BAGHDAD (AP) -- Tens of thousands of Iraqis from the Shiite south to the Kurdish-dominated north poured into the usually treacherous streets Sunday to celebrate a rare moment of joy and unity when the national team won Asia's most prestigious soccer tournament.
The revelers spanning the country's sectarian and ethnic divisions danced, sang and waved flags and posters of the team after Iraq beat three-time champion Saudi Arabia 1-0 to take the Asian Cup.
Chants of "Long live Iraq" and "Baghdad is victorious" rang out across the country as Iraqis basked in national pride. Some of the revelers - mostly men - took their shirts off to display the red, white and black colors of the Iraqi flag painted on their chests.
Reporters of the state Iraqiya television wrapped themselves with the national flag as they interviewed people celebrating in the streets. Some joined in the chanting.
Within seconds of the final whistle, celebratory gunfire echoed across Baghdad and elsewhere despite a government ban and the threat of arrest by authorities.
At least four people were killed and scores wounded by the gunfire. But as night fell on the country, there were no reports of bombings such as those that killed at least 50 and wounded dozens in Baghdad during celebrations of Iraq's semifinal win over South Korea on Wednesday.
Authorities said they foiled a potential car bomber in southwestern Baghdad after he refused to stop at a checkpoint and appeared headed toward a crowd of revelers. Iraqi authorities had banned vehicles in and around the capital from shortly before the game began until early Monday to prevent a repeat of last week's violence.
"The victory of our Iraqi soccer team is a wonderful gift to Iraqis who have been suffering from the killing, car bombs, abductions and other violent acts," said Falah Ibrahim, a 44-year-old resident of Baghdad's predominantly Shiite Sadr City district.
If the sectarian and tribal divisions were as deep as the writer says, there would have been no celebrations for a team composed of individuals drawn from all areas and sects of Iraq. But there were celebrations, big celebrations everywhere.
And they celebrated in the streets. And no one was able to repeat the horrors of the suicide bombings that followed the Iraqi team's semi-finals victory. And that means that the streets of Iraq, as dangerous as they may be, are not "no man's land" in which death is the most likely outcome of a walk or an errand.
The goal of al-Qaida, of the Sadrist militia, of Iran, of the dead-enders loyal to Saddam's memory, is the same: to tear Iraq apart so that its pieces can be used as weapons. The Iraqi national soccer team has struck a mighty blow for Iraq's freedom.