Berlin, Germany (CNN) -- The hosting of the 2006 World Cup proved a watershed moment for a large section of the German population, helping to rebrand a newly-united nation that had -- in the last century -- been divided by politics and conflict.
The seminal moment for many, when the tournament went from good to special, was the last-minute goal striker Oliver Neuville scored against Poland in the second group game to put his team through to the next round.
"Everyone in the society felt that this is special. This is a special moment for Germany," Tim Juergens of the soccer magazine 11 Freunde told CNN.
The World Cup became a celebration as Germans from Berlin to Bonn abandoned their traditional non-patriotic stance to fly their national flag and welcome guests from around the world.
Juergens said other factors also played a role in what was arguably one of the most successful tournaments in the event's history.
"The weather was good throughout the World Cup, and that certainly helped," he said.
"But also the emergence of public viewing on large screens brought the World Cup and its celebrations closer, even to those who did not have tickets."
Football's world governing body FIFA has extended that "Fan Fest" concept -- matches televised at free outdoor venues -- to all nine host cities in South Africa this year, plus seven others around the world.
Juergens said Germany portrayed itself as a competent host for football's showpiece tournament, which was largely organized by a committee headed by German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, who became the de facto soccer ambassador for his country.
Learning from 2006
Horst R. Schmidt, now treasurer of the German Football Federation (DFB), was also on the organizing committee, and is now advising South Africa as it gears up to host the first World Cup final on African soil.
Schmidt said the benefits of hosting the event were tangible, with Germany's economy still benefiting from the tournament four years on.
"A lot of Italian tourists go to the stadium in Berlin and look where their team won the World Cup, or in cities like Cologne the number of visitors are seven to 10 percent higher than before," he said.
German economic research think tank DIW, however, says the direct economic effects at the time were minimal. It estimates that World Cup tourists spent some €500 million ($650 million) during the tournament, a negligible figure compared to the total size of Germany's economy.
According to the same study, German businesses made some €2 billion ($2.65 billion) in additional revenue, mostly selling food and beverages as well as World Cup memorabilia.
The investments were immense. Private investors sponsored the tournament with some €600 million ($800 million) according to Germany's statistical office, but the public hand also made considerable contributions in infrastructure and 12 stadiums with a total seating capacity of more than 600,000 spectators.
"It has given Germany one of the most modern football infrastructures in the world and we are still reaping the benefits," Juergens said.
"Germany has been named as an emergency venue in case Ukraine does not finish its stadiums for the 2012 European Championships, and we have the infrastructure to host pretty much any league game in Europe, including the Europa League final in Hamburg this year."
There is no doubt Germany has benefited from the 2006 World Cup in more ways than just the financial realm.
However, Schmidt said that while South Africa's organizers should take advice from the Germans, they should try to put on a World Cup in their own style.
"They should not try to reinvent the wheel. They can learn from what we did and hopefully it brings them the success that we expect," he said.