"It's an honour and a pleasure to be captain of this team," Spain captain Iker Casillas said as hundreds of thousands came to welcome the UEFA EURO 2012 winners back home.
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After the national team's successes at UEFA EURO 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Spain might have become accustomed to celebrating major victories, but there was no let-up in the nation's joy as Vicente del Bosque's triumphant side returned from UEFA EURO 2012 on Monday.
The party that started the moment that match referee Pedro Proença blew the final whistle following La Roja's 4-0 win against Italy in Kyiv on Sunday was still in full flow in the early hours of this morning, with the team's return to Madrid's Barajas Airport at 16.00 on Monday afternoon helping to give revelers a second wind.
Soon after their arrival, the squad were taken to meet King Juan Carlos of Spain, who said: "It's not easy to know what to say to a group who are now triple champions. You have given everyone in Spain so much happiness, not just because you won, but because you are brilliant people. You knew how to win and how to behave as a team. We have seen the fruits of your knowledge and determination and above all, the effort put in by coach Vicente del Bosque, who had to put up with a lot. Congratulations, and let's hope this run continues."
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy had said after the final in Kyiv: "Spain is proud of its football team – proud of their style and proud of their human qualities. We thank the players and Vicente del Bosque for a great win."
After the royal engagement came a parade through the streets of Madrid, with hundreds of thousands of supporters cheering the champions as they made their way by bus to the Plaza de Cibeles, where Pepe Reina led the celebrations. The Liverpool FC goalkeeper told the jubilant crowd: "This is a legendary team. We have done what nobody has done in the history of football."
The official UEFA EURO 2012 Best Player of the Tournament Andrés Iniesta and defender Sergio Ramos had received the biggest cheers as Reina introduced the players, before captain Iker Casillas took the floor, prompting a huge ovation. "It's an honour and a pleasure to be captain of this team," he said. "This win is for you all."