Dutch work themselves into World Cup final frenzy
Dutch football great Johan Cruyff said in an interview published Saturday that of the two teams in the World Cup final he ''sees the most of me'' in Spain rather than the Netherlands.
Vicente Del Bosque's team ''radiates an aura of 'we want the ball and we want to dictate,''' Cruyff said in an interview with Dutch daily De Telegraaf.
The former midfield star and architect of Dutch ''total football'' of the 1970s made the comments as his country whipped itself into a football frenzy ahead of Sunday's final in Johannesburg.
An orange tram was riding around Amsterdam and the Defense Ministry announced that two F-16 fighter jets, including one painted orange, will escort the team's plane home once it reaches Dutch air space on Monday. The same orange F-16 roared low over Amsterdam's Arena stadium moments before the Netherlands thrashed Hungary 6-1 in its final World Cup warmup.
Staff wore orange shirts in markets and shops across the nation of 16 million, and people hung the national red, white and blue flag along with orange banners from their homes.
On Sunday, fans will mass in front of giant screens in cities like Amsterdam, the capital, and Maastricht in the south, where authorities had to hire security staff from neighboring Belgium and Germany.
If the Netherlands win Sunday, the team will tour Amsterdam's web of canals in an open-topped boat on Tuesday and tens of thousands of fans are expected to line the route. City officials have made videos of the condition of a handful of house boats along the route to help assess claims in case they are damaged by over-exuberant fans clambering onto their roofs.
The Netherlands is in the global football showcase final for the first time since losing back-to-back title games in 1974 and 1978 to hosts West Germany and Argentina. Spain is in its first World Cup final.
Cruyff, star of the 1974 Dutch team and later a standout player and coach at Barcelona, praised Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque for forging a cohesive team out of stars drawn from rival clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona.
However Cruyff also praised Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk for reaching the final.
''You have to admire this team,'' Cruyff said of the Netherlands. ''It is not built from the best players in the world, but it functions as an extremely strong team.''
He picked goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, whose athletic one-handed save to deny Kaka in the quarterfinal may have kept his team in the tournament, and versatile winger Dirk Kuyt as the heroes of Oranje.
''At crucial moments, Stekelenburg saved the team,'' Cruyff said, ''and whenever the team had a problem with the lineup Kuyt was the solution.''
Cruyff, who now divides his time between Spain and his country of birth, did not predict who would win.
''I have links with both the Netherlands and Spain,'' he said. ''Whatever the result, I win.''