“How are we supposed to feel? We lost the match but we are still European vice champions, the second best team in Europe,” said Yves, 24, as he left the “Fan Mile” where 600,000 supporters had watched the match in central Berlin. “We have to get up early tomorrow so I don’t think we are going to go and party now. But if we had won we would have phoned up work and told them we were not coming in.”
But another fan named Fred was already over the defeat and looking to the future. “We were third in the World Cup, now second in the European Championship. But the next World Cup we are going to win,” the 25-year-old predicted.
German city centres had been raucous seas of flags, wigs and Hawaiian-style flower necklaces – all in the German black, red and gold – with 72 percent of fans predicting victory, according to a poll in the Bild am Sonntag paper.
Huge crowds had turned out under sunny skies to cheer “Deutschland! Deutschland!” in an orgy of flag-waving national pride in a country now much more comfortable with patriotism ever since the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
In all, 85 percent of the country’s 82 million population had been expected to follow the match, according to a survey in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, bringing the country to a standstill.
German automakers like Daimler, Volkswagen and Audi shut down production during the game so that their workers could follow it. But after the spectacular quarterfinal victory over Portugal and the lucky escape against Turkey in the semis, there was to be no miraculous win in Vienna.
Fernando Torres scored the only goal of the game in the first half as football’s perennial underachievers Spain ended their 44-year-drought in major international football championships.
Germans started well, with Miroslav Klose missing a glorious opportunity after just four minutes, but then Spain soon started to take control and on 33 minutes Torres put Spain ahead with a moment of sublime quality.
Germany had their chances in the second half but Spain remained dangerous and held their nerve to win the championship 1-0.
“We were bad, that’s all. It was utterly deserved. The Spanish played better than us, we had no defence,” 41-year-old Marwan, his face painted in the national colours, told AFP in Berlin.
The “Fan Mile” in Berlin emptied swiftly after the game, leaving the few small groups of Spanish fans to come together and celebrate, chanting “Viva Espana!” and waving flags.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was shown literally jumping for joy in Basel when the winning goal against Turkey hit the back of the net on Wednesday, was in Vienna for the match along with President Horst Köhler and other ministers.
Merkel became a regular in the stands during the World Cup, and she has even taken to giving the players some motherly advice. Her spokesman had to keep her informed of the score by text message after an EU summit clashed with the Portugal quarterfinal.
A parade has been organized in central Berlin for Monday for the players – despite the defeat – and the city authorities have asked schools to give pupils the afternoon off so they can attend.
“It is very important for us that the team will be greeted by its supporters back in Germany. Berlin has become like a second home to us since the 2006 World Cup,” Germany coach Joachim Löw had said before the game.
With only just over 100,000 Spaniards living in Germany, it was perhaps no surprise that Spanish fans were hard to find in Berlin. But there were a few, and they were delighted – if a little uneasy being so small in number in a sea of German fans.
“We are so happy. We didn’t expect that. It is wonderful, it is just wonderful,” 22-year-old Anna from Barcelona told AFP in English. “We just don’t know where we can go and make the fiesta.”