Hundreds of thousands of fans took to the streets and canals of Amsterdam today to celebrate the Dutch football team’s second place in the World Cup.
The players waved at fans, swigged beer and blew vuvuzelas aboard an open-top boat as it weaved its way through Amsterdam’s network of canals.
Scores of boats packed with dancing revellers followed the official flotilla, cheering the team as it passed.
Half a million people descended on the city to celebrate the Netherlands' best World Cup finish since 1978, the Amsterdam police tweeted.
‘I expected some people to come, but this is unbelievable,’ coach Bert van Marwijk said. ‘Can you imagine what it would have been like if we'd won?’
Midfielder Rafael van der Vaart sprayed fans with beer while defender Edson Braafheid caught a bottle of beer tossed to him by a fan and started drinking from it. Players had to regularly duck as their boat cruised under low bridges.
Before the team boat arrived, several fans leapt into the murky waters of the Brouwersgracht canal cheered by hoards of orange-clad, flag-waving supporters - despite warnings from authorities that swimming in the canals could expose them to anything from E.coli bacteria to sunken bicycles and shopping carts.
‘It's a bit much, considering we lost,’ said Loes Olden, who was sipping a glass of white wine at the water's edge at a table decked in an orange tarp, two ornate candle sticks and a bowl of oranges.
‘It's over the top, but we're enjoying it.’
In front of about 100,000 fans at the central Museum Square, winger Arjen Robben said: ‘Spain may have won the World Cup, but we have the best supporters in the world.’
Earlier, the team was honoured by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende at the start of a hectic day of celebrations.
Under bunches of orange balloons, Van Marwijk and retiring captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst were given the honorary title of ‘Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau’ at a reception in front of Balkenende's official Catshuis residence.
The Dutch lost 1-0 in extra time to Spain in Sunday's final - the third time the country has lost the final after defeats in 1974 and '78.
Robben said his missed chance on the hour mark was still haunting him. The Bayern Munich star had only Iker Casillas to beat, but the Spain goalkeeper deflected Robben's shot wide with his outstretched foot.
‘You want nothing more than to score that goal. It was a big chance,’ he said. ‘It hurts to miss a chance like that.’ As he sang and danced in front of the huge orange crowd of adoring fans in Amsterdam, the pain appeared to be easing.