Words from the wise: See you in Germany!

Last night's match was the biggest sporting event in Australia since Cathy Freeman's run five years ago.

By DAVID WISEMAN
November 17, 2005 04:19
4 minute read.

 
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All around the world, Australians are walking with an extra spring in their step today and that is because after a 32-year hiatus we have qualified for the World Cup. No more disappointment, anguish, tears or sorrow. No more being kicked in the guts and wondering why life is so unfair. Our road to Damascus which went via Glasgow, Buenos Aires, Tehran and Montevideo has finally been reached. In reality the journey has just begun but at this moment it feels as though we have won the World Cup. I ducked out yesterday for an early lunch in an attempt to watch the game. My best bet was one of the shops in the mall near Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station. Not the greatest area and at noon time many of the locals had yet to wake up. Spying a makolet, which had television on in the background, I kindly asked the 22-year-old gentleman behind the counter if he would mind switching the channel to the game. He kindly agreed and from a long way away I was watching the electric action take place in Sydney's Olympic Stadium. Last night's match was the biggest sporting event in Australia since Cathy Freeman's run in the same joint five years ago. The atmosphere coming out of the television was incredible, one can only imagine what it would have been like to have been there. At half time Australia was up 1-0 and it was still anyone's game. I looked up to the counter but the man was no longer behind it. Rather he was infront of it wearing his tefillin and in the midst of davening. I didn't ask him which side he was davening for but just hoped that it was ours. The second half ebbed and flowed and with any potential Uruguay goal counting as double due to the away goals rule we simply could not let them score. Extra time came and extra time went and after 210 minutes the two teams still could not be separated. Plenty of times before a team had been eliminated from the World Cup by penalties but never before had a side gained admission via the dreaded method. Mark Schwarzer was our man in goal. 12 years ago he saved Australia's World Cup campaign in a penalty shoot out against Canada. I will never forget him at the time saving a spot-kick by Inspector Gadget-like sticking out his left hand while the rest of his body was moving to the right. For the penalty shoot out the man behind the counter had joined me by my side and told me I had nothing to worry about. "I like Australia and I like you and Australia will be going to Germany in 2006." His prayers and those of 20 million Australians were answered as Schwarzer saved us once again. Coach Guus Hiddink can now write a check on it with as many zeroes tacked on the end of it as he wants and he still would be a bargain. This was Australia's final time of having to qualify through the back door but it was poetic justice to have made it before we left to Asia. I don't feel sorry for Uruguay one bit. Their comments beforehand that Uruguay are entitled to be at the World Cup as it is their divine right got what they deserved. They may have won the first World Cup and another won in 1950 but since then they have done nothing. Qualification means a lot to Australia. For so long soccer in Australia has been looking for respect - that of Australians and that of the rest of the world. After last night we have earned it. Dominating sports such as cricket and rugby can only take you so far. The World Cup is sport's litmus test and we finally passed. As I emerged from the Makolet out from the shop next door came blaring "I come from a land down under." It was that kind of day. See you in Germany!

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