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Excitement builds ahead of World Cup climax

Football fans mill around Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg ahead of the 2010 World Cup final.
Football fans mill around Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg ahead of the 2010 World Cup final.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Excitement mounts in the Netherlands, Spain as fans await World Cup final
  • 200,000 expected to watch match in Amsterdam's Museumsplein
  • Thousands also expected to crowd around four big screens in Madrid
  • Kickoff is at 6.30 p.m. GMT (2.30 p.m. ET) in Soccer City Stadium

(CNN) -- A month of intense competition reaches its climax Sunday when either the Netherlands or Spain will make history by claiming its first ever World Cup title.

Hours before kickoff at Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium the drone of vuvuzelas could be heard thousands of miles away at Amsterdam's Museumsplein, where some 200,000 fans are expected to watch the match.

Supporters milled in the streets wearing the national color orange as construction workers fitted the final nuts and bolts to television screens erected around a vast lawn.

Towering above them was a poster of Queen Beatrix's grand-daughter blowing a vuvuzela.

Anticipation was also thick in the air in Spain, where hundreds of fans, decked out in red and yellow, arrived early in Madrid's main boulevard to reserve a spot to watch the action on four huge television screens.

Rather than vuvuzelas, fans brandished small trumpets known as "pitos" or whistles. The pitos joined the cacophony of singing, chanting and tooting of car horns as children milled about with painted faces.

Video: Fans excited in Madrid
Video: Fans ready for World Cup final
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RELATED TOPICS
  • FIFA World Cup
  • Netherlands
  • Spain

Writing in Spain's largest circulation daily El Pais, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero called Sunday "the most glorious day in the history of Spanish football."

It is the first time the two nations have clashed at a World Cup finals.

Spain is appearing in its first World Cup final. The Netherlands has been there twice before, but has lost both times -- 2-1 to West Germany in 1974 and four years later they lost 3-1 to Argentina.

On Sunday, at 6.30 p.m. GMT (2.30 p.m. ET), several hundred million viewers are expected to tune into watch the final game in the month-long competition.

Football's world governing body, FIFA, says this final could set viewing records, not only for the World Cup, but in television history.

"We don't want to speculate in numbers but we're hoping this will be the biggest [event] ever," Niclas Ericson, FIFA's director of television, said in a press conference from Soccer City Stadium, the final's venue.

Around 715 million viewers worldwide watched the Azurri beat France to the title in 2006.

The largest television event to date is thought to be the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. In 2008, a global audience of one billion is thought to have watched at least part of the spectacle.

Advertisers aren't the only businesses benefiting from the World Cup excitement.

Spain's progression to the final has lifted consumer spirits in the middle of a severe economic crisis where unemployment is running close to 20 percent.

Spanish flag sales were up six-fold thanks to the tournament, according to a leading flag maker in Colmenar Viejo, near Madrid.

Pablo Verguilla, a store manager in Madrid, told CNN the World Cup had definitely boosted sales of his shirts and Spanish souvenirs.

And local media reported about one million official La Roja team jerseys had sold at about 70 euros each, along with an unknown number of cheaper imitation merchandise.

Spain's goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas was quoted as saying that knowing that people are going through hard times has motivated the team.

Fans who spent money to fly to South Africa for the final started converging on Soccer City Stadium hours before the kick off to soak up the atmosphere and the sunny weather at the Soweto-based arena.

Dutch fans outnumbered the Spanish by ten-to-one at the southern end of the stadium, with Holland fans living up to their reputation as the "Orange Army," with most in attendance dressed head to toe in the national hue.

CNN's Al Goodman, Don Riddell, Diana Magnay, Jonathan Wald, Per Nyberg and Ben Wyatt contributed to this report.

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