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world cup

Uruguayans Endure Heat, Dutch Strikers With Dignity

Seventh in an irregular series of encounters with expat World Cup fans. (See also: Brazil, South Korea, Ghana, Algeria, England, Germany.)

Match: Netherlands 3, Uruguay 2.

Location: El Chivito D'Oro III, 84-02 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights.

The Draw: It's the only strictly Uruguayan restaurant in town.

It Was So Hot Inside the Restaurant Tuesday (How Hot Was It?) It was so hot that when the folding side doors were opened a half-hour before kick-off, patrons applauded the introduction of the 103-degree outside air.

Scene: When a late first-half Uruguayan goal knotted the score at 1-1 a full-on eruption occurred. Standing on chairs, blowing horns, whistling, waving flags, leaping into strangers' arms, grabbing random Sports Section correspondents by the hand and dancing them in circles.

Milton Sanz, who was born here 21 years ago but conceived in Uruguay just before his parents moved away, was thrilled to be standing right in the middle. He and a friend had driven in from Westchester, but traffic delayed their arrival until an hour before the game, by which time seats were long gone. Eating a chorizo sandwich, Sanz explained that his soccer-loving Mexican boss gave him the day off, no questions asked -- he understood the game's importance. Sanz had on a game-worn jersey of former Uruguayan player Rubén Olivera. "My cousin sent me this. He's from Olivera's hometown, Salto," Sanz said.

At halftime, delirious fans were still hugging over the goal, and the dancing crowd spilled through those open doors, transforming the sidewalk into a festival complete with a band of drummers. Back inside, the Dutch pulled away to victory, but the Uruguayans were proud losers. Stunned but not angry, they continued singing, declaring that someday they would be champions again. At game's end, a shirtless man wiped tears from his eyes with his flag-turned-cape. Sanz left, heading down the block to fill his mother's lengthy order at the Uruguayan bakery. Back to work.

If you know of a good spot to catch Sunday's final with crazed nationals, let us know in the comments.

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Photo: Mike Ogle