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Economy can't weigh down Spain soccer glory

MADRID -- A sea of red and yellow filled the streets of Madrid late on Sunday as many Spaniards, draped in the colors of the national flag, celebrated their team's Euro 2012 triumph and forgot for a moment about the country's deep economic woes.

A 4-0 drubbing of Italy saw Spain retain their European Championship title, underlining the country's dominance of the soccer stage after winning the World Cup in South Africa two years ago.

Spain's sporting success has brought relief to a country where one in four workers are out of a job, and whose fragile banking system has needed European support of up to 100 billion euros (US$126.91 billion).

For a moment, Spaniards could not care less about the economy, and looked forward to extending their run of three trophies in a row to the next World Cup to be held in 2014 in Brazil.

“We are the best, and we've made history. Now let's go and win it in Brazil. We're getting used to this, maybe that's why the celebrations aren't so big as after the last World Cup,” said a jubilant Ivan Rodriguez, 33, surrounded by beaming compatriots.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who attended the match, said he would try to attend celebrations in Madrid on Monday despite being busy trying to resolve “the European mess.”

He has urged Spaniards to be patient as austerity measures bite into people's incomes and the effects of a labor reform take time to feed into the economy.

Yet growing unrest has been seen, with protesters bursting into an annual meeting of Bankia on Friday after losing money on their investments when the bank became the country's biggest banking failure applying for 19 billion euros of state aid.

Even after the overwhelming Euro 2012 final victory for Spain the economic backdrop and the risk premium the country pays for its debt compared with rich euro zone peers Germany was still on people's minds.

“It's an amazing result,” said Luis Macarro, a 41-year-old mechanic dressed in red outside a bar in central Madrid where clients were filling up the local plaza and car horns deafened chatter. “We're above everyone right now. Tomorrow you will see the debt spread with Germany fall 100 points.”

The Spanish team will return home from Ukraine on Monday and will celebrate with fans in the evening in central Madrid.

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