Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Australia to get World Cup send-off by 98,000 fans

A packed Melbourne Cricket Ground will give the Australian team a rousing send-off to their first FIFA World Cup in 32 years. The Socceroos take on European champion Greece on 25 May and it's a sellout. Tickets went on sale at 9 am yesterday and the last was snapped up about two hours later. More than 50,000 tickets had been sold in advance to football members and registered players in a Football Federation Australia email promotion called "the Football Family". But yesterday's stampede for seats took even FFA by surprise.

"This has exceeded our expectations," FFA chief executive John O'Neill told Peter Desira of the Herald Sun. "We would've been thrilled with a crowd of 70,000. Now it will be close to 98,000. It's an incredibly exciting outcome. To have a sellout at the MCG shows that the football-loving fans in Melbourne and Victoria have responded overwhelmingly to the Socceroos for what will be a wonderful game of football against the champions of Europe.

The match against Greece is being treated as the start of Australia's World Cup campaign. Australia plays two more friendlies in Germany, against the Netherlands and Liechtenstein, before its Group F matches against Japan, Brazil and Croatia in June.

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