MADRID - Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta's dramatic extra-time winner against Netherlands in the World Cup final was the crowning moment for a golden generation of players, local media said on Monday.
"Our Spain... From Here to Eternity," daily El Mundo wrote on their front page, while El Pais led with "Champions of the World" over the top of a photo of captain Iker Casillas lifting the trophy above his head in Johannesburg on Sunday.
El Pais continued: "The national team consolidated the leadership of a dazzling generation."
According to consultants Barlovento, 14 million people watched the 1-0 win on television, with the extra-time period the most viewed Spanish broadcast ever, peaking at 15.6 million.
Iniesta's goal was played repeatedly on the morning news channels with the commentators screaming in delight as the players ran to pile on top of the midfielder.
The shy playmaker, who scored a similarly dramatic winner for Barcelona against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final in 2009, was singled out for special mention along with goalkeeper Casillas.
"Iniesta and Casillas made us champions. Iker twice stopped Arjen Robben from scoring, and Andres scored the historic goal," wrote Barcelona-based daily Sport.
Madrid-based As added: "Holland weren't able to knock him (Iniesta) down with kicks or with a brutal pressing game.
"The battle was in the midfield... and it was obvious that the massive destruction of Spain was put together (by the Dutch) with malicious skill. Luckily Iniesta kept his feet and brought down Holland and their ugly intentions."
Casillas, who could be seen crying on the pitch just before the final whistle, was similarly unable to control his emotions when being interviewed after the match by television reporter Sara Carbonero, his girlfriend.
To whoops and cheers from fans across the country, he grabbed her and kissed her in front of the cameras, leaving her stunned and speechless.
If Casillas and Iniesta were the heroes, it was Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong and English referee Howard Webb who were cast as the villains.
Photographs of De Jong's foot-up challenge into Xabi Alonso's chest were carried in most papers, and sports daily Marca remarked: "It was a rough game, tolerated by an incompetent referee. Webb almost destroyed the final."
Ultimately, it was Spain coach Vicente del Bosque's subtle, unfussy management of his playing resources that won the admiration of commentators, having successfully built on the side Luis Aragones led to victory at Euro 2008.
El Mundo, under the headline '23 hearts, one soul', wrote: "The coach managed to achieve the objective he set himself - the main protagonist was the team."
El Periodico spread the net wider and said the side had earned a place alongside Formula One driver Fernando Alonso, cyclist Alberto Contador, tennis great Rafa Nadal and basketball player Pau Gasol in "The Golden Age of Spanish Sport."comments