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Thursday, 22 June, 2000, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Franco-Dutch love fest
Dutch and French fans
French and Dutch in their own Eurovision song contest
BBC Sport Online's Pete Lansley gatecrashes the biggest party at Euro 2000 so far.

They should bottle it and sell it. Oranje-Arena, they could call it.

The atmosphere at Wednesday's Franco-Dutch love-in at the Ajax Arena, with both countries already assured of their quarter-final placings, made for one of the most memorable footballing parties.

It must be the first time the Birdie Song has been accompanied by a conga.

And the naffer the songs they played, the more the French and the Dutch jigged and po-goed outside this spectacular stadium.

YMCA, Macarana (the boat song) and a marvellous pre-match Gloria sent thousands of techni-coloured supporters into party overload.

Joined arms

The French and the Dutch joined arms at the ground for the best coming together of fans we have yet seen.

On the metro, the Dutch would sing, the French drown them out in return and the Dutch then just join in.

It was a Eurovision song contest to set the tempo for a fluorescent evening.

"I've come down without a ticket because I want to enjoy the atmosphere," said Erik, from Amsterdam, "to see how the people are joining together, showing how there really is European integration.

I've come down without a ticket because I want to enjoy the atmosphere

Erik, Dutch fan

"The Dutch fans are good. When the national team plays, we are all together. We could be seeing the winners of the competition here tonight.

"Holland is good. But France is good, with a good trainer, a good composition of players and I give them a good chance of winning the competition.

"Perhaps they are better, finally, than Holland," Erik concluded.

French fans
French happy despite loss

Our interview at this point was halted by three scantily-clad young ladies selling orange boxer shorts who seemed attracted to the large BBC microphone.

"That's atmosphere," said Erik.

After a wall of orange had made the green tribune in which we sat literally rock up and down, France's second team had the temerity to be 2-1 ahead at half-time.

The Dutch, presumably eager to win the group and so play their quarter-final in Rotterdam, controlled the second period and went on to win 3-2.

Why did France put out a second string? "Perhaps Roger Lemerrre preferred to play Spain next," suggested Frederick on the metro, "and maybe he wants to carry on playing in Bruges."

Whichever, everyone went home happy.

"The chances are that we will meet France again in the final," said Herbert Golsteyn, 24, an Ajax fan.

"They played a very good game and for 20 or 30 minutes even their second team outplayed us.

"It is good for the tournament for Holland to play in their own country. It avoids ticket complications if we had to go to Bruges.

"Now, if we win against Yugoslavia, our semi-final will be back at the Arena," Herbert finished hopefully.

Dutch drinkers
Toasting the Dutch victory over France

Erik van Zanten is from Holy Sloot (meaning canal), a tiny village apparently named when an open-top bus went through the hamlet and all the celebrants jumped in the water after Holland won Euro 88.

This gave the place religious status in locals' eyes and the name stuck.

"The Netherlands can go to the final," said Erik.

"Edgar Davids is our best player and even though Dennis Bergkamp is not yet in his best form, he will find it at the right time."

The Leidseplein was quiet after midnight, orange litter scattered by the breeze.

Through to the last eight of Euro 2000 and supporters of the remaining hosts and of the world champions know bigger parties lie ahead.

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