Holland v Spain: Watching the Dutch win in Amsterdam

Spain's Xabi Alonso (14) and Netherlands' Arjen Robben try to head the ball during the first half of the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and the Netherlands at the Arena Ponte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Friday, June 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) Spain's Xabi Alonso (14) and Netherlands' Arjen Robben try to head the ball during the first half of the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and the Netherlands at the Arena Ponte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Friday, June 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Monday, June 16, 2014
3:13 PM

One look at the Leidseplein square in Amsterdam, and it’s clear that the Dutch are World Cup mad.

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Netherlands flags drape all sides, giant inflatable footballs hang from the front of pubs and everything - and I mean, everything - is swathed in that distinctive Dutch orange.

The square is one of the city’s main spots for pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants - think a lowlands Leicester Square.

And on the night we were in town - on a stag do, what else? - this was the only place to be as Holland faced Spain in their first outing of the tournament.

We were greeted by the sight and sound of a brass band whipping the crowd up into a pre-game frenzy, hundreds of fans bouncing along to terrace tunes.

Cramming into a tiny pub, we joined eager Dutchmen in varying degrees of fancy dress, including one guy in full 1989-era Ruud Gullit regalia, including moustache and dreadlocks.

There was singing, shouting, dancing and drinking. Then the game kicked off and Spain scored. The whole city seemed to deflate in an instant.

But one clipped pass later, a flying Robin van Persie equalised and the square erupted. Unlike in England, where glasses become missiles and bare-chested men scream at each other, this was more of a continental celebration - hugs, kisses and jubilation.

At half-time one fan told me he feared the worst - had they made the world champions angry? As an England fan, with our natural flair for pessimism, I understood him immediately.

Then the second half began, and Holland couldn’t stop scoring.

The second and third goals saw wild celebrations, the fourth and fifth widespread disbelief.

You could hardly move without being accosted by an ecstatic fan, armed with a hug or high five.

As the final whistle blew, fans floated out of pubs in a state of euphoria. Holland had won 5-1 and a long night of celebration was about to begin.

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