable to make any meaningful impact. Under the watchful gaze of club boss David Moyes, the Everton star had little influence on the game and is surely better served by returning to the flanks, where he shone in last year's Confederations Cup.
That would mean Parreira would finally have to do something many believe should have happened long ago - drop the overhyped and underachieving Teko Modise.
Having said he was targeting a win against Uruguay, some observers - not unrealistically - thought Parreira might field two strikers. However, he showed no tactical variation to Friday's World Cup opener against Mexico - his lack of attacking options highlighted when throwing on Surprise Moriri, who stands 5ft 8' tall, against Uruguay's tall defence.
The only provisional squad member who could partner Mphela with any presence - Benni McCarthty - failed to make the cut. Instead, Parreira, who has lamented South Africa's poor development policy many times, is relying on the diminutive Moriri, the lightweight Bernard Parker and the veteran Siyabonga Nomvete.
None are out-and-out strikers but one may be called upon against France because, after Pienaar's quiet display, Parreira has to decide whether to stick or twist, keep faith with his 4-4-1-1 or throw two up top as he genuinely searches for the goals needed for victory.
The Brazilian will tell you a passing style and minimal physical contact better suit South Africa's physically frail footballers but he would lose little by mixing up things. Unlike the game against Mexico, the gulf in class between Uruguay, a side in Fifa's top 20, and South Africa, ranked 83rd, was wholly apparent as the coach's unbeaten run came to a juddering end.
South Africa supporters show their disappointment following Wednesday's game
Much of the good work of the last few months went out of the window, while South Africa's failure to land high-profile friendlies in the run-up to the finals came back to haunt them on a night when their limitations were clearly exposed.
After Forlan achieved the impossible - silencing the vuvuzelas - the host nation's game plan fell apart as Bafana Bafana, who lacked leaders and showed little heart for the fight, passed the ball like the proverbial hot potato instead of taking responsibility to drive at Uruguay.
One positive factor regarding Tuesday's Group A decider against the 1998 world champions is that it is being played in Bloemfontein, the hotbed of South African support.
And as long as many locals managed to get tickets, the Free State Stadium should provide backing hitherto unseen at the World Cup, for the cramped arena is a cauldron of passion where the voices of Bloemfontein Celtic fans can drown out even the plastic horns that have become such a talking point at this tournament.
On Wednesday night, the fans were terrific prior to the game but quiet once Aaron Mokoena gave Forlan room to shoot. In fact, one vociferous fan spent half-time shouting at the varying colours of the Rainbow Nations that their support was far too quiet.
Loftus is the mythical home of Pretoria's Blue Bulls, the southern hemisphere's leading rugby union club, but this revered stadium was half empty by the time Uruguay scored their third.
Should South Africa exit the competition next week, it will undoubtedly remove considerable gloss from the finals. But with over 95% of tickets sold and enormous pride in hosting the event, the World Cup euphoria should go on.
"It won't change the World Cup," insisted a deflated Pienaar. "People are having fun."
The Bafana Bafana squad confidently danced their way into Loftus on Wednesday night. Now it is time to show some mettle to make sure they are still singing when they leave the Free State Stadium on Tuesday.