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World Cup 2010: Holland goes orange for final

Fervor and tension mount as Netherlands team goes for its first World Cup.

Orange pennants in Breda, Netherlands
Orange pennants show support in the Dutch town of Breda for the Netherlands team in the World Cup final. (Paul Ames/GlobalPost)

BREDA, Netherlands — Vincent Van Gogh once said, “Orange is the color of insanity.”

This week his compatriots are proving the painter right. The Netherlands is going orange mad and just about the whole country is draped in the color of the Dutch royal house ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final against Spain.

In this southern city, bikes, bars and baker’s shops were all in orange.

“We are having a lot of success with these,” declares Conny van Haaren as she shows off a plate of cream-filed pastry balls coated with bright orange icing and decorated with the red-white-and-blue national flag.

“Tomorrow as people get ready for the match, it’s going to go crazy,” she predicted outside the family’s 100-year-old pastry shop and tea room.

Around the corner in the Paradise Coffee House, the haze of marijuana smoke fails to hide walls covered with dozens of orange balloons and the flat screen TV where local dope smokers can watch the game on Sunday.

“This has been great for business,” said Nick Rijtover, the cafe's manager. “The place always fills up when there’s a match and there’s a great atmosphere. It's not just us, it’s been good for all the city’s restaurants and cafes.”

Rijtover’s only complaint: the law prevents cafes that legally sell cannabis from selling alcohol too, so beer loving fans won’t be able to watch the final in his place.

The Netherlands, like their Spanish opponents, have never won the World Cup. But, unlike the Spanish, the Dutch have twice come close.

In the 1970s the Dutch revolutionized the game with a style they called “total football.” Led by midfield supremo Johan Cruyff, they produced what many believe to be Europe’s greatest ever team. They reached the final of two consecutive World Cups, but twice fell at the final hurdle: to Argentina in 1978 and, most painfully, to Germany in 1974.

Those defeats have haunted Dutch soccer since and the prospect of finally laying those ghosts to rest with a win over Spain goes a long way to explain the fervor, and the tension, ahead of the final.

Campaigners are calling for Tuesday to be declared a national holiday if they win so fans can welcome the team back from South Africa. Police in Amsterdam are already bracing for crowds that could exceed the estimated one million that filled the capital’s streets in 1988 when the Netherlands won soccer’s European Championship. Theaters and summer music festivals are rescheduling performances to avoid clashing with Sunday’s game.

“It’s the first time in our history that we do that,” Erwin Van Lambaart, whose production company is bringing forward performances of "Mamma Mia" in Rotterdam and "Mary Poppins" in Scheveningen.

“It’s a huge logistical undertaking, but we’ve waited 32 years for this and our public, and our employees, want to enjoy the final,” he told the daily De Volkskrant newspaper.