at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Madrid - Spanish newspapers on Saturday bemoaned the “humiliation” and “catastrophe” of world champions Spain's 5-1 battering by the Netherlands in their opening World Cup match in Brazil.
Most splashed on their front pages photos of Spain's goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas kneeling with head bowed as Dutch players celebrated after ripping apart the Spanish defence.
The image summed up a tale of fallen heros in a team shouldering huge expectations as it defends its world title.
Leading Madrid sports daily Marca mourned “a historic catastrophe”, dubbing the Netherlands' performance “a goal-scoring spree of Biblical proportions”.
Cafe terraces across Madrid erupted with joy when Spain went 1-0 up through a contentious 27th minute penalty by Xabi Alonso on Friday night.
But they fell silent when Robin van Persie struck back just before half time with a stunning header that looped over Casillas into the net.
The mood darkened as the Dutch added four more goals in the second half and the capital was quiet as fans in their red shirts plodded home.
With two Euro championships plus the 2010 World Cup under their belt, expectations for Spain in this competition could not be higher and the response to Friday night's upset was bitter.
It left fans and press alike mourning the decline of Casillas and demanding changes for the next match, against Chile on Wednesday.
“This is not just any old defeat. It is a historic disaster. There is no precedent of this scale in the history of the World Cup,” Marca wrote.
“Humiliation”, ran a headline on the front page of general daily El Mundo. “World disaster,” said leading newspaper El Pais.
Leading general newspaper El Pais noted on its front page that Spain had not let in more than one goal in a World Cup or European championship match since 2008. On Friday's “the collapse was total, it was hell”, it wrote.
“A ridiculous start,” screamed Barcelona-based daily Sport on its front page, calling the match Spain's “worst nightmare”.
Barcelona general newspaper El Periodico saw the defending world champions, known as La Roja or the Reds, as “Red with shame”.
Madrid sports daily AS mourned a “Total breakdown” by Spain in the second half as they gave away their lead.
Spanish papers noted bitterly that the scoreline - two goals each by Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie and one by Stefan de Vrij - was sweet revenge for the Dutch for their 1-0 defeat by Spain in the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa.
The Spanish press's only source of consolation was pointing out that Spain lost its first game in that World Cup, to Switzerland.
Many commentators mourned the ineffective performances of past heros of the Spain squad, such as Casillas, defenders Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique and midfielders Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Xavi Hernandez.
Some thought the defeat marked the end of an era for the world and European champions.
“Spain is like the remains of an empire that knows it is near its end,” wrote commentator Joan Maria Batlle in Sport.
“Casillas was unrecognisable. Pique and Sergio Ramos were uncoordinated, as if they had never played together,” while Iniesta and Xavi dropped out of sight in the second half, Batlle wrote.
The online editions of the sporting press on Saturday were a gallery of Spain's glum-faced fallen heros. Marca's led with Casillas's post-match apology to fans.
He was the first Spain goalkeeper to let in five goals since 1963 when Scotland beat them 6-2 in a friendly.
AS said that fans consulted in a survey online “want to get Pique, Busquets and Xavi Hernandez out of the team and have great doubts about Casillas and Diego Costa” - a new face in the squad this year.
Instead they want midfielders Javi Martinez, Koke and Pedro Rodriguez, it said.
If Spain wants to extend its winning streak after the 2010 World Cup crown and the past two Euro championships, coach Vicente del Bosque “will have to seek urgent solutions”, Marca warned.
“The hardest job will be in maintaining team spirit.”
“It is time to think quickly, draw firm conclusions and make logical changes in the next starting line-up to get back into this World Cup,” wrote Lobo Carrasco in Barcelona sports paper Mundo Deportivo.
“Winning it seems is almost impossible, but it all depends on beating Chile.”
Chile opened with a 3-1 win over Australia on Friday. - Sapa-AFP