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Spain celebrates World Cup win; Dutch blame Paul the Octopus

As fans of Spain luxuriate in the glow of the country's first World Cup championship, fans of the Netherlands search for an explanation of what went wrong. Some blame the referee, others point to Paul the Octopus.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer, Savious KwinikaCorrespondent / July 12, 2010

Spain's captain Iker Casillas (R) next to Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque lifts the World Cup trophy after arriving at Madrid's Barajas airport July 12. Spain stunned the Netherlands to win their first World Cup on Sunday in sensational fashion with a goal in the last minutes of extra time.

Gustau Nacarino/Reuters

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Johannesburg, South Africa

Rafael Ramos traveled here from the Spanish capital of Madrid to watch his team, Spain's "Red Fury," win the World Cup. One doesn’t travel thousands of miles to watch one’s team lose. But when victory finally came, with a goal in the 116th minute by Spanish midfielder Andrés Iniesta, Mr. Ramos still couldn’t quite believe his team had actually won.

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"It is like I'm dreaming. I can't believe this,” said Ramos at an outdoor fan park in the Johannesburg suburb of Sandton. “It is a moment of great pride. I think we played well and deserved to win. I'm going to party until tomorrow morning. This is fantastic. I have got a friend who stays here in Johannesburg and he has promised me a big barbeque tomorrow."

In a country where the larger portion of white South Africans – and even a fair number of black South Africans – trace their ancestry to the Netherlands, Spanish fans have been very much the minority. A sea of Oranje supporters, clad in orange suits, orange wigs, and among the more daring, clingy orange mini-dresses seemed to be on the ascendant before the game.

But it was Spanish fans who left Soweto’s Soccer City stadium jubilant and triumphant, driving up and down Johannesburg’s major roadways waving flags, honking car horns and blowing vuvuzelas, and celebrating deep into the night, while the Dutch went into an orange funk.

STORY: Netherlands World Cup team gets Dutch Treat from South Africa's Afrikaners

Blame the referee?

Sports is a curious religion, of course. Adherents of one team tend to see only the good in their own team, and the bad in the other. Holland fans have roundly criticized the British referee for being too quick to call fouls on Dutch players, while Spain fans felt that he was too lenient, particularly with bruising midfielders Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel. It was one of the roughest World Cup finals on record, with 47 fouls, 13 yellow cards, and one red card against Dutch defender John Heitinga.

But victory has a way of washing away bitterness. When Spanish team captain Iker Casillas raised the golden World Cup trophy, Agatha Alvaro was in the stadium, draped in a Spanish flag, jumping up and down and tooting on her brand new vuvuzela.

"It was an awesome experience being at the stadium,” says Ms. Alvaro, who traveled from the Spanish island of Mallorca to watch the final at Soccer City. “I love Cesc Fàbregas, Sergio Ramos, and Carles Puyol. They were fantastic. I think Fàbregas raised the game for us when he came on as a substitute. I will celebrate this victory with my friends and fly out on Tuesday."

Jabulani Sikhosana, a pro-Spain fan from Roodepoort, South Africa, watched the game from a restaurant with his friends. But from his face, painted with the Spanish flag, you would have thought he had spent the night at the stadium, with 90,000 others.

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