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Why Australian football fans will never forget Kaiserslautern

Tim Cahill was instrumental in Australia's win over Japan. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)
Expert
4th June, 2018
28
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With the Socceroos’ opening match in Russia drawing ever closer, we’re continuing to count down the ten most memorable moments in the team’s history, moments which brought Australian fans around the globe together.

At number four is a spectacular match played on a sweltering afternoon in Kaiserslautern…

If Socceroos fans thought simply qualifying for 2006 was a mountain to climb, they didn’t reckon with the Betzenberg.

Australia’s 3-1 win over Japan at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion in Kaiserslautern will forever be remembered as one of the best Socceroos moments in history.

But it will be remembered very differently by Socceroos fans who were watching at home on TV compared to those who were inside the ground.

“Neill’s long throw, goalkeeper’s come, hasn’t got there,” began commentator Simon Hill on one of the most unforgettable moments in Australian sport.

“Harry Kewell… and then poked home by Tim Cahill! Australia have done it!

“Six minutes to go and it’s a landmark moment for Australian football.”

No Socceroos fan will ever forget that moment. It’s enough to make the hairs stand on the back of your neck.

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And Hill, who said in his autobiography that Cahill thanked him for his immortal “he did have his Weetbix this morning” line, was only just getting started.

“I just wonder whether that extra fitness training that Australia have done may pay dividends in the final moments, especially as they have the impetus,” continued Hill in the 89th minute.

“Aloisi. Cahill. Cahiiiiiillllll!” Hill roared.

“Tim Cahill has done it again! What a goal by Tim Cahill!

“2-1 Australia. Oh, it’s a wonderful moment in Kaiserslautern. And Tim Cahill has come off the bench and maybe won the match for the Socceroos. Magical stuff!”

As far as goals go, Cahill’s long-range strike was one of the best you’ll ever see – and Hill deserves his place among the pantheon of Australia’s finest commentators for his career-best call.

And when John Aloisi came off the bench to score a third in stoppage time and seal one of the greatest comeback wins in Australian sport, he forever seared into our collective consciousness the memory of that fateful day.

But the thing is, fans inside the Fritz-Walter-Stadion on that suffocatingly hot afternoon will no doubt remember the occasion very differently.

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Why? The dreaded Betzenberg!

In many ways, hosting games in Kaiserslautern was a strange choice.

It is one of Germany’s great football cities, to be sure, but hemmed in by the Palatinate Forest and with a population of just 100,000, the city was barely large enough to contain the enormous contingent of Australian and Japanese supporters.

With the Socceroos alone having brought an estimated 40,000 fans to Germany – many of whom were staying in major metropolises like Stuttgart and Frankfurt – getting into the Fritz-Walter-Stadion became an unexpected logistical nightmare.

That’s because for Australian fans waiting at the bottom of the Betzenberg – the 285-metre-tall hill atop which the imposing Fritz-Walter-Stadion sits – there were already thousands of supporters standing between them and the stadium.

And the weather didn’t help.

Whoever thinks that Germany doesn’t get hot has clearly never tried to get into the Fritz-Walter-Stadion on a scorching June afternoon.

Confronted with a blazing sun and an official FIFA ticketing system that didn’t always make clear the correct route into the stadium, Socceroos fans suddenly faced a task every bit as daunting as that awaiting Tim Cahill and co.

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Okay, maybe not quite. But getting into the stadium was no mean feat.

Once inside, you’ve never seen a more relieved bunch of fans once the green-and-gold-clad contingent realised they were seated on the shaded side of the ground.

Not that many sat. After 32 years of heartbreak, the Socceroos fans inside the stadium produced the sort of vociferous atmosphere more commonly seen and heard in the Bundesliga.

And hopefully it came through loud and clear on TV.

Because whether you’re watching football from the comforts of your lounge room, or you’re one of the lucky Socceroos fans making their way to Russia this June, following the tournament is a shared experienced.

Just like in Kaiserslautern.

As we count down the greatest moments in Socceroos history, we want you to tell us what your favourites are. Have your say in the picker below!

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Check out the rest of the countdown:
10. Australia’s performances – and Tim Cahill’s goal – in 2014
9. When we almost qualified for USA 94
8. Charlie Yankos’ stunning free-kick against Argentina
7. Beating France and Brazil in 2001
6. England 3, Australia 1: Beating the Poms in their own backyard
5. Knocking Croatia out of Germany in the craziest game in Australian history
4. Australia’s historic 3-1 win over Japan in Kaiserslautern
3. Making our debut on the world stage in 1974
2. Winning the Asian Cup in Australia
1. John Aloisi’s penalty

The Australian men’s football team is sure to produce some more memorable moments in Russia this year. Catch all the action in the best way possible by coming together with your friends and family and watching it on an epic big screen Samsung QLED TV. Explore the big-screen range.

Haven’t seen your friends lately? Send them a personal message from Tim Cahill with TIMVITE and get ready to watch the big games.