MADRID (AFP) Spain revelled in World Cup glory Monday as its conquering football team headed home with the trophy having inspired a red and gold fiesta with their victory in the final over the Netherlands. As the South African hosts gave themselves a pat on the back for defying pessimistic predictions, the victors savoured the latest chapter in a fairytale of sporting successes. The squad headed back to Madrid where more than a million fans were expected to line the streets of the capital Madrid for a victory parade on a open top bus. But the party began immediately after Barcelonas Andres Iniesta scored the finals only goal, three minutes before the end of extra time after a match watched by an estimated 700 million people worldwide. Iniesta Presidente Iniesta Presidente chanted one group of fans as they marched along the centre of the Gran Via, Madrids main thoroughfare in the early hours. Others imitated bullfighters and waved Spanish flags over passing cars while chanting Ole to celebrate Spains first win World Cup triumph. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who will host a reception for the team, said he had suffered like never before as he watched the game in Johannesburgs Soccer City staudium. The victory came exactly a week after the Spaniard Rafael Nadal lifted the Wimbledon tennis trophy and caps a series of major sporting achievements, including a European title for the nations basketball team. The victories have brought a sliver of joy to a country with here around 20 percent of the active population is unemployed and the economy is forecast to contract by 0.3 percent over 2010 as a whole. While Zapateros administration is keeping its fingers crossed that the feel-good factor will linger, the South African government is also hoping the tournament will bring long-term benefits. Ever since it became the first African nation to win the right to stage the worlds biggest sporting event, South Africa has had to fend off accusations that rampant crime and lack of infrastructure made it an unsuitable choice. While there were robberies of journalists and thefts from team hotels, a massive police deployment helped ensure the nightmare vision of fans being gunned down did not come to pass. The crowning glory for the organisers came on Sunday night when South Africas first black president, the now 91-year-old Nelson Mandela, rode onto the field in a golf car, bringing rapturous cheers. President Jacob Zuma said the World Cup brought priceless benefits for bringing South Africans of all races into the stands. He said South Africa could now think about staging the Olympics. But while the World Cup was marked by a show of unity, massive challenges now lurk in a country still struggling to bridge a racial divide some 16 years after the end of apartheid and a gaping chasm between rich and poor. In a sign of the tensions bubbling below the surface, immigrants fearing anti-foreigner attacks sought refuge in several South African police stations in Cape Town and surrounding areas on Monday after looting at the weekend. The challenge, now, is to ensure that the infrastructure that has been developed, particularly the transport infrastructure, benefits all South Africans, especially the poor, the Nobel Prize-winning archbishop Desmond Tutu. We must roll up our sleeves and build homes and classrooms and clinics like never before. The Dutch won over few neutrals on Sunday with their sometimes brutal approach towards their opponents. Centreback Johnny Heitinga was sent off and seven other players booked by English referee Howard Webb. The team however will be given a heroes welcome on their return home with a parade along the canals of Amsterdam planned for Tuesday and a reception with Queen Beatrix. We have to be very proud of the team. They had us in raptures for a month, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander told Dutch television. Europe gets its nose back in front The World Cup has broken new ground in two of the past three editions by coming successively to both Asia and Africa for the first time. But shared European-South American hegemony perists after a 19th tournament that proved ultimately more to the liking of Europe, which provided both champions Spain and the two other teams to make the podium. In 2002, Japan and South Korea proved a happy hunting ground for Brazil, who thus kept up their record of winning the tournament on every continent that had hosted it. That achievement no longer stands as a South African winter turned into a memorable summer for winners Spain, runners-up Holland and Germany, and saw the Latin Americans catch a cold after a bright opening spell fourth-placed Uruguay notwithstanding. Spains triumph in a trophy match that pitted together two countries who had never won the coveted Cup before gave Europe a 10-9 lead over South America in overall successes and Brazil will have to hope they can even things up on home soil in four years time after losing in the quarters to the Dutch. The last eight also proved a bridge too far for Argentina, taken to the cleaners by Germany, and Paraguay, who were edged out by Spain. And the quarter-finals also spelt the end of African interest as Ghana fell, albeit heartbreakingly in a shootout, to the Uruguayans, having emulated Cameroons run to the last eight in 1990. South Africa, despite beating France, had already become the first hosts to depart at the opening stage. So Europe landed its first crown outside the Old Continent, even though the continents leading club competition, the Champions League, was won by an Inter Milan side devoid of Italians and crammed with South Americans. The World Cup was a bleak experience for Italy though, as they crashed to a humiliating first-round exit. Yet this World Cup was a curious mix of the good and the bad for all concerned. For Asia, there was the thrill of Japan winning their first matches at a finals away from home and coming within a spotkick of the last eight. There was also the bonus of South Korea making it out of the group before being edged by an impressive Uruguay. And if Australia and New Zealand failed to get beyond the pool phase it was not for want of trying. Australia went out despite taking four points in a tough group containing Germany, Ghana and Serbia, while New Zealand went home unbeaten, ensuring defending champions Italy finished bottom of their group. For the latinos, only Honduras failed to reach the last 16 and it seemed they would be around for the duration in at least some shape or form. But Argentina proved too strong for Mexico and Spain for Chile before Europe cruelly exposed the hidden weaknesses of both Brazil and Diego Maradonas men. Europe won the Cup and all the medals but humiliation was heaped on three former European champions as Italy and France plumbed the depths, along with yet another deluded England side that came to the tournament mistakenly believing the hype.