Durban: The World Cup party in Germany came to an abrupt end on Wednesday night with the 1-0 semi-final defeat to Spain that left millions heartbroken.
The euphoria that had swept the country during Germany`s emphatic 4-1 and 4-0 wins over England and Argentina was replaced by despair and heartache in Berlin and elsewhere where tens of thousands watched in open-air public viewing venues.
"Es ist aus!" (It`s over!) wrote Germany`s best-selling newspaper Bild in its online edition. "Germany in mourning."
Grown men and women were seen weeping at the fan mile in Berlin, where 350,000 people watched on giant screens in front of the Victory Column. Many in another crowd of 50,000 watching in Munich at the Olympic stadium also shed tears.
"The Germans weren`t as good as usual," said Roland Fritsch, watching with the vast crowd in Berlin on a warm summer evening. "Normally they play much better but they just couldn`t get into it. They were too young. The Spanish were very much in charge."
German expectations had risen steadily in the last fortnight following the one-sided wins by the young German team over arch rivals England and then Argentina.
Many seemed confident of getting to the finals against another old foe, Netherlands.
"Just awful," said another fan in Berlin, Patrick Denke. "Spain were much better. It hurts me to say this but they just didn`t run. They were too slow."
It was the third consecutive World Cup that Germany had reached at least the semi-finals but the second consecutive time that the team tantalisingly fell one win short of the final.
Germans, who due to their past normally harbour reservations about patriotism, have wrapped themselves -- and their cars -- in black, red and gold colours for the last month.
Giant German flags were draped from houses and buildings as pride swelled over the accomplishments of the dynamic young team that -- with 11 players from immigrant families -- became a potent symbol of integration and a modern Germany.
The mood in Munich`s Olympia stadium was full of optimism -- Wednesday marked the 36th anniversary of the 1974 World Cup final when West Germany beat Netherlands. It was thought to be a good omen. But the stadium quickly emptied after the match.
In Berlin, the fan mile also cleared but there were some scuffles among groups of disappointed fans and some people were detained by authorities, German TV network ARD reported.
"The euphoria was so great and now the disappointment is even greater," said one fan in tears.