Excited fans gathered in front of giant outdoor television screens, newspapers ran front pages in the team colour of red and shops planned to close early as Spain was gripped by football fever ahead of the Euro 2008 final Sunday.
“Spain has an appointment with history,” headlined the sports daily AS, hoping La Roja (The Reds) can end decades of disappointment in international competitions and defeat Germany in Vienna.
“Now, we must do it,” said the Catalan daily El Publico, against a background of the red team shirt across the front and back pages.
“Spain has rid iteself of its ghosts and comes to this match at the height its game,” said another sports daily, Marca, which also had a red front page and devoted over 50 pages to Euro 2008 coverage.
Spain's quarter-final win against Italy last week put an end to what was seen as a “curse”, in which they had lost three times on penalties in the quarter-finals of major competitions. In Thursday's semi-final, they demolished Russia 3-0.
But few doubt that Germany will be a far more dangerous opponent.
“The Germans are not a subtle team, but they are not a bunch of robots either,” warned Marca.
Across the country, local authorities have set up giant television screens in public squares to allow fans to watch the match. Many towns were also decked out in red.
In Madrid's vast Plaza Colon early Sunday, dozens of supporters, all wearing the team colours and many wrapped in the red and yellow national flag, had already reserved the best spots to view the match.
Ivan, 19, said he had come from Barcelona with several friends just to soak up the atmosphere in Madrid.
“I want to see it here, in the capital,” he said, predicting a 1-0 win for Spain, but expressed alarm when asked if it could go to a shootout. “Oh no, we don't like penalties!” he said.
Others will gather in bars and at home, with the television audience predicted to surpass the record of 17 million, or an 84 percent market share, set during the semi-final against Russia.
The country's major department store, El Corte Ingles, many branches of which are open until 10:00 pm even on a Sunday, planned to close early, fearing a dearth of customers and to allow its staff to watch the match, Marca said.
Hundreds of police were also deployed in the capital, where the celebrations on Thursday paralyzed traffic in the city centre.
Travel agencies reported that packages to Vienna, including a flight and tickets to the match for between 1,200 and 1,500 euros (2,360 dollars), were sold out within hours on Friday.
Between 15,000 and 20,000 Spaniards are expected in Vienna for the match, including King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
Zapatero's office confirmed he would be attending the match despite an Internet campaign and calls from some newspaper columnists that he stay away on the grounds that he would bring the squad bad luck.
Spain last lifted the European Cup in 1964 with final victory over the former USSR in what was their only triumph at a major tournament to date. The country last reached the Euro final in 1984 when they lost to France.
While Germany were given the better odds of winning the tournament before it began, Spain's style of play — with lots of short, one-touch passes, almost always on the ground — produced a clean sweep of wins in the group stage.