Bastian Schweinsteiger took center stage on a night of hesitant football and polite support. After 121 games for his country, the legend departed and Germany's football fans said thank-you.
Surrounded by applause, Bastian Schweinsteiger couldn't hold back the tears. Germany's number seven knew his moment was coming, but as the montage of his national-team career played and the standing ovation continued, he had no hope of stopping it. As in all great moments in sport, emotion conquers all.
Fewer in number and subdued in support, the fans made it clear they were here - as advertised - for one man only. Schweinsteiger's every touch and pass was cheered raucously. Support for the 32-year-old is nothing new, but given the delicate nature of his current situation that support must have sounded better than ever. Now and again, the rest of the team's efforts were politely applauded, but on the whole it was so quiet that shouts on the pitch were audible from the press box. You got the feeling a Sunday night in Munich would have been quite the different affair.
Schweinsteiger sat back as the sole pivot and tried to pull the strings like in days of old. A little more labored than back then, but still with a touch of class, Schweinsteiger just looked happy to be on the pitch.
Like the support though, the football was lacking. Finland hit the post, and surprise-starter Mario Götze's hesitation cost him a goal.
Even before Max Meyer opened the scoring, Schweinsteiger's weariness was showing. He waved to a group of fans near a corner flag. Huge cheers (Thomas Müller took over the support mantle soon after) burst out of the silent stadium, which with an announced attendance of just over 30,000, was about half full. Then a fan wearing a number seven jersey ran onto the pitch, took a selfie, hugged the legend and then walked off. A football retirement in 2016 wouldn't be complete without a selfie, it seems.
Schweinsteiger's international career ended on 68 minutes.
"I was very emotional at the time," head coach Joachim Löw said afterwards. "The years went through my head when he came off. I don't think we would have had the success we've had without him," he added.
Replaced by the man likely to be one of the new pillars in Germany's team, Julian Weigl, Schweinsteiger smiled. Chants of "Basti" and "Fussballgott" (football god) accompanied him off the pitch before he hugged everyone on the team. Sat on the bench, Schweinsteiger was still wearing the captain's armband.