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Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Tuesday, 13 July 2010 15:39 UK

World Cup 2010: Dutch return to heroes' welcome

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The World Cup runners up return to a huge welcome home from Dutch fans

World Cup runners-up the Netherlands were given a heroes' welcome by fans as they went on an open-top boat tour of Amsterdam's canals on Tuesday.

Thousands of people lined the waterways to cheer the squad, with two defying warnings by jumping into the canal.

The Dutch, who earlier met Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Queen Beatrix, lost 1-0 to Spain in Sunday's final at Johannesburg's Soccer City.

In an ill-tempered match they had eight bookings, with John Heitinga sent off.

Netherlands winger Arjen Robben admitted he was still haunted by his missed chance in the final, when he was sent clean through with only Spanish keeper Iker Casillas to beat

"You want nothing more than to score that goal," he said. "It was a big chance. It hurts to miss a chance like that."

But the Dutch fans seemed in forgiving mood, with houses along the canals decked out with flags and giant footballs.

There was also a banner aimed at English referee Howard Webb, criticised by the Netherlands for his handling of the final, which read: "Webb, go to Robben Island".

That was a reference to the infamous island off Table Bay where former South African president Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were imprisoned during the apartheid era.

One supporter, Dennis Nuitermans, said: "It doesn't happen often that we are second in the world so we're coming for a great day out in Amsterdam."

606: DEBATE

But he confessed that the style of football employed by coach Bert van Marwijk was not exactly in the tradition of the famous 1970s "total football" era of Johan Cruyff and co.

"It was not really Dutch, but it was efficient," Nuitermans added. "The final was not exactly charming. It was pretty ugly at times."

Indeed Cruyff himself expressed his disappointment with the Dutch display in the final, describing it as "ugly" and "anti-football".

Earlier, Van Marwijk and retiring captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who played his last game of professional football in Sunday's finale, were knighted by Prime Minister Balkenende at his official Catshuis residence.

Balkenende, sporting an orange tie, served the squad coffee and cakes with orange icing in his garden, which was decorated with orange balloons. "The Netherlands is proud of Oranje," he said.

The players then went by by coach to meet Queen Beatrix at her Noordeinde Palace in The Hague, before being taken by helicopter to Amsterdam.

After completing their boat trip, the squad was introduced, one by one, to hundreds of thousands of fans gathered at Amsterdam's Museum Square. City police tweeted that, all told, an estimated half a million people had come along to cheer their heroes.

The parade was originally scheduled to take place only if the Netherlands had returned home as champions, but Amsterdam officials released a statement saying: "Even in second place, the Dutch team are champions in the eyes of their country."

By contrast, Germany - beaten by Spain in the semi-finals - made a low-key return from South Africa after turning down the chance of a welcome home party.

After landing in Frankfurt the players went their separate ways and did not speak to fans who had gathered at the airport, prompting complaints from some.

An open letter published on the national team's official website said they "deeply regretted" the "displeasure and incomprehension" caused and didn't intend to upset anyone. The letter added that they didn't want to celebrate finishing third as "this team wants more, for itself and its fans."



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see also
Spain return to rapturous welcome
13 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
Spain's World Cup victory parade
13 Jul 10 |  Front Page
Alonso critical of De Jong tackle
13 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
Netherlands tactics upset Cruyff
12 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
Dutch coach condemns referee Webb
12 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
BBC pundits on World Cup final
12 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010


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