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World Cup 2010: Spain return to rapturous welcome

13 July 10 07:30

Spain's victorious World Cup squad have returned to Madrid amid scenes of joyous celebration in the capital city.

An estimated one million people lined a five-mile route in the Spanish capital as the team paraded in an open-top bus.

Captain Iker Casillas had earlier carried the trophy down the steps of the plane as the squad made a triumphant return from South Africa.

The players then went on to meet Spain's royal family and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

And the celebrations concluded with the bus parade that snaked through the heart of Madrid, as firefighters hosed down fans sweltering in 40C temperatures and Spanish air force fighter jets flew overhead trailing the colours of the national flag.

The parade came to a halt at the esplanade near the Puente del Rey, where the festivities continued.

European champions Spain won the World Cup for the first time thanks to Andres Iniesta's extra-time winner against the Netherlands in Johannesburg on Sunday.

During the celebrations on Monday night, some team-mates forced Cesc Fabregas to briefly wear a Barcelona shirt as they stood on stage in front of supporters.

The Barcelona defenders grabbed the Arsenal midfielder, who has been linked with a return to the Nou Camp where he played as a teenager, and managed to pull the shirt over his head.

Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos and Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina had been at the centre of the players' celebrations on the team bus as the parade inched its way down Madrid's Gran Via.

Once the whole 23-man squad plus the coaching and backroom staff made their way onto the stage, various members of the party spoke to the assembled supporters.

Coach Vicente del Bosque said at a brief presentation: "This cup, this triumph is for all of you, and for the whole Spanish football factory."

Casillas, the Real Madrid goalkeeper, said: "I don't know what to say, only that I'm delighted to be here with you. We (the players) have achieved the dream that we've all had since we were small."

Coach Del Bosque added: "It's not only winning but how you win, and that's what these players have done, they are an example to all.

"Thanks for all the support you've sent to us in South Africa, you are also world champions."

Iniesta held a toy octopus in reference to Paul, the sea creature based in a German aquarium made famous for correctly predicting winning teams during the World Cup, including Spain in the final.

"Thanks to the octopus we are champions," he joked.

The gifted playmaker added: "I only want to say that you should be proud of this group. They're the best. I'm very proud to be part of them."

Many fans made the trip to Madrid's Barajas Airport to greet the returning heroes.

The flight landed at 1338 local time with Spanish flags flying from the cockpit windows and two fire engines making a guard of honour with their jet streams.

The plane was emblazoned with the words 'Campeones' (Champions) and 'Orgullosos de nuestra seleccion' (Proud of our squad).

Casillas, who was in floods of tears after the final whistle at the Soccer City Stadium on Sunday night, again appeared to be on the verge of crying as he led his team across the tarmac to a waiting coach.

They were taken to a nearby hotel to eat and rest before heading to the Royal Palace for a reception with the Spanish royal family.

King Juan Carlos was accompanied by his wife, Queen Sofia, his eldest daughter, Princess Elena, and his son Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia.

"Thank you champions, in the name of all of Spain and all Spaniards," he said after personally greeting each of the players.

"This is a well deserved victory for an exceptional team which thrilled the hearts of all Spaniards. You brought together all Spaniards, made our dreams a reality and projected the name of Spain around the world."

The squad then moved on to the Moncloa Palace to be greeted by Prime Minister Zapatero, who singled out match-winner Iniesta for special praise.

Immediately after scoring the winning goal, the 26-year-old had taken off his Spain shirt to reveal a white T-shirt bearing the message: "Dani Jarque: always with us".

Jarque collapsed and died at the age of 26 in August 2009 following a training session with his Espanyol team.

"He represents like no-one else good football and human qualities," Zapatero said of Iniesta. "I want to make a special mention of somebody who yesterday remembered someone who is no longer with us when he scored the winning goal.

"There is no better role model for our youths, given his talent and personal qualities. Thank you Iniesta for remembering Dani yesterday during an unforgettable day for Spain."

While the celebrations continued across Spain, the Dutch team were also given special treatment as they returned home on Monday and were escorted through Dutch airspace by two fighter jets, one of them orange.

The squad met Queen Beatrix at her palace in The Hague in the morning, followed by a boat tour through Amsterdam's canals and a party in the city's Museum Square.

"It's a little bit strange to stand here now, we haven't quite overcome the disappointment yet," said coach Bert van Marwijk.

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