Spaniards celebrate World Cup final spot

Even the prime minister couldn’t calm his nerves while watching

Spain’s 1-0 victory over Germany in the World Cup semifinals.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he watched

Wednesday’s game anxiously with his daughters and their friends. In

the end, he was as thrilled as the thousands of people celebrating

in the streets all across the nation.

“They played with intelligence, elegance, as a team and with

passion,” he told Cadena SER radio. “It’s an immensely happy

day.”

People blasted car horns across Spain and set off firecrackers

as La Roja advanced to their first World Cup final.

An exhilarating roar of delight rose from the streets of the

capital city as the final whistle blew for the match in Durban,

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

joyfully cheered, jumping and screaming and hugging each other

before swarming down the city’s main Paseo de la Castellana 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.

Similar scenes were reported in cities such as northeastern

Barcelona and southwestern Cadiz.

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, never

before reached the World Cup final.

“It was incredible. This time it’s going to be ‘Yes,”’ said

19-year-old Federico Toca, 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

on a header deep into the second half.

“It’s time to go after them,” she added, referring to the

Dutch team Spain will meet in the final on Sunday.

Groups of young people walked by singing “I am Spanish,” a

jingle that has been associated with the team for this World Cup.

Others hung out car windows screaming “Let’s get them,” and “We

can do it,” the national soccer 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 red and yellow national 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.