Wild scenes in the Victorian capital earlier in the tournament sparked a rush to make bigger public spaces available for the knockout clash, with AAMI Park opening its doors.
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Screens also lit up Tumbalong Park at Darling Harbor in Sydney, Canberra Theater in the nation’s capital and King George Square in Brisbane while Adelaide Oval also welcomed punters.
Fed Square announced its gates were closed at 5.04am – an hour before kick-off – and the atmosphere had well and truly built as fans lit up the early-morning sky with flares.
The full house sign prompted a mass shift towards AAMI Park. Spectators packed the main grandstand, complete to the last seats of the top level, as fans continued to arrive even after the game got underway.
The scenes across the country were in stark contrast to those inside Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium – the site of the Socceroos’ penalty shootout against Peru to secure their spot in the World Cup – as Argentina fans accounted for about three-quarters of the 45,000-seat venue.
The few Argentina fans watching from Australia’s live sites earned bragging rights when they went up 2-0.
But Craig Goodwin’s deflected goal to give the Socceroos a sniff of victory saw wild scenes erupt in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and more.
So many flares were set off at Fed Square that the big screen became lost behind thick plumes of red smoke.
Australia has been celebrating the men’s football team’s first knockout stage appearance in 16 years – its second-ever appearance in the round of 16 after the famous 2006 clash with Italy.
Sydney’s Opera House hyped up the nation’s largest city on Saturday night with its sails illuminated in green and gold.
The 10pm local start time in Qatar resulted in the second 6am AEDT kick-off for the Socceroos in the tournament.
Despite the defeat, the strong support has opened Australian football’s eyes to a brighter future ahead of next year’s women’s World Cup in the country.
‘This is what the World Cup does’
Graham Arnold doesn’t want to chide other sports in Australia, but he recons Melbourne’s Fed Square has become a symbol of success for the Socceroos.
“I know I keep saying this, but I have always said it,” the coach told reporters.
“There’s only one team that unites the nation and one sport – and that is football in Australia and the Socceroos.
“I am not being negative here. But the rugby league World Cup was just on. What Federation Square like that? Were the pubs like that?
“And they don’t play AFL anywhere else in the world except for Australia, so it just shows you how big football can be.”
Footage of wild celebrations following Australia’s World Cup wins over Tunisia and Denmark have been immediately viewed by players post-match.
“Just to see those videos and see those reactions is massive for us,” Arnold said.
“It just shows the boys how much support they have got back at home … to see all that just gives the players a lot of energy.
“And after the (Denmark) game and the boys are really quite emotional and Jackson Irvine is completely in tears and it was about the fans, it was about his family back home in Melbourne and they are watching him, being proud.”
Melburnian Mathew Leckie was Australia’s goalscorer in the 1-0 triumph over the Danes which sent the Socceroos into the round of 16 for just the second time.
“I’ve seen a few videos of Fed Square … flares, going crazy, the place erupting,” Leckie said.
“That is what the World Cup does. That is what the Socceroos at a World Cup does.
“It’s massive for the game, it’s massive for everything.
“It’s massive for kids that maybe don’t know too much and they see it and it inspires them to want to be footballers.
“We’re proud of that. I used to be a proud fan that was supporting them and now there’s a new generation and we’re lucky enough to be in a position where we can make an impact.”
Defender Milos Degenek described the Fed Square celebrations as “infectious”.
“A lot of the states have come out and said there’s going to be points throughout the country where people can come in and watch the (Argentina) game, which is going to be fantastic,” Degenek told reporters.
“Imagine in every state, there’s 10, 20, 30,000 people watching the game and we beat Argentina.
“Just think about how infectious that is, not for us, but for kids that are five, six-years-old and wanting to start playing football.
“That is going to be a nice dose of adrenaline for them.”
Fellow defender Harry Souttar said the reactions at Fed Square were the first thing the Socceroos watched in the changerooms after their wins against Tunisia and Denmark.
“Everyone was just saying, ‘Look at this, unbelievable’,” Souttar said.
“To know that us as a group have done that and made that happen, I can’t tell you how good that feels to be a part of a squad that makes that many people happy and that many people excited about football.”
– with AAP