Remember Kaiserslautern

Six years ago today, the Qantas Socceroos defeated Japan 3-1 in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, in a brilliant game that left lasting memories.

Six years ago today, Australia was in raptures. Late in the night, on the other side of the planet, the Qantas Socceroos had shown the world what they were capable of and proved to Australia just what football could do.

Everyone remembers that game in Kaiserslautern - so rather than recollect the details yet again, what sticks most in my mind is what it was like to watch that game and the lasting effect that night had.

I was living in Sydney-s inner west and was going to watch the game in one of my local pubs on Norton Street, the hub of Sydney-s Italian community and always a great place to watch football.

I had managed to convince a mate to come with me - and I mean convince. My friend just wasn-t into “soccer”. He didn-t get it, and didn-t want to get it.

The only way I could drag him out of bed at that time of the night was to appeal to his innate Australian pride in all things sport and with the promise of an unusually frantic pub crowd.

The hotel was, predictably, packed with fans in green and gold and there was a fantastic atmosphere up and down Norton Street. That didn-t stop my mate from whinging about having to leave his nice warm unit just to watch some soccer game.

“Australia are bound to lose anyway,” he kept saying. “They always do.”

It didn-t start well. The two sides were evenly matched but it was Japan who got the opening goal halfway through the first half, as Nakamura-s hopeful cross sailed over Mark Schwarzer-s head - never mind the seemingly blatant obstruction by Yanigasawa.

The pub groaned and my mate clicked his tongue. “This game is [expletive]!” he complained. “Everyone gets all excited and it-s all over.”

The next hour or so was excruciating. The atmosphere in the pub grew more tired and tense as the game went on with Japan leading, and my mate-s frustration at football-s failings only grew.

Then, with six minutes of normal time left, the whole thing exploded.

Japan keeper Kawaguchi didn-t deal with Lucas Neill-s long throw and in the scramble and foot - and a hero - emerged, as Tim Cahill drilled the ball home to equalise and score Australia-s first ever goal at the World Cup finals.

The pub erupted, shouts, cheers and chants coming from every corner.

Somehow I could sense what was coming but my mate looked like a rabbit in the headlights. He hadn-t expected this kind of tension; he didn-t know how football can manipulate your emotions so completely.

Five minutes later, it went berserk.

In the 89th minute, it was Cahill again, waiting on the edge of the box to put Australia in front, thumping his shot in off the post.

Up in the air, shouting, beer everywhere, men hugging other men, complete strangers becoming best mates in seconds.

Before we-d had time to recover, John Aloisi sent the country in dreamland, bursting through the middle of the Japan defence in the 90th minute to fire home Australia-s third and secure an historic, brilliant, unforgettable victory.

The pub was frantic and my mate looked on the verge of tears. After more expletives, what I caught went along the lines of, “I get it! That was amazing, just amazing! I get it!”

Part of me was annoyed - annoyed that it had taken something this dramatic to show him what football can do, annoyed that he-d got this match, this wild and memorable match, as his first taste of the World Cup.

What about the years of crushing agony and heart-breaking frustration I-d had to sit through? I-d earned this victory and here was this freeloader!

But it didn-t matter - none of it did. That game changed football in Australia and it changed my mate-s mind about the game. The Qantas Socceroos- determination and ability in that game took them into Australia-s heart and raised the standards, expectations and belief in football as a whole.

A lot can happen in six years. Let-s hope they can do something similar in Brisbane tonight.

The Qantas Socceroos host Japan in their first home fixture of the fourth stage of Asia-s FIFA World Cup qualification process on Tuesday, 12 June at Brisbane-s Suncorp Stadium. Kick off is at 8pm.

Click here for tickets