BERLIN, July 7, 2010 (AFP) - It has become known as the "Sommermaerchen 2010" or the "summer fairy tale". Since the World Cup kicked off, balmy summer weather and red-hot performances have sent German football fans into raptures.
But for the roughly 350,000 vuvuzela-tooting fans who turned the "fan mile" near Berlin's famous Brandenburg Gate into a seething mass of black, red and gold, the fairy tale was shattered by one bullet-like Carles Puyol header.
As the ball hit the back of the net, the dream turned to desolation, despair and even anger. Many fans began to leave as soon as the goal went in, tears streaming down their faces.
|Fans of the German national football team watch during a public viewing event on the banks of the river Elbe in Dresden, eastern Germany, on July 7, 2010, during the FIFA World Cup half-final match Germany vs Spain, in Durban, South Africa. Spain won 1-0. AFP PHOTO|
Writer Grit Huebener, 36, summed up the feeling. "I just cannot believe it. I am so disappointed. I saw loads of people crying."
Opinions appeared divided on the team's performance.
"We did not deserve that. We should at least have got to extra time," said Yuri Metitsin, 24, who sells office equipment.
"Throughout the whole World Cup, they played very well, but today there was too much fear, too much respect, maybe because Spain beat them in the final (in the European Championships in 2008)," he added.
Others were even less impressed. The team was a "disgrace," said 22-year-old businessman Steven Borchardt.
On some parts of the "fan mile" in central Berlin, Germans turned on Paul the octopus, the now world-famous "psychic" who has correctly predicted all of Germany's results, including Wednesday night's defeat.
Anti-octopus songs were sung.
Meanwhile, in the trendy east Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg, the mood was sad and boozy as clusters of fans continued to wave German flags, sing World Cup team songs and dream of what might have been.
Police, who had previously blocked off major intersections to allow for spontaneous street celebrations, lifted the barricades soon after the team's defeat.
"It was a fair match -- I can't even remember a moment when the Germans had a real goal chance against the Spanish," said Benni Normann, a 26-year-old business student wearing a Lukas Podolski jersey in honour of the Polish-born German striker.
"At least they still have shot at third place," he said, as Beck's "Loser" played on a radio.
Silke Adam, a 36-year-old who works for a German MP, said she had been sure the Germans would go all the way.
"They slaughtered England, they pulverised Argentina -- I can't believe it," she said. "It was like they were stoned tonight, or didn't get their Nutella for breakfast. What happened?"
Christof Schubert, a 43-year-old architect, acknowledged the young German team was simply outclassed.
"Spain really earned it, no question," he said. "The Germans played too careful a match, they showed too much respect. They just weren't as free on the pitch as the Spanish."
A spectator named Richard who watched the game in a church in the alternative district of Kreuzberg took comfort in other world-famous Germans.
"We've got Lena (the Eurovision Song Contest winner) and we've got the pope," he said.