MEXICO CITY – Millions of Mexicans — including President Vicente Fox — stayed up through the night to have their hearts broken, their dreams of advancing to the World Cup quarterfinals smashed with a 2-0 loss Monday to the United States.
"It hurts us here," said Jose Luis Luviano, 21, punching his chest. Tears melted the Mexican flags painted on his cheeks. "There has to be an end to this disgrace where [Americans] treat us like rats and idiots."
Fox summoned almost his entire Cabinet to watch the game, broadcast live from Jeonju, South Korea at 1:30 a.m. local time.
Thousands of police were on a tense watch around Mexico City's Angel of Independence monument, a half block from the U.S. Embassy, to guard against post-game disturbances at the traditional center of Mexican soccer celebrations. Cars were banned in the area and police searched all those approaching the monument for weapons or alcohol.
While the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City was surrounded by barricades and riot police and closed Monday because of the game, Americans were celebrating.
"We certainly earned bragging points for a few years to come," said Kaela Porter, a 34-year-old biotech scientist from Boston.
Porter was among some 3,000 U.S. soccer fans at the match at Jeonju Stadium, alongside some 10,000 Mexicans. "I really didn't think we could do this. And obviously it's a bit special being against Mexico."
Some American fans at Jeonju relished the victory quietly, obviously not wishing to rub it in.
"I hate to see the Mexicans leave, they are our bosom buddies here," said Sgt. 1st Class Rich Smith of Colorado, who is based at Yongin, some three hours drive south of Jeonju. "But this is round of 16 and someone has got to go home. Even though they are our neighbors, better them than us."
Major Todd Curry, intelligence chief at Yongin, agreed there was no special pleasure in beating Mexico.
"It's special winning the game and moving to the next level. Mexico is a very good team — No grudges."
If U.S. newspapers often treated the buildup to the game as secondary to golf, the event dominated the news pages in Mexico.
"This is war!" announced a front-page headline in the Mexico City newspaper Reforma.
At Yuppie's Sports Cafe, one of hundreds of restaurants that stayed open for the game, nearly 1,000 people gathered to watch the game on large-screen televisions. Chests were covered in the Mexican team's green jersey, faces were painted the green, red and white of the Mexican flag. The restaurant thundered with chants of "Mexico! Mexico!"
All stood and sang as the Mexican anthem was played. Many screamed obscenities at the "Star Spangled Banner" — signs of resentment at a wealthier, more powerful northern neighbor that Mexicans often feel treats them with disrespect.
For decades, Mexicans took pride in dominating the United States in soccer, at least. But U.S. teams have steadily improved and now have beaten Mexico in five of their last six meetings. Mexicans continue to scoff at the state of soccer knowledge among U.S. sports fans, whose nonchalance toward the game makes defeats even more bitter.
"The United States is a country of basketball, not of soccer," said Lucia Arango, a 20-year-old street vendor. "Destiny has played a dirty trick on us."
In a televised conversation with team members, Fox tried to put an optimistic spin on the result.
"In no way do we feel defeated," he said. "The important thing is to fight, fight, fight with tenacity."
When Brian McBride scored the first U.S. goal in the 8th minute, screams of anger burst from the crowd at Yuppie's and people buried their heads in their hands. After a few seconds of depression, the crowd again began shouting, "Mexico! Mexico!"
But after the second U.S. goal the crowd grew quiet, and as it became clear that Mexico wouldn't recover, men began to weep and pull their team jerseys over their faces.
Relatively calm amid the uproar was a group in Mexican jerseys that claimed to be from Canada.
Asked why a Canadian would have a southern U.S. accent, Michelle Tate, 27, admitted she was from Memphis, Tenn.
"We went out and bought Mexican jerseys and Mexican T-shirts as camouflage," said Chris Calott, 41, an architecture professor from the University of New Mexico.
While Calott said he was a soccer fan, none of his five companions had ever watched a complete game before, let alone a match of the World Cup, which is held every four years.
"I wouldn't be watching if I weren't here," Tate admitted. "I didn't even know that the World Cup was every three years."