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Spanish princesses Leonor and Sofia meet their heroes as the nation starts fiesta

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Pure gold: Sofia's face was a picture as she touched the World Cup trophy, held by captain Iker Casillas
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 Photo: © Rex

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Little Leonor looks thrilled to be holding the golden prize
 Photo: © Rex

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The palace reception was the first chance for the king to congratulate the players - including winning goal scorer Andres Iniesta
 Photo: © Rex

13 JULY 2010

The Spanish royal palace was transformed into a sea of red and yellow on Monday as the royal family welcomed the victorious national team. And there were two little fans especially keen to meet the World Cup champs.

Princess Letizia's daughters Leonor and Sofia - proudly wearing Spain football shirts – let go of their mother's hands to shyly give goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas a kiss on the cheek.

The sportsman lowered the World Cup trophy for them to touch, and Leonor reached out to hold the golden prize. Though due to its weight, she needed a helping hand from him.

Much to their delight, many of the players also removed their medals and let the little girls wear them around their necks.

The reception was the first chance for King Juan Carlos to congratulate the team. The monarch, who was unable to travel to South Africa for the competition, shook hands and embraced several of the team members – including winning goal scorer Andres Iniesta.

He told them: "You are an example of sportsmanship, nobility, good play and teamwork."

After posing for a group shot with the royal family – including Prince Felipe, Infanta Elena and Queen Sofia, who visited them in their changing rooms after the semi final win – the team boarded an open top bus to ride through Madrid's historic centre.

Hundreds of thousands of well-wishers turned out to cheer the team during the victory parade, which turned out to be one of the country's biggest fiestas to date.

From the bus the team waved flags and saluted the crowds. And clearly visible at the front of the bus, the players took turns to hold up a red and yellow cardboard cut out of Paul the octopus, the mollusc from a German zoo who correctly predicted their historic World Cup win.

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