Germany celebrates beginning of World Cup with victory in Munich

German soccer fans exploded in jubilation Friday after their team beat Costa Rica in the opening match of the World Cup, waving flags and singing "We will be world champions."

Germany won the opening match of the world's premier sporting event 4-2 even without injured star Michael Ballack. The win boosted spirits, easing pre-tournament doubts about how their team would fare in a tournament Germans hope will put their country in the best light.

"We're bound for Berlin," chanted fans, pouring through Munich's streets, in reference to the final match that will be played in the German capital on July 9.

Win or lose, Germans are counting on the world's largest sporting event, watched by hundreds of millions around the globe, as a chance to show off the "new Germany": reunified, rejuvenated and prospering.

Many hold fast to dreams of a repeat of the 1954 "Miracle from Bern" when the underdog West German team beat Hungary for the World Cup title in Switzerland, catapulting the fledgling nation out of the shadows of its World War II history and boosting self-confidence at home.

With the shadow of the Nazis ever present, Germans have long tended to steer away from overt displays of patriotism. But more than 15 years after the former East and West Germanys fused and 60 years since the war, such taboos seem to be melting away.

In Munich, the streets were packed with fans bedecked in every possible incarnation of the black, red and gold German national colors, including painted faces, caps, beaded rings, leis, and people who simply wrapped themselves in the nation's flag.

Scores of people also wore plastic replicas of German spiked World War I helmets painted either with the national colors or as soccer balls.

Germany stands to benefit from the million fans pouring into the country to attend the matches in 12 cities. Fans are expected to pack not only the stadiums, but hundreds of organized outdoor viewing points, as well as the nation's many beer gardens, pubs and restaurants, reports AP.

O.Ch.