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‘We were so close’

Dutch struggle to digest World Cup dismay

In Munich it was a motorcade, but in Amsterdam, you’d have to call it a ‘barge-o-cade’. Mark van Bommel, Arjen Robben, Edson Braafheid and the rest of the Netherlands squad all took to the canals of Amsterdam on Tuesday to acknowledge their fans. The World Cup runners-up were earlier received by Queen Beatrix and Prime Minister Balkenende, while the parade through the city finished with a major festival on the famous museum square.

Ahead of the celebration, the mood in the Elftal camp remained subdued. “It's hard, just like it was after the Champions League final,” Robben revealed to The player made no secret of his distress at seeing his World Cup dream crumble. “We were so close. It really hurts. We may never get a chance like that again,” the FCB star lamented.

Robben, Casillas and the ref

Spain ultimately won the hard-fought Final 1-0, but it could easily have gone the other way. On 62 minutes, Robben strode towards goal with only Iker Casillas to beat, but the keeper threw out a leg and saved. “There’s no excuse. I have to put it away,” the winger acknowledged. He again failed to beat his former Real Madrid team-mate with just seven minutes of normal time remaining. “I was definitely fouled by Puyol as I ran towards goal,” insisted Robben, “but I didn’t go to ground, because I thought I could still score.” However, there was no whistle, and Casillas claimed the ball.