Defeated Dutch honoured at home

AMSTERDAM: Thousands of fans turned the canals of Amsterdam into a sea of orange Tuesday, honking vuvuzelas and throwing confetti at the defeated Dutch football team after their nailbiting World Cup final defeat to Spain.

The team, casual in shorts and T-shirts, floated along the seven-kilometre (over four-mile) route on a river boat decorated with orange flowers, sipping beer and making toasts in the direction of the adoring crowds who waved flags, danced and chanted "Holland, Holland" to pumping music.

Supporters, numbering more than 500,000 according to police, lined the city streets and canals vying to get a glimpse of their heroes, many jumping in the water despite having been warned of health hazards.

Dozens of small vessels crowded that of the players on the first stretch of the parade on the Ij River, and had to be steered away by police in rubber boats.

The Dutch team lost 0-1 to Spain in extra time in Johannesburg on Sunday, playing a style of football described by former Dutch superstar Johan Cruyff, a losing finalist at the 1974 World Cup, as "ugly, vulgar, hard."

But the fans were unconcerned about accusations of negative play.

Team captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst and coach Bert van Marwijk were knighted in The Hague earlier in the presence of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende who called the team an "inspiration".

The squad then met their sovereign, Queen Beatrix, before departing by helicopter for their official tribute in Amsterdam.

The players will be taken to the city centre Museumplein (Museum Square), to be presented to tens of thousands of waiting supporters.

About 1,800 police had been deployed around Amsterdam for Tuesday's tribute, as well as about 700 security guards and 200 traffic regulators.

Houseboats along the parade route were fenced off and guarded to prevent a repeat of 1988 when several were sunk by fans celebrating the Netherlands' European Cup win.