The world now knows that Australia doesn’t just care about the world game — we are enchanted by it.

After Mat Leckie twisted and turned his way into the history books against Denmark, international football media watched in awe as Federation Square in Melbourne turned itself into Barcelona or Buenos Aires for a fleeting moment, turning the darkest hours of the night into a sea of red smoke and adulation.

The scenes sparked calls for the powers that be in other Australian cities to follow suit.

Orange flare smoke drifts past a large building and over a crowd of people standing near a Christmas tree
King George Square is blanketed in orange smoke as Australian fans watch the World Cup in Brisbane.(SEQ FC: Lanny Edey)

From Hobart to Sydney, Brisbane to Adelaide, and Perth to Darwin, government officials scrambled to find big screens and big open spaces to host a populace that was suddenly enthralled by a game that had been snoozing for the better part of 16 years, at least on the men’s side of the fixture.

In Brisbane, where the sun feels like it comes up at midnight and the kookaburras act as your alarm clock, thousands of Queenslanders made the early pilgrimage to King George Square, where the usual swathe of maroon was replaced with Aussie green and gold.

An Australia flag is seen waving in front of a flare glow
Fans in Melbourne wave an Australian flag on a back drop of red flare smoke.(AAP: Con Chronis)

In Sydney, early pleas for a live site to match that of Melbourne’s were finally met, and fans turned out in force at Tumbalong Park to watch nervously as Lionel Messi’s men looked to end Australian joy.

And in Melbourne, where the Fed Square scenes had reached international notice for their utter insanity, the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium was opened up — and filled — so ensure Victorians didn’t cause a riot trying to pile into the traditional watching area.

For 76 minutes, the crowds would rise and fall with every Australian opportunity, and every Argentinian stab at the heart of the Australian defence.

There was a resigned acknowledgement that bloody Lionel Messi was just too damn good, as he cut a swathe through the Socceroos defence for the first goal.

There was utter despair as the usually dependent skipper Mat Ryan made an unusual mistake, allowing the men in baby blue and white to score again.

And as the match ticked into the 75th minute, there was a slow wave of acceptance that maybe this wasn’t our time. Maybe this was finally a bridge too far for a plucky gang of Australians facing arguably the best in the world.

Then, it happened.

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From almost nowhere, Craig Goodwin unleashed a strike from outside the box that clipped Enzo Fernandez on the way through, diverting it past the goalkeeper to bulge into the back of the net.

A butterfly flaps its wings in Doha, and a tidal wave rises in Australia.

In the heart of rugby league territory, the Queensland maroon turned to orange and red bursts of flare smoke, as fans repurposed the iconic ‘Olé, Olé, Olé’ chant and replaced it with ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’.

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In Sydney, you’d be forgiven for thinking we were still in Brisbane, with the foreground and the audio exactly the same as their great rivals north of the border, and the Sydney Tower in the background the only giveaway that we had moved our celebrations 900km south.

The flares erupted, the fans danced, and the chants were a confused mess between those singing ‘Aussie’ and those stuck on ‘Olé’.

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In Adelaide, where Craig Goodwin was born and raised and runs around in the more humble setting of Adelaide United’s Hindmarsh Stadium, the locals chanted and danced, and yes, set off flares throughout.

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In Perth, where the less friendly time zone meant wearier heads and no chance to get to the flare shop, the celebrations were slightly more muted compared to what happened elsewhere, but still more than any of us would have expected pre-World Cup.

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And then was Melbourne.

Reliably ecstatic Melbourne. Heaving, pulsating Melbourne, gasping for air through thick smoke and crowd crush, momentarily wondering whether this was all a good idea but knowing deep down these will be memories to cherish for a lifetime.

This was Melbourne at its sports-loving best.

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Across cities and towns throughout Australia, the reactions and the jubilation was the same.

Thousands of people, from different backgrounds, in different places, celebrating in unity.

In front of the world’s eyes, our players had taken it up to heavyweights of international football, and we had watched it together as it unfolded, enthralled by every pass, every sliding tackle, and long shot on goal.

For this month, we have been a soccer nation.

Poor crowds have headlined a slow start to the Test cricket season in Perth. In Melbourne, the AFL decided to release its round one fixture, on a Sunday morning, at 6am, in a clear attempt to own the front pages of Aussie Rules-mad states.

Soccer is having its moment in the Australian sun — now its just a matter of whether it will get that bronzed Aussie tan, or whether it will go back into the shade with a bad sunburn, sore and tired, but holding the great memories of what came to pass at the 2022 World Cup.