The German soccer team received a rousing welcome in Berlin by tens of thousands of fans on Monday, June 30 despite losing 1-0 to Spain in the final of Euro 2008.
German soccer stars celebrating with fans at Berlin's "fan mile"
Coach Joachim Loew and his players were welcomed by Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit before the players walked on stage to wild applause at the vast "fan mile" at the city's Brandenburg Gate to the unofficial Euro fan anthem "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes.
Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger appeared to cries of "Schweini Schweini" from many of the young girls among the crowd as Captain Michael Ballack and stars, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose too were cheered on enthusiastically.
"The atmosphere in Germany was fantastic. We hope to bring home a cup in the future," Schweinsteiger, the popular Bayern Munich midfielder, said.
"You are the best" read one of the countless banners in the crowd of some 300,000 and some fans had even brought a replica of the cup with the writing "thank you" on it.
Ballack waves to his supporters
"We would have not made it without the fans. It is important for our young team," Ballack said.
"It is great for us that we could delight the fans even though we lost. It is an amazing feeling and gives me goose bumps," goalkeeper Jens Lehmann said.
Germany full of praise for Spain
Despite not always shining on the pitch, the German team had created another soccer frenzy in Germany which sometimes came close to that from the 2006 home World Cup in which Germany finished third.
Hundreds of thousands of fans watched the games from Austria and Switzerland in the country's public viewing areas, with more than 500,000 on hand in Berlin alone for the German 3-2 semi-final win over Turkey and the final.
The fans at least partly cheered up the players, but no complaints were heard and read in the country after Germany not simply lost the Euro 2008 final 1-0 to Spain but was comprehensively outplayed on Sunday in Vienna.
"Spain's victory. The best team wins the tournament," was the front page headline of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung ( SZ) daily under a photo of match-winner Fernando Torres and other players holding the cup in the air.
Spanish players holding up the Euro trophy
The SZ was just one paper which named Spain "the clearly better team" and praised its "brilliant passing" which kept the German defense on their toes.
The paper said that "soccer was the winner" on the night as the German euphoria somewhat hid the fact that the team had only rarely showed its class in the six matches in Austria and Switzerland.
Former Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann said that Spain was "considerably better" on the night and German soccer icon Franz Beckenbauer said in his Monday column for the Bild daily that "Spain dominated the tournament from the first match...until yesterday's final."
Other papers acknowledged as well that the better team had won but also looked back at Germany's run to the final.
"The end of the dream. We are still proud of you, but Spain was the better team," said daily Bild. The Hamburger Abendblatt said: "Only second - but it was still nice."
Slowly getting there
The Abendblatt recalled the soccer frenzy which had gripped the nation like at the 2006 home World Cup and looked ahead, saying "maybe the happy end follows in 2010" at the World Cup in South Africa, as Germany was third at the 2006 World Cup and now second at Euro.
German chancellor Angela Merkel struck a similar note after attending the game in the Vienna stadium.
"Third at the World Cup and now second, that is something. Maybe we will improve again in South Africa," said Merkel. "I told Ballack that we have to wait a little longer until we can celebrate together but that we are slowly getting there."
German soccer fans at the Berlin fan mile
Large numbers of Germans had celebrated in the fan zones ahead of the match, with the Berlin zone closed some three hours before the kickoff as it was filled to its capacity with more than 600,000 fans.
"The fans left the fan zone very quietly, very peacefully and in very well-behaved way," said a Berlin fan zone official after the match.
That was not quite the case in the eastern part of the country, with incidents recorded in Magdeburg and other towns when several hundred troublemakers rioted in city centers and fought police.
Police said on Monday that 25 officers were injured and 60 people arrested. Berlin saw 59 arrests, but, according to a spokesman, all for minor offences.