Decked in red and yellow, Spanish fans burst into chants of "Champions!", detonated bangers and danced in fountains Sunday as an historic Euro 2012 win swept away the clouds of crisis.
Young and old reveled in their unprecedented third straight international title, blaring car horns and flying the national flag in their hands, through car windows and off the back of motorbikes.
Spanish fans celebrate during the viewing of Euro 2012 soccer championship final match between Spain and Italy at the Fan Zone in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, July 1, 2012. (AP-Yonhap News)
|Spanish TV journalist Sara Carbonero, fiancee of Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, waits for the start of the Euro 2012 soccer championship final between Spain and Italy in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, July 1, 2012. (AP-Yonhap News)|
|Italian supporters react as they watch the final of the Euro 2012 soccer championships between Italy and Spain televised on a giant screen set up in Rome's Circus Maximus archaeological area, Sunday, July 1, 2012. (AP-Yonhap News)|
Spain's red-and-yellow colors were everywhere: painted on faces, decorating wigs, on banners draped over fans' shoulders, wrapped around hips, and hanging from balconies and outside bars.
In the streets they banged drums, blared horns, or just waved two-euro ($2.50) flags sold on street corners.
In the central square Madrid of Puerta del Sol a dozen people leapt into the fountain and slashed water over scores of others dancing in joy.
It was a world away from Rome, where a rock concert atmosphere at the ancient Circus Maximus arena evaporated and tens of thousands made a gloomy run for the exits.
"I feel defeated. The will was there but they were tired," said 23-year-old Fabio in a blue Italy shirt as he walked away with a group of friends. "We did our best but I was hoping for better."
The press echoed the sentiment.
"Thanks anyway, Italy," the online edition of la Repubblica said.
In Spain, there was no surpressing the joy.
Tens of thousands of people were glued to giant screens in an official fanzone outside Real Madrid's Bernabeu stadium as Spain snatched an historic third victory after the Euro 2008 and World Cup of 2010.
Others swilled beers, cheering and gasping in bars across the nation as the thriller unfolded.
"Today the whole country is united as one and everyone is in the Euro. And the crisis? No-one is thinking about the crisis," said 23-year-old business student Miguel Revert outside a central Madrid sports bar.
Cries of "Champions, Champions," and "I am Spanish" echoed through Madrid's streets, as people poured out of bars and homes for a party that began in half time when Spain were already 2-0 up.
In Madrid's fanzone, crowds joined in an uproar of delight as Spain took their first goal, and the celebrations grew as the score board kept notching up the victory tally.
"We're going to win this game," they cried as each goal swept the defending champions nearer to the title.
By the city centre's famed Cibeles stone fountain, depicting the goddess of nature on a chariot being hauled by lions, workers finished erecting a massive stage to welcome the team with a victory party on Monday.
On their return home, the heroes will be greeted by King Juan Carlos before being hailed by fans in an open-top bus that will travel through the capital's streets.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" cried the headline on the home page of the biggest-selling sports daily Marca, above a photo of the cheering team with captain Iker Casillas holding the trophy aloft.
Conservative daily El Mundo's home page declared the team as "Champions of Legend" and described their victory as "Spain's masterpiece".
"Football as an opiate of the people in suffocating times. Football as a metaphor of the courage of collective effort and the definitive loss of those complexes that hobble dreams," the paper said.
"A handful of sportsmen without equal, moulded from a winning gene and led by a coach of firm convictions... showed in the Kiev Olympic Stadium that Spain, too, can be an example," it said. (AFP)