- Associated Press - Monday, July 12, 2010

MADRID (AP) - Spain’s World Cup final victory against the Netherlands dominated the country’s press Monday, with newspapers paying tribute to the first Spanish team to claim football’s most prestigious trophy.

Under the front page headline “World champions,” El Pais described the 1-0 win in South Africa on Sunday as “an ode to happiness.”

The paper said Spain “gave an injection of universality, showed its style of football despite those who sneer at it, after an emotional, uncomfortable game against a coarse Netherlands. It succumbed to a rival that was well-versed in the art of the unpredictable, as well as being intoxicating and mature.”

The Netherlands’ physical approach _ which saw the team receive nine yellow cards and have one player sent off _ was heavily criticized in the Spanish media.

Sports daily Marca attacked “Netherlands’ intimidating plan”.

“The violence restricted Spain’s usual play but not enough to negate its superiority,” the paper continued.

The winning goal came with four minutes left in extra time when Andres Iniesta took a pass from Cesc Fabregas and blasted the ball into the net.

“It was poetic justice because football won and football, that marvelous universal folklore, is Iniesta,” said El Mundo. “The little wizard had to be the one who in minute 116 put the nail in the coffin of the 11 most quarrelsome Dutchmen in history.”

Iniesta plays for Barcelona, the club that forms the core of the Spanish team, along with players such as Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol. Eight Barcelona players were members of the World Cup-winning squad.

Pro-Barcelona daily Mundo Deportivo pointed out that “yesterday there were eight privileged ones who joined the select group that can presume to have achieved the greatest honor a sportsman can manage: to be the best on the planet.”

Some reports saw the national team as an example to follow for a country that has severe economic problems.

“The Spanish team is a metaphor for what Spain can aspire to be, as long as we are prepared to apply the same criteria that have been the basis for the successes of the national team,” said ABC.

“It would be good if the collective enthusiasm for the team became a stimulus for Spanish society in the face of the current problems and even that it became the motive to demand that our country should resemble and work like this group of young men.”

Madrid was gearing up for a massive welcome for the team, which was scheduled to arrive at the international airport at about 2:30 p.m. local time, after its flight from Johannesburg was delayed. The players will rest in an airport hotel, then visit the royal palace to meet with King Juan Carlos.

They will then meet with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at his government palace before embarking on a short open-air bus tour passing by some of Madrid’s most important landmarks.

The players’ tour ends in the evening at a stage where Spanish pop stars David Bisbal and David Bustamente will play for the crowd. Then they’ll eat dinner at Meson Txistu, famed for its northern Spanish fare from the Basque region and especially popular among football stars.

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