The German media reacted to their football team's defeat by Spain in the final of the European Championship by generally acknowledging that the best team won, though there was understandably much disappointment at the outcome - and dismay that captain Michael Ballack continues to be blighted by bad luck in finals.Media reaction in Germany to Spain's Euro 2008 victory last night ranged from pride to irritation, with the widespread feeling of disappointment and anti-climax tinged with the recognition that the team's defensive deficiencies were too debilitating against a side as good as Spain.
Bild wrote: "We're still proud of you," adding: "It's bitter. The one goal destroyed our dreams. Unfortunately there was no 'happy ending' to the summer fairytale for us."
That fairytale had included epic wins over Portugal and Turkey that had encouraged an estimated 600,000 fans to throng round Berlin's Brandenburg Gaters in the hope of seeing a final triumph. However, Spain dominated the match and could have won by more than the lone strike by Fernando Torres.
That fact was acknowledged by the Hamburger Morgenpost, which admitted that Germany's performance had been poor - and that goalkeeper Jens Lehmann had kept the scoreline respectable.
"Title dreams dashed," it said. "After 60 minutes of sleep-inducing football and lots of defensive problems the team came to life too late. Thanks to Lehmann because it could have been worse."
Meanwhile, Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung conceded: "The artists from Spain wouldn't let themselves be bullied around. After a strong start Germany lost their way."
Berlin-based Tageszeitung (TAZ) was brutally honest in its assessment. "Germany are Europe's runners-up after getting third place at the World Cup but they weren't able to show any great football, or even good football, aside from their quarter-final win over Portugal."
A common theme among the dailies was the painful personal story of captain Michael Ballack where cup finals are concerned. Only last month Ballack was on the losing side as Manchester United pipped Chelsea to the Champions League crown in a penalty shoot-out.
He was also a losing finalist in the competition when Real Madrid beat his Bayer Leverkusen side in 2002. And later that year he endured the frustration of missing out on the World Cup final against Brazil through suspension after collecting a yellow card in the semi-finals. Then in 2006, when the Germans hosted the World Cup, they lost out at the semi-final stage to eventual winners Italy in extra-time. Last night Ballack was in the wars after a clash of heads left his eye-brow pouring blood, and eventually had to settle for another runners-up medal.
Summing up his plight, the Berlin paper B.Z. asked: "Why can't Ballack win a final? He fought, he bled, he lost. The trauma goes on."
Former midfielder Gunter Netzer, who won this competition in 1972 with a great West German side, is now a commentator with ARD, and admitted that the best team won last night.
"Congratulations to Spain, but also I tip my hat in respect to Germany for even reaching the final.
"That's a great success for the team. Spain were the best team throughout the tournament. They played the best football.
"They showed us how limited we are, they showed us how to play football. Spain showed we have a lot of room to improve."
Sul Ahmad, Goal.com