| BERLIN, July 8
BERLIN, July 8 Since 2006, hundreds of thousands of Germans have flocked to the sweeping avenue that runs through the heart of Berlin to cheer on their soccer team, losing their inhibitions in a sea of flags and painted faces.
So popular is the fan zone, organisers have extended it by 500 metres for Tuesday's World Cup semi-final against Brazil - leaving supporters a scenic 1.3 kilometre expanse in which to celebrate or commiserate, stretching from the Brandenburg Gate to the golden statue-topped Victory Column.
"Sport brings people together - you celebrate, cheer, drink beer and make new friends," said Monique Sternbeck, a 25-year-old tourism official with her face painted black, red and gold.
She has been returning to the fan zone since 2006 when Germany hosted the World Cup and the team unexpectedly advanced to third place and won the hearts of the nation.
Hordes of citizens from lederhosen-clad Bavarians to Turkish teenagers wrapped in German flags poured on to the streets to watch matches on open-air screens and join a month-long party, which was even credited for a baby boom nine months later.
In an attempt to recapture those heady days, the Berlin fan zone has returned for every subsequent European Championship and World Cup.
"Since 2006 we are always in the front row cheering," said Mathias Lehmann, a self-employed 28-year-old, who had secured his spot nine hours before kick-off.
"I'm feeling pretty confident - I think Germany is going to win," he said.
About 2 million fans have passed through the fan zone this World Cup, said Anja Marx, a spokeswoman for the organisers.
Scenes of hundreds of thousands of euphoric fans watching in Berlin have also spurred on the players in Brazil.
"I hope that all our positive energy gets transmitted to Brazil and turns the game our way," said Lenny Pojarov, a 25-year-old musician, en route to the fan zone.
(Reporting by Anja Nilsson; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Ed Osmond)