Heroes' welcome for German team
Despite losing to Spain in the final, the German team is well received on its return home
Hamburg -- The German football team received a rousing welcome from tens of thousands of fans in Berlin on Monday although it missed out on a major title again the previous night.
"We wouldn't have made it without the fans. It is important for our young team," said captain Michael Ballack as the team and coach Joachim Loew appeared at the nation's biggest Euro fan zone.
Defender Per Mertesacker said: "It is a great moment when you are consoled by the fans."
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.
The SZ was just one paper which named Spain "the clearly better team" and praised its "brillant passing" which gave the German defence so much trouble.
The paper said that "football 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 football icon Franz Beckenbauer said in his Monday column for the Bild daily that "Spain dominated the tournament from the first match...up to yesterday's final."
Bild and others 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 Bild. The Hamburger Abendblatt said: "Only second -- but it was still nice."
The Abendblatt recalled the football frenzy which had gripped the nation like at the 2006 home World Cup. The final chapter was to be written on Monday afternoon with a team presentation in Berlin's fan zone.
The paper also 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 the European Cup.
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."
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 500,000 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 centres 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.