RUSTENBURG, South Africa - Spain's Fernando Torres was the fans' favourite on Sunday with his name scrawled on banners and printed on replica shirts even before his team played New Zealand in the Confederations Cup.
The blond-haired striker then scored a 17-minute hat-trick in Spain's 5-0 rout of the Kiwis in Group A and said he loved the fact that the locals had adopted him and Spain as their favourites.
"I would like to thank all the Africans here," Torres told a news conference. "It's great. It almost feels like home and its good to be in a team which is winning fans all over the world.
"It is good to have them feel happy now - and also we want to make them happy at the World Cup next year."
Named man of the match for his stunning performance, Torres said he had never scored a faster hat-rick in his professional career.
"To achieve that for the national team is even better," he said.
"But I owe it to my colleagues because they worked so hard. We felt very at ease in the match, the altitude had no impact, it was no problem playing at 1,500 metres. It was a very good experience."
It was not so good, however, for New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert whose team were destroyed by Spain's opening burst of four goals in 24 minutes.
"We were a bit tentative for the first 25 minutes against the best team in the world and we got punished for a lot of things," Herbert said.
"But we made some changes and things improved in the second half. The guys have taken it on the chin, there was some individual errors but we can come back from that. Luckily with the earlier result in the group, not too much damage has been done yet.
"Spain must be the favourites to go on and win the tournament I would think, they have Champions League holders in there and they are the European champions."comments