Spaniards celebrate World Cup final spot

People blasted their car horns across Spain and set off firecrackers to celebrate the national football team’s 1-0 semifinal win Wednesday over Germany that saw it through to its first ever World Cup final.

An exhilarating roar of delight rose from the capital Madrid as the final whistle blew for the match in South Africa.

Thousands of people, many wearing the Spanish team jersey, gathered to watch the match on a giant outdoor screen beside Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in the city center.

They exploded in joy, jumping and screaming and hugging each other and before beginning to swarm down the city’s main Paseo de la Castellana boulevard waving flags and interrupting traffic.

As the cacophonous celebration spread, people sprayed each other with beer, water and any drink they happened to have handy.

Chants of "Ole, Ole, Ole" rang out everywhere as people appeared on their apartment balconies waving Spanish flags. Fireworks could be heard exploding across the city.

Dozens of cars honked their horns as they drove through the city’s main streets.

Similar scenes were reported in cities such as northeastern Barcelona and southwestern Cadiz.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he watched the game nervously with his daughters and their friends.

"They played with intelligence, elegance, as a team and with passion," he told Cadena SER radio. "It’s an immensely happy day."

The celebrations brought back memories of when Spain defeated Germany to win the 2008 European Championship in Vienna, ending a 44-year drought between major titles.

But the team, long labeled the perennial underachiever, had never before reached the World Cup semifinals.

"It was incredible. This time it’s going to be ‘Yes,"’ said Federico Toca, 19, adding it was about time Spain claimed the World Cup.

Marta Medina, 18, waving a Spanish flag, said "(Carles) Puyol is the greatest," in reference to the defender who scored the goal from a header deep into the second half.

"It’s time to go after them," she added, referring to the Dutch side Spain meets in the final Sunday.

Groups of young people walked by singing "I am Spanish," a jingle that has been associated with the team this World Cup. Others hung our of car windows screaming "Let’s get them," and "We can do it," the national team’s two war cries in recent years.

Nearly two hours after the match, Madrid’s emblematic squares of Colon, Cibeles, Puerta del Sol and Plaza de Espana were jammed with cars and people waving the national red and yellow flag, some using it as a skirt, others as capes.

"After the (1939-78) dictatorship people were almost ashamed of the flag," said 52-year-old Francisco Gimeno. "It looks like we have got over that complex."

Associated Press writer Ciaran Giles contributed to this report.