2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

9 June - 9 July

2006 FIFA World Cup™

Tears flow on Fan Mile

Before Alessandro Del Piero had even added Italy's second goal of the night, two million German eyes were already welling with tears.

The party was well and truly over. Within the space of two short minutes, the city of Berlin had been plunged into despair as the gnawing pain of gut-wrenching defeat began to sink in. How the mood had changed from only two hours earlier. Tears of grief were the last thing on the minds of the city's inhabitants as they flocked in huge numbers to the Fan Fest on the Strasse des 17 Juni, convinced they were about to see their heroes seal a place in the Final.

Not surprisingly it was the youngsters who were the life and soul of the party, congregating in front of the huge screens as the countdown to Germany's biggest game in years neared its end. "All the young people of Berlin are out in the streets," said one. "The average age here must be 18 at most." And who could argue? With all the shouts and high-pitched cheering it sounded like one huge school-leavers' party.

Germany 0-2 Italy report

Boys and girls joined in to sing "Finaleee ooooo, Finaleee ooooo", the chant that had spurred Jurgen Klinsmann's team on throughout the tournament. The whole street then launched into the German national anthem as it blared over the speakers, the noise levels remaining deafeningly high as spontaneous applause broke out for the start of the long-awaited game.

A quick straw poll of the massive throng revealed the fans' enormous faith in Klinsmann's men. Two-nil to the hosts was the most common prediction, although Hakan, a young German of Turkish origin sporting a huge flag on his shoulders and the national colours on his face, thought his favourites would need penalties to prevail.

It soon became clear, though, that the expectant fans would be in for a night of nail-biting tension. The hosts found their Italian opponents as well organised as ever and hard to break down. As the home side struggled to create chances, so nerves and anxiety began to take a hold. The chants, when they came, were sporadic and localised: "Lu, Lu, Lu - Lukas Podolski" could be heard on one side of the crowd, "Victory!" on another, while the name of Germany keeper Jens Lehmann drifted back and forth as darkness descended on Berlin.

The minutes passed by. Most of those assembled were gripped by the tactical duel unfolding before their eyes, but there were a few who allowed their minds to wander. Oblivious to the absorbing stalemate a group of young girls sat down in the middle of the street and began chatting. Their boyfriends' insistent pleas fell on deaf ears – the goals they promised failed to materialise and the conversation continued.

Extra time came and fear fell on the crowd. When the Italians struck the woodwork twice in the first minute, it seemed like the whole of Berlin held its breath before heaving a collective sigh of relief. As penalties neared and the Italians cranked up the pressure, all eyes remained glued to the screen. Hakan's pre-match confidence had evaporated: "This is terrible. I'm dying here. I can hardly breathe."

And then came the moment they had all dreaded, as Italy took a leaf out of Germany's book by scoring in the dying minutes. The ‘sound' of one million people falling silent at exactly the same time has to be heard to be believed, and although that silence was momentarily broken as Odonkor went off on one last run, it soon descended again for good as Del Piero hammered the second and final nail in the coffin.

By the time the final whistle had blown the tears had already begun to flow. Groups of boys who had gathered in expectation consoled each other as they wept. Others saluted their fallen heroes, while many more stared disbelievingly at the screen as a poignant and richly deserved tribute flashed up before them: "You are the champions in our hearts".