Copa America

Fans rejoice in Uruguay victory

Uruguay fans celebrate at the Monumental during the 2011 Copa America final.
COPA AMERICA
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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP)

Horn-blaring, flag-waving mayhem took over the capital of Uruguay on Sunday after their national team beat Paraguay 3-0 in the Copa America final.

Uruguay's record 15th Copa America victory was even sweeter for being won in Buenos Aires, where host Argentina and defending champion Brazil were the teams to beat. In the end, South America's heavyweights played lackluster games and the Uruguayans dominated.

Thousands celebrated while watching a huge screen outside the Montevideo city hall, shooting off flares, waving flags and singing rowdy songs.

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''I was sure we would come out champions, after beating Argentina the cup was ours,'' said Alvaro Mendoza, who wrapped himself in an Uruguayan flag and joined a huge crowd that filled 18th of July avenue from one end to another.

Uruguay has an impressive football history that includes Olympic golds in 1924 and 1928, World Cups in 1930 and 1950, and now one more Copa America victory than Argentina. But a generation in Uruguay has grown up almost believing they can't win, despite having first-rate players. The socio-economic reality of being a country of just 3.4 million people wedged between Brazil and Argentina had tested their faith.

With their conquering heroes expected back home late Sunday night, many fans planned to keep partying well into the night in the streets of the Uruguayan capital. A caravan was planned from the Carrasco airport to the Centenario stadium, where the football association planned a public welcoming.

Earlier Sunday, a big crowd also watched the final in the Plaza San Martin in Buenos Aires, where Paraguayans in red-white-and-blue outnumbered the Uruguayan fans about 3 to 1 and the crowd remained friendly despite the cheers and jeers.

Many of Paraguayans in the crowd immigrated to Argentina for work, living in slums while sending money to families back home.

''We're here to work. The economy is much better here than in Paraguay,'' said house painter Simon Ramirez, 23. ''There's no equality between these countries. But football brings us all together. This is a party and we're here to celebrate.''

Uruguayans in the crowd were proud of their football history and came into this Copa America thinking they had a good shot at winning.

''Argentina is always the favorite but our team came into this thinking the cup would end up 'Charrua,''' said lifeguard Martin Velmeggi, invoking Uruguayan slang for the fighting pride of natives from their side of the wide River Plate.

Velmeggi said he came to the park because he couldn't afford the 2,000 Argentine pesos (about $500) scalpers were charging for seats inside the stadium.

''Our team is great but they always have that desire to be even better - that's what sets them apart,'' Velmeggi said.

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Michael Warren and Alexander Wilson in Buenos Aires contributed to this report.

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