It took just one remarkable goal kicked by Socceroo John Aloisi last November to create an amazing interest in Australia in the game played with the round ball. That one kick got the Socceroos into the FIFA World Cup to be fought out between 32 teams in Germany.
To put the icing on the cake, the team beat Greece in a friendly game played at a packed MCG, and have left Australia to unite in their training camp in Germany.
Australia's involvement in the FIFA World Cup began in 1965 in a home and away series against North Korea, who proved to be too strong. Australia has competed in every FIFA World Cup competition with just one finals appearance in 1974, again with no success.
Now things are looking more positive and the nation has been caught up in the excitement the rest of the world has been enjoying for decades. It is expected that a billion people will be tuned in to watch the World Cup.
The Socceroos are training in Öhringen, a town with a population of just 23,000, 75km north of Stuttgart in Germany's south. The ground, which is in the centre of the town, has been resurfaced and renovated with no expense spared. Their accommodation, just 6km away in Friedrichsruhe, is in a five-star 18th century manor house. The towns are centrally located between the three playing venues.
Öhringen is a quaint medieval town. It has ancient buildings, including a fine Evangelical church with 15th century cedar carvings and many tombs and monuments. It has a Renaissance town hall, a 1034 building, once a monastery and now a library, and a palace which was the residence of the princes of Hohenlohe-Öhringen. For more than 500 years, a town crier has stood atop the Gothic clock tower and heralded the approach of friends and foe alike.
The region is one of Europe's wealthiest, and Friedrichsruhe is one of its most privileged enclaves. The hilly woods and tilled valleys are owned by the Hohenlohe family. Their agrarian-based fortune has been surpassed by local commoners with flourishing businesses and industries and to accommodate these neighbours, as well as anybody else with taste and purchasing power, the Hohenlohes have converted their ancestral castle into the 45-room Wald-und Schlosshotel.
The family's former summer residence and hunting lodge is surrounded by forest and three hectares of park and ancient trees. Classic concerts and castle festival games take place there in the summer months.
Four buildings make up the hotel complex, and most windows open to the garden. Rooms are beautifully decorated and the family's antique furniture, soft carpets and comfortable armchairs in noble colours and classic patterns create a most pleasant ambience.
The Michelin star hotel serves one of the best cuisines in Germany, accompanied by excellent wines. Chef Lothar Eiermann will look after special dietary needs of the team.
Activities include tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools, sauna, massage and the Golf Club Heilbronn- Hohenlohe. The 18-hole par 72 course is in the grounds of the hotel.
150km from Frankfurt
Topdeck has a 14-day European Wonder Tour from Paris which includes Germany. Prices start at $1489 per person for accommodation, transport and meals. They have an extensive range of European holidays and specialise in off the beaten track destinations.
Emirates has return flights to Frankfurt, valid for sale and travel until June 15, 2006. Taxes are included.
- Perth, $2046
- Melbourne, $2093
- Brisbane, $2095
- Sydney, $2112
- Adelaide, $2435
- Darwin, $2583
Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.
For further information
Topdeck Tours Australia
Level 3, 55 Harrington Street
The Rocks 2000
Ph: 1800 077 251, (02) 8252 5300