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Spanish fans in Madrid celebrate Andres Iniesta's extra time goal. ((Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press))

Riotous celebrations spread across Spain on Sunday after the national football team won its first World Cup when Andres Iniesta scored in extra-time goal for a 1-0 win over the Netherlands.

An estimated 300,000 people forming a sea of red and yellow packed Madrid's downtown Paseo de Recoletos boulevard to watch the final from Johannesburg on giant TV screens and erupted at the final whistle as Spain became world and European champions.

In the Netherlands, the mood was funereal. Fans wept and hugged in The Hague at the final whistle and tossed of handfuls of orange confetti into the air that had been intended for a victory party.

"It’s such a deception. We were so close. I feel empty, said Sander Lubbers, a 33-year-old shopworker.

"It’s a great shame, but Spain was the better team." said Arend-jan Meijer. It’s only football," he added, as he headed for home kicking his way through piles of plastic beer cups.

In Madrid, the beer tasted better. Vuvuzuela horns so typical of the matches in South Africa this World Cup, had droned throughout the city and car horns began to honk incessantly.

"It had to be [Andres] Iniesta, the field marshal of Spanish football," said the 19-year-old Marcos Domenec.

The celebrations were easily the biggest ever held in living memory in Spain.

Fireworks lit up the city sky as people herded out onto the streets to celebrate. Television shots showed exuberant partying in jammed town squares across the country, from Zaragoza in the northeast to Seville in the southwest.

Television images even showed crowds waving Spanish flags in the city of Barcelona, where more than 1.1 million protested on Saturday to demand autonomy for their Catalonia region.

Spain, long tagged a perennial underachiever before winning the 2008 European Championship to end a 44-year title drought, had never before gone past the quarter-finals. The team finished fourth at the 1950 World Cup when the playoff system was different.

Deafening roar

A deafening roar rose from Madrid, including the sound of blaring vuvuzela horns imported from South Africa, when captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup trophy at Soccer City.

Tens of thousands of people had put up with near 40 C temperatures from early in the day to claim the best positions before the giant screens in major plazas in towns and cities.

In Madrid, emergency ambulance services treated dozens of people who had fainted.

Marta Seco, 22, was overcome with emotion.

"This is the greatest sporting event in the history of the country," she shouted with tears in her eyes.

Fans watching from a patio bar in a working class neighborhood of Madrid whooped in joy and yelled "Spain! Spain!" as they danced on bar chairs and hugged each other. Others yelled "Yes! Yes! The Cup is now ours!"

The night sky of the Alcoron suburb was lit up by fireworks and the bar patrons toasted each other with beer and sangria on a sweltering summer night, dancing in the streets and dodging firecrackers tossed by other fans.

"It's just amazing, I almost don't believe it," said a beaming Feliciano Hernandez, a 25-year-old electrician. "I'm so proud, totally happy and living for the moment and not thinking about anything else right now."

Nacho Moreno, a 23-year-old waiter, danced in the street waving the Spanish flag he had kept wrapped around his head for luck during the game as cars drove by, honking their horns in salute. He said he would probably drink until dawn to celebrate.

"It's phenomenal! Spain won. I was real nervous but I knew it was possible," Moreno said.