Uruguay’s World Cup adventure lasted longer than expected, but the disappointment of defeat was still hard to bear.
Thousands of football fans crammed around giant screens in Montevideo on Tuesday to watch Uruguay play the Netherlands in its first World Cup semifinal in 40 years.
Fans were dreaming of a return to the glory years of 1930 and ’50 when Uruguay won the World Cup.
In the end, the 3-2 loss in Cape Town punctured the euphoria, though fireworks were released and a halfhearted chorus of “soy celeste” — “I’m a sky blue,” as the national team is known — was heard as fans acknowledged their team’s efforts.
The South American side was a surprise semifinalist after struggling to make it to the World Cup finals.
Uruguay finished fifth in the South American qualifiers and needing a playoff against Costa Rica to finally book a place in South Africa — the last team to confirm its place.
As defeat began to sink in, most fans made their way home quietly as a somber atmosphere replaced the chanting and dancing.
A few partygoers stayed on in the city center until the early hours of the morning with a few minor disturbances reported.
Luis Mendoza, coordinator of the security operation mounted by Montevideo police, said “around 15 people were detained, after drinking alcohol, for causing disorder.”
However, there were no major incidents to report, Mendoza said.
“The dream is over,” said Oscar Umpierrez, a newspaper and magazine stall owner, who closed his business for 90 minutes before the match.
President Jose Mujica said the match should have lasted five minutes longer because “we were winning it.”
Watching the game on a giant screen installed at a theater in the center of Montevideo, Mujica said “we lost, but with lots of dignity.”
Sports Minister Hector Lecano said there were plans for a big celebration to welcome the team back to Uruguay on Monday, after the third-place playoff.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.