Dutch winger Arjen Robben (L) and Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder (R) arrive at the Schipol airport, in Amsterdam. The Dutch football team returned home Monday after their 1-0 World Cup defeat by Spain welcomed by two F-16 fighter jets and a ceremonial spray of water by the fire brigade.
AMSTERDAM: The Dutch football team returned home Monday after their 1-0 World Cup defeat by Spain welcomed by two F-16 fighter jets and a ceremonial spray of water by the fire brigade.
"We haven't yet processed the disappointment," coach Bert van Marwijk told reporters on the tarmac at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, surrounded by a clearly dejected team all dressed in dark slacks and white shirts and clasping orange flower bouquets.
"To give away the World Cup three-and-a-half minutes before the end of the match, that is very painful."
The team landed at 5.20 pm (1520 GMT) at Schiphol, where the players were kept away from the public, an AFP journalist observed.
Their KLM Boeing 777, flying a Dutch flag on its front, was accompanied into Dutch airspace by two F-16s, one painted in the orange colour of the team.
Fire engines spouted water jets over the landed plane in a welcoming gesture, and the disembarking players were handed flower bouquets by air hostesses.
Airport staff interrupted their work to capture images of the near-heroes on their mobile phones.
The players were led to an orange-carpeted podium next to the plane on the tarmac for an audience with about 100 journalists and photographers.
"I am proud of the guys in the team," said captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst. "We gave it our all."
After the press encounter, the players were taken by bus to an hotel in the seaside town of Noordwijk, where they were to be reunited with their loved ones, according to Hilde Bruggink, a spokeswoman for the Dutch football federation KNVB.
"They were initially due to leave by helicopter, but since the road conditions are good, we decided to use buses," she said.
A few dozen die-hard fans of the team nicknamed the Oranje Elftal (Orange Eleven) had gathered at the airport on Monday morning in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the players, despite an appeal from Schiphol officials not to do so.
They ended up seeing only the landing from far away through a window.
On Tuesday, van Marwijk's side will be hosted in The Hague by outgoing Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Queen Beatrix.
In the afternoon Tuesday, they will be honoured with a boat parade through the canals of Amsterdam and a special tribute to be attended by tens of thousands of people on a central square.