It was past 11pm before Bastian Schweinsteiger emerged from the Germany dressing room, bitter dismay at defeat by Spain in their FIFA World Cup™ semi-final etched across his face. Before heading towards the waiting throng of reporters, the player paused for a moment, leaning against a wall and seemingly struggling to compose himself. Spotting this, his coach Joachim Low gave the midfielder a few words of consolation.
"We’ve come up short and it’s a shame," Schweinsteiger said a short time later. "We never showed 100 per cent of what we showed against England and Argentina. We had a couple of chances, but they had to go in if we were to go through. But in the final analysis, we’ve had a good tournament and we can be proud of ourselves."
One of Germany’s very few chances fell to substitute Toni Kroos, denied the opening goal of the game, with his first kick on 69 minutes, by the reflexes of Iker Casillas. "I could have put that one away. We’d have been 1-0 up, and the game might have taken a different course," the 20-year-old told FIFA.com.
Manuel Neuer was sporting and generous in defeat. "I think we lacked the courage of our own convictions today," the Germany goalkeeper told FIFA. "We’ve missed a big chance of making it to the Final. Spain kept it very, very tight, and they’ve deservedly won. All the best to Spain for the Final. But obviously it’s a massive disappointment for us."
Striker Cacau said that there was "deep sadness" in the dressing room: "We were so close but we’ve not made it. What can you say? The players need one or two days to get over it. We want to end the tournament on a positive note," he added in reference to their upcoming match for third place against Uruguay.
Team manager Oliver Bierhoff fell back on truisms of the sport. "That's football," he told FIFA. "In a little while, the team will appreciate what they’ve achieved here. They can certainly be proud."
After his first start at the finals, Piotr Trochowski felt "our heads are down and they’ll stay down today, but tomorrow we’ll turn our attention to the third-place play-off against Uruguay."
Germany have now lost in the semi-finals twice in a row, but their youngest FIFA World Cup squad in 76 years has won countless admirers in South Africa. All parties fundamentally acknowledged Spain’s superiority on the night, but Schweinsteiger believes bright times lie ahead for his country: "This team has a great future. It's a shame some of the players joined the group relatively late, but what we’ll do now is continue working hard and training together."
Low, meantime, described his squad as "dynamic, quick to learn and hungry for success." The first piece of that will, the Germans hope, come in the form of victory over Uruguay and a podium finish in South Africa.