After three weeks of up and downs, Germany managed to make it into the final of the European Championships. But the country's football team fell just short of its goal after losing to Spain 1-0 on Sunday night. Löw's squad played an inconsistent tournament – shining at times, but often producing football below what's necessary to be crowned the best team in Europe.
Most commentators for German newspapers seemed to realize that and they largely put a positive spin on the admittedly bitter defeat for a football-crazy nation.
“The German team was shown its limits inside Ernst Happel Stadium. They wanted the trophy, but that alone wasn't enough,” wrote right-wing daily Die Welt. “The Spaniards were too cold-blooded in attack, too concentrated in the midfield, and without compromise in defense. The German side was lacking the necessary decisiveness, the luck and also the individual playmaking quality for a big victory.”
But Die Welt said there was some solace in the face of the unsatisfying runners-up spot: “The German team made more of their chances than most of the others. They never dominated the tournament and seldom dominated their opponents. Aside from the quarterfinal against Portugal, coach Joachim Löw's side showed little flair, but they always fought hard. Disappointment is appropriate, but desperation isn't.”
After taking third in the last World Cup two years ago and now second this summer it's clear the German team is developing in the right direction, according to Die Welt. “But the evening in Vienna shows that it's still a long way to reach the pinnacle of football,” the paper opined.
The left-wing daily Berliner Zeitung explored the cultural impact of the football tournament. “The European Championship quickly grew into something more than sporting event. It was a good-natured demonstration for a multicultural Europe,” the paper wrote. “Even after losing players and fans weren't bitter and they proudly offered their congratulations. German fans celebrated in Istanbul and Turkish fans in Hamburg.”
The paper also addressed the revival of German patriotism like two years ago during the World Cup. “Germany could once again experience patriotic feelings without complaint. It was a sea of black, red and gold; a rush without hangover or headache,” Berliner Zeitung said.
Germany's best-selling paper Bild had a huge headline on Monday reading: “We're still proud of you!” With picture of a disappointed looking Bastian Schweinsteiger on the cover, the paper admitted that “Spain was simply better, but you're still our heroes.”
Bild also welcomed the apparently permanent change in attitudes Germans have toward their own country in recent years. “There's a new peaceful patriotism that's no longer considered suspect. A new, positive national attitude that popped like cork out of a bottle,” wrote the paper. “Thanks to the fans, Europe has come closer together. With the Turks we celebrated a gigantic football festival. Klose and Podolski come from Poland but they play for Germany. Altintop was born in Germany but he fights for Turkey. And everyone cheered everyone else.”
The conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung dubbed German captain Michael Ballack the eternally “incomplete” figure of German football for once again missing out on a major trophy. Just weeks ago, Ballack failed to win the Champions League with his club Chelsea and Germany came close to winning the World Cup in both 2006 and 2002. “Always second best. Being defeated in the finals is the one constant throughout his uncrowned career,” the paper wrote.
But the FAZ also admitted the better team on the pitch lifted the Euro 2008 cup on Sunday night: “Rarely has there been such a clear 1-0 victory. The quality of play, technical brilliance and physical presence of the Spaniards was much too much for the German team, and so there's no reason complain about a one-sided final.”