The ecstasy was brief but deeply felt. At about 6.10am on a quiet Wednesday, a pub in Sydney’s CBD exploded with noise and chaos as Australia scored to lead against France in their opening World Cup match.
For the next 18 minutes, as Australia led the world champions, the heaving crowd at Cheers was cacophonous.
“It was limbs, just limbs everywhere,” Kieran Patel said with a broad grin.
“It was pure jubilation, the only thing that comes close is when we actually qualified for this World Cup. And having everyone around to celebrate with is amazing.”
Patel wore a retro Socceroos jersey over a button shirt, and like many of the supporters at the pub, headed out for his office job as soon as the match was over.
Many will have to pick themselves up after a morning of extreme emotions, and perhaps a few drinks
“It’s tough to go from this, and from that moment, to going into my job,” Patel said. “It’s tough, especially having to get up this early. But I wouldn’t miss it.”
Football fans across Australia rose early and gathered in loungerooms, pubs, cinemas and Federation Square in Melbourne to watch the country’s debut match in the 2022 tournament.
Oddly timed matches are part of being a Socceroos fan, and this World Cup is no different, with their next match at the relatively easy time of 9pm on Saturday, before playing again at 2am local time on Thursday 1 December.
Reality eventually came to bite the Socceroos on Wednesday morning, who conceded four goals to lose to the reigning world champions, and a deflated energy took hold of the pub.
The crowd growled with tension as the morning wore on, as the match settled into a rhythm, with France holding the ball and Australia attempting counterattacks.
Each missed pass was met with communal groans, each successful tackle celebrated vociferously, with shouts about the ref and French play-acting ringing out into the empty street.
At Federation Square, scuffles broke out, with bottles thrown at a couple of French supporters and video posted to social media showing altercations between the opposing fans.
Back at Cheers, Ashton Behennah said he hadn’t slept, and wasn’t sure how he would get through a day of work and study, but wasn’t full of regret.
“I haven’t slept, how could I sleep?” he said. “This only happens once every four years, I wasn’t going to miss it, I love football and will do anything to see a good match.
“It’s crazy, how early we have to get up and what we have to go through, but I don’t care, I want to see us play.”
Behennah said he was disappointed by the result, but will never forget those 18 minutes, saying it was a “dream” to imagine Australia winning.
“It couldn’t have gone any better in those first 20 minutes,” he said. “But it was crickets after they scored their third and fourth, but in the end that goal was just a consolation.”
Ryan Frank woke at 4am to prepare.
“The hype woke me up really, it honestly wasn’t that difficult,” he said.
“It’s a great atmosphere here, especially for such an early start.”
As the match wore on and France piled on the goals, the crowd remained in place, with barely anyone leaving until the final whistle, which came about 8am local time.
Amanda Monaco has watched the Socceroos live at two World Cups, but watched the last meeting between France and Australia at a French bakery in Vancouver.
“It was during the 2018 World Cup, and it was horrible, I was the only person in my Australian gear,” she said. “It’s so much better to be here, among Socceroos supporters, no matter the result.”
“You can’t compare to actually being there though.”
Monaco wasn’t sure how she would get through the rest of the day at her job, sighing at the thought of somehow returning to a normal day.
“I expected this, it’s part of the experience of watching football in Australia, to go through these highs and lows so early in the morning,” she said.
“For Australians, it’s always a tough, weird time. But that’s why we come here, its part of the experience. It’s going to be a tough day at the office though.”
Oscar and Harry haven’t slept, and as they console each other outside Cheers, and rouse themselves to face the day, they said they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“6am is a tough ask, but if you love the Socceroos, you’ll be up.”
– AAP contributed to this report