ON TOP OF EUROPE: Spanish captain Iker Casillas screams in delight with the Euro 2008 trophy in hand as his elated teammates celebrate after their final victory over Germany at the Ernst-Happel Stadium in Vienna last night.Photo: AFP
Thousands of ecstatic Spanish fans danced and chanted "Viva Espana" in central Madrid as the country's first major international football trophy in 44 years sparked a nationwide fiesta.
The capital was awash with the red and gold national colours, as the country celebrated the 1-0 Euro 2008 win over Germany in true Spanish style.
The deafening sounds of cheering, klaxons and drums from the vast Plaza Colon, where thousands watched the match live from Vienna on giant television screens, mixed with those of car horns across the city.
Many were wrapped in the Spanish flag, wore red wigs and the team shirts or had their faces painted red and gold.
Hundreds of police struggled to keep traffic moving as exuberant fans spilled out of the square onto the Paseo de Recoletos avenue, one of the city's main arteries and which leads to the Plaza Cibeles, where Real Madrid supporters traditionally hold their celebrations.
"It's so many years since we even got past the quarter-finals, and now we've won. I can't believe it," said Dani, 19, a student from Madrid who came with several friends.
"We are the best, and now we're ready to win the World Cup," said Joaquin, 48, who had come with his family from the western city of Salamanca. "The team played well, they were united and concentrated," he said, naming Casillas, Torres and Fabregas as the best players.
The excitement had mounted throughout the day as high-spirited fans partied in the square hours ahead of kick-off amid soaring temperatures that reached 35 C (95 F).
Spain last lifted the European championship in 1964 with victory over the former USSR in what was its only previous triumph at a major tournament. The country last reached the Euro final in 1984 when it lost to France.
A win against Italy last week ended what was seen as a "curse", in which Spain had lost three times on penalties in the quarter-finals of major competitions, and on the same date, June 22. In Thursday's semifinal, they demolished Russia 3-0.