Spain was swept up in football fever Saturday one day ahead of its national team's Euro 2008 final against Germany in Vienna which fans were confident would lead to its first major title in over 40 years.
From Valencia to Valladolid, town halls across the country were setting up giant television screens in public squares to allow supporters to gather and watch the match while stores reported dwindling stocks of red and white Spanish flags and jerseys.
The only exceptions were Barcelona and Bilbao in separatist-minded Catalonia and the Basque Country where local officials as of Saturday had no plans to set up screens due to regional sensitivities, daily newspaper El Mundo reported.
Travel agencies on Friday sold out within hours packages including a flight and tickets to the matches for between 1,200 and 1,500 euros (2,360 dollars).
Between 15,000 and 20,000 Spaniards are expected in Vienna for the match, including King Juan Carlos and his wife Queen Sofia and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
The kings predicted Spain will beat Germany 2-1 while Zapatero even forecast a 3-1 result in his side's favour, Spanish media reported.
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's royal couple was present in Vienna when the team beat world champions Italy 4-2 on penalties in the quarter-final while Crown Prince Felipe and his wife, Princess Letizia, attended Spain's 3-0 win over Russia on Thursday that sent it to the final.
Television audience figures in Spain for the semi-final win over Russia touched a record 17 million or an 84 percent market share.
Newspapers devoted pages to the tournament, call-in radio talk shows focused on the upcoming talk match while television chat shows which normally deal with the lives of celebrities interviewed players' grandparents and girlfriends.
“We are going to win,” Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas told sports daily Marca in a quote that was plastered on its front page.
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 it lost to France.
UEFA boss Michel Platini, part of the French squad that beat Spain in the Euro 1984 final, will award the trophy to the winning team's captain and Spanish sports daily Marca predicted “he will give us the trophy that he stole from us.”
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.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!