Uruguayan national football team players (L-R) Diego Forlan, Diego Perez, Diego Lugano and Sebastian Abreu joke during a welcoming ceremony on July 13, 2010 in Montevideo. -Photo by AFP

MONTEVIDEO: Uruguay’s World Cup team received a hero’s welcome home on Tuesday as tens of thousands of cheering flag-waving fans lined the streets of Montevideo.

Soccer-mad Uruguayans waited for hours in cold winter temperatures to see the bus transporting the players pass by, and President Jose Mujica offered a tribute in front of fans gathered in the centre of the capital.

“We are moved, but mostly thankful, very thankful. These boys deserve recognition, but this has surpassed all that could be imagined,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez told the crowd.

Uruguay’s run to fourth place in the tournament was one of the surprises of the World Cup, giving the small South American nation its best showing in four decades.

Patricia Rodriguez, 24, wrapped in a Uruguay flag and with her face painted, was undeterred by the chilly conditions.

“I cannot feel my feet because of the cold, but the only thing that matters today is showing the players we are proud of them and to say thanks,” she said. -Reuters