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Last Updated: Monday, 12 June 2006, 21:32 GMT 22:32 UK
Joy and pain for World Cup fans
By Laura Smith-Spark
BBC News, Munich

Japanese fan
The disappointment for Japanese fans was huge
The Australians and Japanese may be some of football's most dedicated fans - at least in terms of miles covered.

While supporters of Europe's World Cup finalists have been able to drive, take the train or hop on a cheap flight to Germany, their Pacific Ocean counterparts have spent up to 30 hours in the air to be there.

But for thousands of Australians at least, the long-haul pain suddenly all became worthwhile when their team snatched three late goals just as defeat loomed.

Not only that, but Tim Cahill's goal on 84 minutes was the first ever scored by Australia in the World Cup finals.

History

In the space of minutes, the usually sleepy town of Kaiserslautern turned into a heaving mass of yellow-shirted, flag-waving, rejoicing Aussies.

Inflatable kangaroos bounced into the air, while shouts of "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oy, oy, oy" competed with klaxons and the din of ACDC turned up loud over the speakers.

Australian fans
Australian fans say history has been made

The Japanese, having seen a 1-0 lead disappear with only minutes to go, looked understandably disappointed.

But even they agreed that the long trek had been worth it for the experience of watching their team play in the flesh.

Meanwhile, the Australians on the "fan mile" through the town centre looked set to drink the bars dry as they celebrated what was already being called "the defining moment of Australian football history".

"It was sensational," said Sarah Gregorovic, 34, from Queensland. "It was just incredible. We've been waiting for this for so long.

"We have to get to the next round for soccer to get big in Australia. I can't believe they made us wait so long for the goals!

I didn't think we would last long, but I'm about to ring my boss and ask him for more leave
Scotty Charles
Australia fan

"We've come all the way from Australia just to watch this event - I've left the children at home with their grandparents just to come here."

Fan Scotty Charles, 38, from Melbourne, has vowed to name his baby - due in four weeks - after the Socceroos' star of the day.

"If it's a boy, he'll be called Tim, or if it's a girl, I guess it'll be Timi," he said.

"I'm out for the whole month now. I thought it would be a short trip, I didn't think we would last long, but I'm about to ring my boss and ask him for more leave."

No tickets, lost luggage

For Jose Vergara and Cindy Henriques, among a party of five Aussie fans from Wollongong, the result more than made up for the fact that all but one of their suitcases have been lost in transit.

Fans' reaction to Australia's 3-1 win over Japan

The group also embarked on the 30-hour journey with no tickets between them, gambling on being able to buy from touts when they arrived.

"We've all been wearing the same clothes for two days," said Cindy. "But it was worth it for this game - it took a long time to get here but I'm glad we did. I think tonight will be big."

And as the Australians launch into a party that looks like lasting all night, they should perhaps spare a thought for their Japanese friends.

Disappointment

Japanese fans Koizumi and Naoko
All smiles, but Japan suffered a last-minute defeat

Kazumi Terada and Naoko Yokoyama both face the long trek back to Tokyo, knowing that Japan's chances of qualifying from a group that also includes Croatia and Brazil are looking slim at best.

"We are really disappointed. We came almost 15 hours on a flight from Japan and we really hoped we would win," said Kazumi, 27.

"I have to get off the plane and go straight to work tomorrow," said Naoko, an assistant producer for a Japanese television company.

"But at least it's a really great time to be here."


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