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In Madrid, relief and rejoicing intertwine

By Al Goodman, Madrid Bureau Chief
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Spain erupts in joy at beating Germany
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • People on streets of Madrid celebrate after Spain's World Cup semifinal win
  • Spain beat Germany 1-0 on Wednesday night to reach the World Cup final
  • Spain's best World Cup achievement was fourth place in 1950

Madrid, Spain (CNN) -- Spanish fans were singing "A por ellos," which means "go get 'em," before Spain beat Germany 1-0 in a World Cup semifinal and they were singing it long afterward, too.

Spain made history Wednesday night, charging into the World Cup finals for the first time. Spain has been in the World Cup 13 times, but never finished higher than fourth and that was 60 years ago, in 1950.

They've beaten that record, finally, and along the main boulevard in the Spanish capital, the fiesta carried on long into the night with traffic jams, blaring horns and jubilant fans hanging out of cars draped in Spanish flags. And the police almost smiling as it all passed by.

Read more about Spain defeating Germany

It's not that Spanish fans were overly doubtful about beating Germany, but they weren't overly confident, either, based on Spain's record as a constant underachiever at the World Cup.

Video: Spain heading to finals
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  • Spain

Spain entered the tournament as a favorite, but promptly lost to Switzerland in the opening game. That sent a shudder through the country and, apparently, awoke the team to the notion that other squads were not going to just roll over for a favorite.

If Spain beats Holland in the final on Sunday, Spain would be the first team in history to win the World Cup after losing their opening group stage game.

The crowds have grown larger and larger outside the Bernabeu stadium, home to Real Madrid, in the capital, where two big screens have shown all the games, one on each side of the stadium.

We've been there for every game except the Spain v. Portugal match in the round of 16, when we went to the Spanish Portuguese border to cover the fans on both sides.

But now the Spanish team, and the nation, must brace for the final test.

Many fans told us after the victory over Germany that the game against Holland would not be a bed of tulips for the Spanish side.

But the fans have coalesced around their team which by itself seems to unite this country so sharply divided along political and regional lines.

When Carles Puyol, from FC Barcelona, headed in the only goal of the game against Germany off of a corner kick, even the fans from Barcelona's arch-rival, Real Madrid, were cheering their lungs out.

The big fiesta is on Spain. And the fans will be singing "A por ellos," or "go get 'em," one more time on Sunday.

That's when Spain's called "La Roja," or the red team, for their bright shirts, will have a chance to make even more history.