The Netherlands woke to a World Cup hangover on Monday following its 1-0 extra time loss to Spain in the final in Johannesburg.
Among the headlines in Dutch newspapers was “Not Again” above pictures of dejected Dutch players following the final whistle. The Netherlands also lost to hosts West Germany and Argentina in 1974 and ‘78. The Algemeen Dagblad daily’s headline was “Orange tears.”
For Chris Nielen, 38, a sales manager who watched the match at a bar in a crowded square in The Hague, it was the third loss of his lifetime.
“In ‘74, I was in diapers. In ‘78, we were closer when we hit the post in the second half,” he said. “Now, we have to wait another 32 years.”
Jesse van Straaten said that the Netherlands could have won if it had been more efficient in front of goal.
“Honestly, Spain was better - I recognise that,” he said. “But we had the chances.”
Police across the country reported minor disturbances as disappointed fans fought and let off fireworks at the end of the match.
In The Hague, riot police had to disperse a crowd at one square that had been the scene of previous disturbances during the World Cup and in the eastern town of Zwolle they arrested a man with a gun and were investigating whether the weapon had been fired.
In Amsterdam on Monday, scores of dejected fans using Dutch flags as blankets woke up on the platforms of the city’s Central Station after missing the last trains home.
More than 100,000 orange-clad fans watched the match on giant screens at the city’s Museum Square but quickly and relatively quietly left after Andres Iniesta’s extra time goal had shattered their dreams of finally shaking the tag of the best team never to win the World Cup. Litter left in their wake included trampled orange vuvuzelas, a reminder of the droning sound track of the World Cup in South Africa.
A Dutch foundation that monitors television ratings said 8.5 million people watched the final at home, making it one of the most-watched broadcasts in the country’s history.
Amid the disappointment was pride that a nation of just 16 million had reached the final, knocking out five-time champion Brazil along the way thanks to a 2-1 quarterfinal victory in Port Elizabeth that will likely be remembered as the team’s best performance.
“Fought like lions,” said the front-page headline in best-selling daily De Telegraaf next to a photo of striker Robin van Persie and winger Arjen Robben both holding their heads in their hands, Robben on his knees on the Soccer City turf.
A planned victory parade in a boat through Amsterdam’s canals was scrapped, but coach Bert van Marwijk’s team was still getting a warm welcome.
The team was scheduled to arrive home on Monday afternoon on a specially chartered flight, with an orange F-16 fighter jet escorting the players’ plane once it enters Dutch air space.
On Tuesday, the players were to meet Dutch Queen Beatrix at her Noordeinde Palace in The Hague before flying to Amsterdam for a reception on the Museum Square.
Keywords: 2010 FIFA World Cup