Spanish newspapers on Monday hailed the country's victory in the FIFA World Cup™ as the crowning glory for a nation which has developed an insatiable appetite for sporting success.
"Champions of the world," top-selling daily El Pais said on its front page above a photo of Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas holding the golden trophy above his head as he stood surrounded by his teammates in Johannesburg. "The national team has consolidated the leadership of a dazzling generation," it added.
The newspaper described the 1-0 extra-time win over the Netherlands as the "epic which was missing from Spanish sports, which has lived in glory following a cascade of successes". The victory came exactly a week after the Spaniard Rafael Nadal lifted the Wimbledon tennis trophy and caps a series of major sporting achievements, including a European title for the nation's basketball team.
"It is the biggest success in the history of Spanish football, a title which when added to other no less relevant titles, places Spain in the leadership of the major world sports like basketball, tennis, cycling or motorcycle racing," the right-wing ABC newspaper said in an editorial.
"From here to eternity," wrote centre-right daily El Mundo on its front page. With four minutes from the final whistle, Andres Iniesta collected a pass from Cesc Fabregas to fire home from close range and win the FIFA World Cup, sparking all-night celebrations across Spain. "There aren't the words to describe what I am feeling. After my goal, I thought about my family and all the people who I love. But the victory is the fruit of a lot of work," the Barcelona midfielder said after the match.
Sports daily AS said on its front page that Iniesta "scored the most important goal in our history in the 116th minute". Rival sports daily Marca said his goal "lifted Spanish football to the highest possible level". Before Iniesta's winning contribution, goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas had made two vital interventions to deny Arjen Robben in normal time in one-on-one situations.
Remarkably for a country whose domestic league has long been considered one of the strongest in the world, Spain, winners of the 2008 UEFA European Championship, have only once before been in touching distance of sport's biggest prize. That was in 1950 in Brazil where they reached the final four of a tournament which, in the aftermath of the Second World War, was only able to attract 13 participants.