Berlin: Germany`s exhilarating run to the World Cup semi-finals ended in a 1-0 defeat by European champions Spain on Wednesday but the future is bright for their youngest team at the finals in three quarters of a century.
Arguably the most exciting side to watch at the tournament, Germany demolished England 4-1 in the second round and dismantled much-fancied Argentina in a 4-0 quarter-final victory that sent shockwaves around the soccer world.
They scored 13 goals and conceded just three in all their matches in South Africa, at times playing mesmerising fast-paced football and shedding the image of a strong, physical team who make up for a lack of skill with raw power and determination.
However, the Germans could not replicate their form against Spain, who they lost to in the Euro 2008 final, ending their run at the same stage of the World Cup as four years ago.
"I looked into their faces and, yes, there was disappointment there. It did not work out against Spain but they deserve a huge compliment because they played a fantastic tournament," said Germany coach Joachim Loew.
His team came into the finals without their biggest name after captain Michael Ballack was ruled out only weeks before the start of the finals with an ankle injury.
Four other players also dropped out through injury, leaving Loew to pick a squad with an average age of about 25 -- among them a backbone of six players who won the Under-21 European Championship in 2009.
Hardly household names before the tournament, Sami Khedira, Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil, Jerome Boateng, Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber, among others, are now certain to attract the attention of big European clubs.
They also have at least two more World Cups in them.
"They have only been playing together in this team for six or seven weeks. Spain has done it for two or three years. No one needs to hang their heads low. This team will remain like that (together) after the tournament is finished," said Loew.
"This team, with whatever coach, will stay the same. These players are now the heart of the German national team," said Loew, who has yet to decide whether to extend a contract that runs out after Saturday`s third-place playoff against Uruguay.
"The team`s development is far from finished," he said.
Among the players who stood out was 20-year-old Thomas Mueller, who scored four goals in the tournament and could succeed team mate Lukas Podolski in winning the best young player award of the World Cup.
"The team will continue to develop further," said striker Miroslav Klose. "This defeat has put a dent in our spirit but we are not demoralised. This team played a great tournament and will only become better."
"It is a very young team and a very talented one. The future belongs to them," added the 32-year-old who won his 100th cap in the quarter-final against Argentina.