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Spain recalls World Cup triumph one year on
Published : 11 Jul 2011 17:00:11
Spain is on Monday celebrating the first anniversary of their World Cup final victory against the Netherlands at Soccer City in Johannesburg.
"July 11 last year was an extraordinary day that will never be forgotten," said Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque.
Del Bosque was speaking at the inauguration of the "Explanada de la Seleccion Espanola", a riverside walkway in Madrid where thousands of fans of La Roja gathered to celebrate the World Cup triumph.
"A year on I feel just as happy as I did that night, knowing that we achieved exactly what we went to South Africa to do.
"It is a source of great satisfaction to know that we finally won the World Cup for Spain 80 years after the competition came into being."
Madrid's decision to officially recognise the national team's achievement comes after a weekend in which ceremonies have been held across the country and huge swathes of media coverage have been given over to remembering what happened that night in Johannesburg.
On Saturday, parties were held in the village of Fuentealbilla in the central region of Castilla La Mancha, home of Andres Iniesta, the Barcelona midfielder who scored the decisive goal in the final.
A tense final appeared to be heading for a penalty shoot-out when, with just four minutes of extra-time remaining, Iniesta latched on to a Cesc Fabregas pass inside the box before thumping the winner past Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.
"It was a wonderful night for all of us a year ago," a shy Iniesta told the media gathered in Fuentealbilla.
"It makes me so happy to be able to celebrate the occasion here with the people of my village."
"The fact that I have experienced something like that makes me so proud. I only hope that things continue to go so well, both collectively and on a personal level, and that we can enjoy more success in the future."
Most football fans in Spain will agree that the winning goal could not have been scored by a more likeable player, and Iniesta was applauded by fans wherever he went with Barcelona last season.
His celebration that night at Soccer City is remembered almost as fondly as the goal itself, as the little midfielder ripped off his shirt to reveal a message to close friend Dani Jarque, the Espanyol defender and captain who had died suddenly while with his club on a pre-season tour to Italy in August, 2009.
The whole squad will go down as legends, though, and goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas was even flown back to Soccer City by the television station Telecinco to commemorate the occasion.
"When I lifted the cup, I had so many emotions running through me, happiness, relief, everything," the Real Madrid man said.
"We knew that the celebrations would be going on all over Spain."
It was a night that will never be forgotten, but Del Bosque and his players are also now looking to the future, with their sights set on retaining the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine next summer.
"We will be going there as one of the favourites," admitted Del Bosque.
"It will be great to go there as the reigning world champions, but we will also have a responsibility to perform well, and it will give our opponents extra motivation to beat us."