Germans were stunned by their team's abrupt exit from the World Cup on Tuesday, with two late goals from Italy dashing the host nation's dreams of reaching the final and denting its rejuvenated national pride.
"It just leaves you with this empty feeling," said student Jan Kelger, 28, as he stood in a Berlin beer garden with the German flag draped over his shoulders. "I was just sure that we were going to go all the way to the final."
Fans in open-air viewing areas fell silent and stared in disbelief at giant video screens as one Italian goal was followed by a second in the final two minutes of extra time.
The late goals stopped dead the chants of "Deutschland, Deutschland" and halted Germany's World Cup ride in its tracks.
"It feels like crap to lose like this but you can't say that they (Italy) didn't deserve to win. They had lots of chances," said Simon Raiser, a 32-year-old lecturer from Berlin.
Buoyed by a recent outburst of national pride, German fans had set out for Tuesday's match dressed in Ballack, Klose and Podolski shirts and decked out with the black-red-gold German flags worn like togas, emblazoned on hats and painted on faces.
But after the match, flags disappeared and car drivers even began to remove the pennants they had hung from their windows in the early stages of the tournament as Germany made strong progress through the group matches.
Despite the disappointment, however, fans vowed to continue the party for the remainder of the event, which culminates with the World Cup final on Sunday.
"The summer of soccer would have been over by Sunday anyway ... but it is still really sad," said Raphael Gassmann, 28, a trainee lawyer.
An estimated one million viewers crammed into the newly-extended Berlin Fan Mile viewing area, in the shadow of the central Brandenburg Gate, while tens of thousands more sprawled out in the capital's parks and beer gardens.
No major violent incidents were reported and organizers were hoping for spectators to show similarly good post-match behaviour as has been seen throughout the four-week event.
In Dortmund, where the match was played, some 200,000 visitors swelled the local population. Despite the support, Germany could not emulate the "Miracle of Bern" in 1954 when they beat favourites Hungary to lift the World Cup.
"I am gutted. I am going to support whoever plays Italy in the finals. This is the worst night of my life," said tearful 21-year-old student, Daniela Trenker.
Germany exceeded expectations on the pitch and as host nation, presenting a welcoming side to the million foreign visitors who were lured to the country by the World Cup.
No one had expected Germany to get so far nor had they predicted such an outpouring of patriotic fervour from a country generally at pains to avoid overt displays of nationalism, making defeat all the more difficult to bear.
"We'll probably only take it in when we wake up in the morning," said Markus Algermissen, a 37-year-old civil servant.
Source: China Daily