OPINION: World Cup spectacle a rare treat

Fans cheered Australia against Chile at Arena Pantanal on June 13, while Warrnambool fans watched from The Cally. Photo: Getty Images)

Fans cheered Australia against Chile at Arena Pantanal on June 13, while Warrnambool fans watched from The Cally. Photo: Getty Images)

THE Cally Hotel has rarely seen a morning like it.

More than 100 people decked out in green and gold beanies and scarves watching a game of soccer more than 13,000 kilometres away at 8am on a Saturday.

The sight was peculiar for many reasons. Not the least, this was the Cally and the ball bouncing around on the half-dozen TV screens wasn’t oval-shaped.

But here they were, up early to cheer Australia as it played its World Cup opener against Chile at Cuiaba, in central Brazil.

This reporter was unashamedly one of them.

Clinging onto Dutch heritage, I was decked out in a retro orange top reminiscent of a Netherlands jerseys of yesteryear, along with the Socceroos’ beanie.

I’d earlier watched from home as the Oranje stunned defending champion Spain 5-1 in the 5am match, one of the best of the the tournament so far.

Every goal sparked muted celebrations in the lounge room. The rest of the house was asleep but the day had started on a positive note.

Now, after a short drive and an egg-and-bacon roll, it was 8am and the new generation of Socceroos were about to start their own campaign.

We shouldn’t have been so excited. Hot favourite Chile scored twice in the opening 20 minutes and was running riot.

But then came the fight back, sparked when Tim Cahill rose above Gary Medel to head home from close range. At 2-1, we were in with a shot.

The goal lifted the mood at the Cally. The fans cried at every penalty claim, let out exasperated sighs at missed chances, roared the build-up to every attack.

It was all to no avail. Time kept working against the Socceroos, their fate confirmed when Jean Beausejour fired home from distance in injury time.

The fans left disappointed, but encouraged. A 3-1 defeat could have been much different. Five minutes of madness in the first half were telling.

The other emotion was of anticipation. The Greatest Show on Earth was underway, four matches done, 60 to come.

The days since have been a case of balancing sleep, work, social life and watching the best players in the world. And there have been some cracking matches.

Middle-of-the-night alarms - usually five, three before 2am and two just after kick off - have been tough to answer but the rewards have been worth it.

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