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By ESPN Staff

Montero quits Uruguay team - report

MONTEVIDEO, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Uruguay captain Paolo Montero was reported to have quit international football after the South Americans lost to Australia on penalties in their World Cup playoff on Wednesday.

Australia won the second leg 1-0 after extra time in Sydney, cancelling out Uruguay's win by the same score in Montevideo the previous Saturday, and won 4-2 on penalties.

Former Juventus defender Montero, who has symbolised Uruguay's tenacious if ruthless approach to the game, limped out of the match late in the second half with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

'This group deserved to go the World Cup,' he was reported as saying before nodding when asked if it was his last international.

The 34-year-old, winning his 61st cap, previously announced his international retirement after the 2002 World Cup but changed his mind last year.

His return revitalised the team following heavy World Cup defeats by Venezuela, Peru and Colombia and helped them finish fifth in the 10-nation South American group and earn a playoff against Australia.

The match was played at 700 in the morning local time, giving millions of Uruguayans a sombre start to the working day.

Most people accepted the defeat with an air of resignation just as they recognised that Uruguay, World Cup winners in 1930 and 1950, are no longer a major force.

Uruguay's decline is symbolised by the plight of leading clubs Penarol and Nacional, who won eight Copa Libertadores titles between them between 1960 and 1988, but are now routinely knocked out in the first round.

The national team, meanwhile, has only qualified for two of the last five World Cups.

Television commentators suggested that the turning point came in the first half when Australia defender Tony Popovic appeared to elbow Alvaro Recoba, but escaped with only a yellow card rather than a red.

Australia coach Guus Hiddink almost immediately replaced Popovic with Harry Kewell, who played a significant part in the only goal when he mis-cued his shot and the ball fell kindly for Marco Bresciano to fire home.

President Tabare Vazquez was among the Uruguayans to suffer in front of the television.

'As you'll probably understand, we're not in the best of moods to start the day and although it was a simple game of football, we know that it hurts the Uruguayans when the Sky Blues didn't achieve what they've set out to,' Vazquez told reporters. 'But life goes on.'