Spain erupts in nationwide fiesta as 'dream comes true'

MADRID, July 12, 2010 (AFP) - A thunderous roar erupted across the Spanish capital and fans danced in the streets chanting "Viva Espana!" as the country's first ever World Cup trophy sparked a nationwide fiesta.

The centre of Madrid was a sea of the red and gold national colours as Spain celebrated its nailbiting 1-0 extra-time win over Holland Sunday.

Spanish supporters in Madrid celebrate after the World Cup final Spain against Netherlands on July 11, 2010. AFP

The deafening sounds of cheering, klaxons, firecrackers and cars horns rang out as the World Cup's perennial underachievers won the trophy in their first appearance in the final thanks to a late goal from Andres Iniesta.

"The dream has come true," said the El Pais daily on its website.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he was "happy and emotional.

"This has been an epic match, I suffered like never before," he told Cadena Ser radio.

In blistering heat, more than 150,000 supporters watched the match on massive screens in a giant fan park in a one-kilometre (half-mile) stretch of the city's main thoroughfare.

"We are very proud and very happy, I thought it would go to penalties, Iniesta saved us," said Raul, 18. "We deserved it after winning the European championship in 2008."

Said Adolfo, 25, "It's an extraordinary feeling, of happiness and nerves."

Players of Spain celebrate with the FIFA World Cup trophy after defeating The Netherlands 1-0 at Soccer City stadium in Soweto, suburban Johannesburg on July 11, 2010. AFP

Others crammed into bars or gathered at home for the match, which left the country paralysed for two and a half hours Sunday evening.

Most were either wrapped in the Spanish flag, wore the red team shirts or red wigs, or had their faces painted red and gold.

One young woman was disguised as an octopus, in tribute to Paul, the now famous clairvoyant cephalopod in Germany who predicted Spain's victory.

"Spain, Spain, Spain!" screamed the daily El Mundo in a headline on its website. "This World Cup has crowned one of the best teams of all time."

"Iniesta took us up into heaven" after an "agonising" game, said the sports daily Marca. "We suffered, but it was worth it."

Thousands of fans had earlier poured into the capital from other parts of the country to soak up the atmosphere, many travelling all night and planning to leave the next morning after a night of revelry.

"We're going to celebrate like crazy, all night, all Monday, until Tuesday morning," said Miguel Angel, 41, who had traveled from the northern city of Bilbao for the match.

More than 2,000 police officers were on duty in the capital in case of incidents, along with medical teams, who treated dozens of people who suffered amid the stifling heat and the crush of supporters in the fan park.

Almost all towns and cities throughout the country installed giant screens for people to watch the match.

There was even excitement in Catalonia, a region with its own distinct culture and language and which has traditionally been disdainful of the Spanish national team.

Authorities in the Catalan capital of Barcelona set up a giant outdoor fan park for the final for the first time during the tournament, where authorities said around 75,000 people watched the match.

The crowd erupted with joy and waved Spanish flags, with many in tears, at the historic victory.

In the northeastern town of Pamplona, the fervour and revelry over this week's annual San Fermin festival, which includes "running of the bulls", was heightened by the World Cup final.

The players will be feted in a parade in an open-top bus that will pass through central Madrid on Monday evening, ahead of a reception by Zapatero.

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