As kick-off drew closer, the doors to the country's bars, cantinas and restaurants were thrown wide open to welcome the thousands of fans eager to witness Mexico's most important game in years.

The Angel of Independence had also started to receive its first visitors of the day. The famous monument where Mexicans come together to celebrate big events was already a bustling hive of activity, as hopeful fans chanted "Mexico for the Championship!" and filled the air with the sound of car horns.

As the game progressed, the atmosphere around the country began to change. In bars and restaurants the fans' nerves gradually gave way to high spirits with many choruses of the famous song "Cielito lindo" (Beautiful sky) ringing out even before the half-time whistle had been blown.

More and more people began arriving at the Angel of Independence with over 200 fans by half-time in the match, supremely confident that their boys would hold on for the victory. Unable to see a television screen from their vantage point in the middle of the street, those surrounding the monument had to make do with regular phone reports from family and friends to keep them in touch with events in Lima.

Get the party started
With the final whistle barely having left the referee's lips, fans watching the game in restaurants and bars began swarming the city centre landmark to join in the celebrations. In what seemed like no time, the streets around the monument were filled with a euphoric mass of people looking to toast their national team's success. 

Pedestrians needed to be on their toes as drivers sped to the centre of the celebrations, hooting their horns and waving flags. As the streets around the Angel were closed off to traffic, car owners faced a race against time before parking spaces ran out.

Within half an hour of the match finishing, the numbers of people surrounding the monument had increased one hundred fold. Chants of "Mexico, Mexico" rang through the air as the tens of thousands present leapt and danced around, lost in the moment.

Many had painted their faces in the colours of the Mexican flag: green, white and red, others wore the national team shirt and yet more people sported an assortment of odd-looking headgear and colourful scarves. Some chanted "Olé, olé, olé, olé, Champions, Champions," while others sang "Where are they? Where are they? Where are the Brazilians who were supposed to thrash us?"

It proved to be an easy day's work for around 1000 policemen there to make sure that celebrations did not get out of hand. They may not have actively joined in the festivities, but it was clear from their smiling faces that they shared the fans' enthusiasm and were revelling in their country's victory.

The President of the Republic, Vicente Fox, congratulated the team on their win and invited them to a reception at his official residence at Los Pinos. Meanwhile, the party went on until the early hours in the biggest celebration that Mexico had seen for a long time. Once more football has proved a great way of putting smiles on people's faces and bringing strangers closer together. It is days like these that bring home the real meaning of the beautiful game.