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World Cup 2010
World Cup final fever grips fans
Hundreds of thousands of Dutch and Spaniards line streets to watch the final live.
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2010 19:09 GMT
Up to 250,000 fans are expected to watch the match on Paseo de la Castellana boulevard in Madrid [AFP]

In the Netherlands the Reverand Paul Vlaar's rural church, the candles, the piano, even the pastor's robes were orange for a day.

Vlaar kicked off his sermon to about 300 orange-clad worshippers by praying for Dutch teamwork to lead to victory in the World Cup final against Spain in Johannesburg on Sunday.

During the service, Vlaar kicked a football down the aisle and "You'll never walk alone" was played on an orange piano.

Vlaar's orange-coloured corner of the Netherlands was one small snapshot from a nation gripped by a football frenzy triggered by the country's first final appearance since losing back-to-back finals in 1974 and 1978 to hosts West Germany and Argentina.

Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, along with cities across the nation, were decked in orange, giant footballs were suspended from orange garlands strung across streets and people in Dutch colors rode in pedal boats on the canals.

Fans began arriving at a giant screen behind Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum around noon, more than eight hours before kickoff in South Africa. The city municipality estimated 100,000 fans would crowd into Museum Square to watch the match on a giant screen.

Jesse van Straaten, 31, an office manager, who was wearing orange sunglasses and an orange tie, explained the madness.

"We Dutch are normally very sober and not so outgoing," he said.

"For some reason, this is the one thing that can really bring us out and unite us as a country. It's a pity this doesn't happen every two years."

'The Spain we want'

The football fervour was just as strong in Spain, where newspaper ABC featured the country's flag and just one word on its front page: "Spain!"

The Spanish capital, Madrid, was festooned with flags and the central Cibeles fountain, often a scene of celebration after Real Madrid wins, was draped in a flag.

A giant TV screen was set up next to Cibeles, facing northwards up the Paseo de la Castellana boulevard where up to 250,000 fans are expected to watch the match live.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, praised the national team in an article in leading newspaper El Pais on Sunday.

"That's the Spain we want, a creative Spain, true to itself, innovative and inventive, that speaks to the world with a new language," Zapatero said.

"The team has shown us how to go forward through effort and creativity."

Eugenia Ribera, 16, who was sporting a Fernando Torres jersey, said she felt proud and anxious.

"This is a day to remember, our team has made us so very proud," she said.

"The whole country has woken up full of expectation."

Jose Herrero, 18, riding a bicycle while wearing a red and yellow Spain jersey, is confident.

"We are going to win the World Cup, how amazing. It's the greatest thing that has happened in my lifetime," he said.

Rafael Sorian, 24, said he thought Spain would win 2-1.

"If we don't do it this time, I don't know when we'll be able to do it again at this level," he said.

Source:
AFP
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