A first FIFA World Cup™ Final for 60 years was to prove just beyond two-time world champions Uruguay, who were edged out 3-2 by the Netherlands in the first semi-final here at South Africa 2010. And though the disappointment was still etched on the faces of all the Celeste players as they filed out of the dressing rooms at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, Los Charrúas will be leaving world football’s top table with their pride very much intact.

“I feel very proud to have had the opportunity to play at a World Cup with this squad,” Alvaro Pereira told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “We proved out on the pitch that we never stop trying to win the match, but it was just out of our reach. The fact we dragged ourselves close to levelling the game despite being 3-1 down late on shows just how much spirit this squad has. We never give a game up as lost, even in the last minute.”

Team-mate Egidio Arevalo, for his part, was of the same opinion. “We came so close. It’s been said before but that’s football – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” said the 28-year-old. “Though we lost today, we left the field knowing we did everything we could to reach the Final, but it just wasn’t quite enough. The pain is stopping us thinking too clearly, but we’re pleased about everything we’ve achieved.”

“I don’t think that they were better than us as a team or as individuals,” added Pereira, who plays his club football for FC Porto. “It just came down to the timing of their goals. They clinched the win with two attacks in the second period, but before that point the game was very well-balanced. What’s more, their second goal came against the run of play.”

We’re disappointed but proud, though I can’t say whether I’m totally satisfied. Maybe I’ll be able to answer that question after Saturday’s game.

Uruguay's Alvaro Pereira

However, hard-running midfield man Arevalo chose to give a greater degree of credit to Bert van Marwijk’s charges. “Collectively they are a great team, while the fact they’re all good on the ball makes them difficult to mark. And on an individual level, they have players who are genuinely capable of turning a game and that was made very clear today. Overall, they made the most of the chances that came their way and then used our desperation to get back into the game against us. After their second goal we pushed up a lot to put them under pressure and they grabbed their third on the counter-attack.”

The Penarol man, the only domestic-based member of La Celeste’s finals squad to play every minute of their campaign, remains determined to end on a high in 10 July’s play-off for third place in Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth. “We’ve got to stay composed, get our strength back and try to finish third, which is not the same as fourth. That said, if we miss out then it shouldn’t change anything – we’ve already gone down in Uruguayan football history and we’ll exit this World Cup with our heads held high.”

Handed the final word, Pereira was clearly confident of helping his country to a place on the podium. “We’ve set out to win every game we’ve played and our next one will be no exception. We’re still sad at missing out on the Final but we’re aiming to hoist the Uruguayan flag as high up as possible,” concluded the versatile wide-player. “We’re disappointed but proud, though I can’t say whether I’m totally satisfied. Maybe I’ll be able to answer that question after Saturday’s game.”