CAPE TOWN - Uruguay, the last team to qualify for the World Cup, carried the South American flag furthest at the tournament before bowing to European superiority in their 3-2 semi-final defeat by Netherlands on Tuesday.
Uruguay's two-year, 20-match qualifying odyssey, full of ups and downs that sent them into the South Africa finals only after a tight playoff against Costa Rica, stood them in good stead in terms of resilience and self-belief.
"If we had to choose a way to lose it would have been this way," Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said after his team kept the outcome of the semi-final in doubt until the final whistle.
"This was another opportunity for us to show Uruguay's intentions, to play as equals over and above our limitations," he told a news conference at Green Point Stadium.
"Saturday's match is important to us in that sense," Tabarez said of the third-place play-off in Port Elizabeth.
"When we look back, we can say we are among the four semi-finalists, the other three are powerhouses of Europe."
The World Cup winners will be European for the first time outside Europe as the Dutch await the outcome of Wednesday's second semi-final between Spain and Germany in Durban.
After four South American teams reached the last eight, Uruguay were the only ones to progress with Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay eliminated at that stage.
"I believe we could have put this team that played against us (Netherlands) in difficulty at any point," Tabarez said.
"I'm proud of the team. They've played on an equal footing with the other team. You couldn't ask for more from these players.
"We accept the defeat, our rivals were better in front of goal," Tabarez said. "I knew the Dutch footballers were rich technically, who could score at any moment," he added.
"Now we have seen the second goal was offside and the match could have been different for us... They gained in composure.
"The (Dutch) team has an attacking spirit, one of the best in this tournament but we never gave up and our last (stoppage time) goal showed we were trying until the end."comments