Germany coach Joachim Low and his national side were honoured by Federal President Christian Wulff on Tuesday at a ceremony in Berlin to pay tribute to their third-place at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
With Germany playing Turkey in a UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier on Friday, Low and his squad visited Berlin's Schloss Bellevue where the coach was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit and his side received the Silver Laurel Leaf.
"You are, as far as the results are concerned, the most successful coach in DFB (German Football Federation) history, even if you have not yet won the World Cup," said Wulff at the presidential palace in front of dignitaries including German chancellor Angela Merkel.
"You are popular with the fans, because people all over the country like the team's style. The system, the mentality and the spirit that it represents are all deeply influenced by you. You are a great example of a football coach: a good leader, an internationally respected football expert and a deeply sympathetic sportsman."
Low accepted the award and stressed he was simply the figurehead for a group of people working hard for the national side and said the award was recognition of the team's ideals of "respect, ambition and fair play".
Having lost 1-0 to Spain in the FIFA World Cup semi-final, Germany beat Uruguay 3-2 in the third-place play-off in South Africa and the Germans played arguably some of the tournament's best football.
With 11 of the 23-man squad having roots outside of the country, Wulff praised Low's young squad for the way they represented modern Germany.
"This multi-cultural team inspired us all in South Africa," said Wulff. "This team of young men of such different origins reflected Germany as the country of immigration, which it has been for so long."
With captain Michael Ballack out injured and recovering from a fractured knee cap, Philipp Lahm accepted the award on the squad's behalf. "This is a great honour for the team and gives us an incentive to finally win titles," said the Bayern Munich defender.
Having beaten Belgium 1-0 in Brussels and Azerbaijan 6-1 in Cologne last month, Germany are top of Group A and a victory over Turkey, who have also won both of their opening games, would put them in control of the group.