“Do they need beer to sing?”
That was the harsh assessment of the crowd at Australia’s game against Denmark at the World Cup.
That was how Italian journalist Tancredi Palmeri summed up the nail biting final group match in Qatar.
Maybe someone should show him the footage of Socceroos fans back in Federation Square.
There’s no doubt the Socceroos game wasn’t the best atmosphere at this World Cup.
And at points it was so quiet you could hear goalkeeper Mat Ryan from the media seats barking orders at his defence.
The small pocket of Australian fans in the corner did their best to make some noise, but in a stadium full of neutrals it seemed like most didn’t care either way who won.
Compared to the noise England and Wales fans made the night before, it was stark.
And it exposed a strange thing happening at this World Cup.
There have been some games with atmosphere truly deserving of a World Cup.
Australia seemed outnumbered 20 to 1 when the Tunisian fans made deafening noise for the whole 90 minutes in the Socceroos win.
Saudi Arabia fans have made incredible noise, with the upset win against Argentina a highlight.
Iran made the Wales fans seem tame when the two teams met. Moroccan fans have been the same.
It’s been one of the best things about this World Cup.
Fans from countries who don’t usually travel in big numbers have been able to because of Qatar’s location.
Plus fans from Argentina, Brazil and Mexico will travel anywhere in huge numbers it seems.
The issue has been the other games, and whether there’s a good atmosphere comes down to one thing – do the locals care?
Watching the Brazil – Switzerland game was a surreal experience, with the vast majority of the crowd in Brazil yellow.
While the actual Brazilian fans behind the goal didn’t stop making noise, the rest of the neutrals who had clearly chosen who they wanted to win tried their best to join in.
It was the same at England games, with a huge number of neutrals decked out in white to support the Three Lions.
But if it’s a game the neutrals didn’t seem invested in, you wouldn’t believe you were at a World Cup.
A lot has been written about empty seats at stadiums, with reports of half-empty stadiums.
It’s simply not true.
Most stadiums are near capacity. The Socceroos – Denmark was one of the emptiest stadiums I have experienced and it was still 41,232 – just 3000 below capacity.
In fact, so far the average crowd is higher than four years ago in Russia, with FIFA highlighting that stadiums have been 94 per cent full in the opening group games.
It’s not a lack of fans that is the issue at some games.
And it’s not because there’s no beer at the stadiums.
But after the quiet scenes against Denmark, Australian fans can expect a true World Cup experience against Argentina.
You could put the World Cup on the moon and Argentinians would somehow get there.