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Fervor and tension mount as Netherlands team goes for its first World Cup.
Despite being two of Europe’s major soccer powers, Spain and the Netherlands have never before met in the World Cup. They did however go head-to-head twice in this city in the 17th century during the 80-year Dutch War of Independence from Spanish rule.
Back then, Spain won the first leg taking Breda after an 11-month siege, but the Dutch regrouped 12 years later to reclaim the city on their way to breaking free from the Spanish empire. Strangely, the grand entrance to City Hall is decorated with a copy of Spanish artist Diego Valázquez’s giant painting of the Dutch defeat in that first battle.
“That was a couple of hundred years ago, and it won’t happen again,” said City Hall worker Mars Voss. “On Sunday it will be crazy here, crazy and very orange. I usually put jugs of water on the table for weekly town council meetings, but this week I served orangeade. It went down very well.”
Outside on the cobbled streets of the main square, cafes were basking in weather that was more Andalusia than Amsterdam as a heat-wave pushed temperatures up to the high 90s.
On almost every street, orange pennants fluttered over the heads of shoppers and every bar was decked in orange, flying the national flag and competing with each other with ads for cheap beer during the final. The De Bommel bar was a bit more original, hanging a selection of orange objects across its street that included wigs, dresses a bra and some vuvuzelas.
“Because of the heat we’ve not had so many customers today, but generally this stuff has really been selling,” said Linda Gardeslen, pointing out the display of orange T-shirts, socks, tulip-shaped candles, raincoats and flip-flops on sale in the city tourist office.
“It’s been one big party, every match all the bars and all the streets have been full and the atmosphere’s great,” said Marie van den Bems, an 18-year-old student. “When we win it will go wild.”
And if they lose? “That’s not going to happen,” she said.
Opinions are a little more mixed at the Sol y Sombra tapas bar.
“It will be Holland of course,” said owner Egbert Fransen. Not surprisingly, waiter Manuel Moya sees it differently, “I’m going for Spain."
Both agreed however that whatever the score, there’s going to be quite a fiesta.