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Blatter praises South Africa as champions Spain return home

Casillas held the World Cup trophy

Casillas held the World Cup trophy as the Spanish team emerged out of a plane adorned with the logo "Orgullosos de nuestra seleccion: Campeones" (Proud of our national team: Champions)

- AFP

As Spain returned to Madrid to a welcome suitable for the newly-crowned world champions, FIFA president Sepp Blatter delivered a glowing appraisal to World Cup hosts South Africa.

Spain added the global crown to their European title thanks to Andres Iniesta's extra-time winner in the 1-0 win over Holland, which brought the curtain down on the first ever World Cup staged on the African continent.

The flight from Johannesburg carrying Iniesta and his teammates touched down in Madrid at 8 AM ET, with team captain Iker Cassillas clutching the World Cup trophy in his arms the first to emerge from the plane.

A welcoming committee of over one million Spaniards is expected to turn out to greet Vicente Del Bosque's side as they parade in an open-top bus later through the streets of the Spanish capital.

Spain's triumph triggered an all-night party in Madrid, with the city center transformed into a sea of red and gold.

One group of fans chanted "Iniesta Presidente! Iniesta Presidente!" as they marched along the centre of the Gran Via.

Blatter meanwhile, in his traditional 'end-of-term' World Cup report, was full of praise for the way South Africa had organized this massive global event.

"I would say now they deserve a 9 out of 10, and a 9 out of 10 at the university level is a doctorate summa cum laude, so it's the highest," he told a press conference. "Perfection does not exist in our life, also not in the World Cup."

Critics had feared South Africa's high crime rate and poor public transport would jeopardize the World Cup, but the tournament went off without any major problems.

Blatter commented: "A big compliment to South Africa, a big compliment to the people of South Africa, a big compliment to the government of South Africa for all the guarantees they have given and met. They can be proud. The benefit and the compliments have to go to South Africa and not to FIFA."

FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said security at the tournament had been almost flawless.

"I'd like to thank the South African police service for what they have done. There was not a single incident, nothing which would have risked the World Cup, during all the 32 days."

After a bruising climax to the month-long soccer showcase, Del Bosque described his country's victory as "a reward for beautiful soccer".

"Spain, the country, deserves this triumph. This goes beyond sport. We have to celebrate and are delighted to be able to offer this victory to all the people of Spain," he added.

Del Bosque issued a warning to Germany, Brazil, and the other vanquished nations intent on gaining their revenge on Spain at the next World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

"Our efforts never end. This World Cup draws from what we did at the Euro 2008 tournament. It's the continuation of a very good legacy."

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