Germany greeted their first knockout defeat to England in 55 years with a mixture of anger and grief. Not only did the 2-0 loss at Wembley draw a line under an inconsistent and troubled tournament, it also brought an end to Jogi Löw’s 15-year reign as German national team manager.
“It's a bit sobering. You feel powerless,” said former Bayern Munich and Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack. “It was clear in the first half that solutions were lacking, that we pulled back unnecessarily. We did too little, we made it too easy for them. We didn't exploit the weaknesses of the English. I don't understand why [Löw] waited so long with changes.”
Ballack’s colleague in the TV studio, former Stuttgart and Bolton striker Fredi Bobic, agreed. “We absolutely deserved to be eliminated. No courage going forward. Even after going 1-0 down, nothing happened except for one chance. That was very passive.”
While pundits agreed that Thomas Müller's miss when England were only leading by a goal was a key moment, others felt an even more important moment came in the eighth minute, when Declan Rice fouled Leon Goretzka on the edge of the English box.
“I would have given red,” declared former Bayern midfielder Mehmut Scholl. “At Bielefeld against Bochum, that's a red. But if you give an Englishman a red at the start of a game at Wembley... I wouldn't want to be the referee.”
It wasn’t just the pundits that felt as though England’s famous victory was won by fine margins.
At full-time Toni Kroos insisted the sides were evenly-matched.
“England didn't have many chances,” the Real Madrid star said. “You can imagine how bitter it is. Both teams neutralised each other for a long time. Efficiency made the difference. The first goal changed everything.” His conclusion, however, was perhaps more telling: “Overall it's very, very bitter.”
Naturally, the anger and frustration eventually turned to remorse when the nation was confronted with the fact that this historic defeat - Germany's first in a tournament knockout match since 1966 - was Löw’s final game in charge of the national team.
“After the final whistle, I looked towards the coaching bench and it was a sad feeling,” said Germany captain Manuel Neuer. “Jogi is a great person, I think he shaped a great era with the team. It's a pity and very sad that it ended like this today.”
Neuer’s former teammate at Bayern and with the German national team, Bastian Schweinsteiger, was in a similarly mournful mood on ARD. “I’m personally thinking of Jogi Löw, that was his last international match,” concluded the former Manchester United midfielder.
“That was a hell of an era he led. It's just sad that it's over now.”
The German papers: 'The self-deception has been exposed’
The German press also focus on Löw’s final game and many front pages feature obituaries of his career as national coach.
Under the headline “15 years as national coach - that was the Löw era”, Der Tagesspiegel says: “Germany now only watches the European Championship - and that is not enough.
“Joachim Löw's era could not have ended more gloomy. The farewell as national coach in his 198th game was indeed a dignified one over a long season, but the demands on a German national football team are higher than being eliminated in the round of 16.”
Die Welt says that “After 15 long years the emptiness comes” and Der Spiegel says: “Löw leaves, but the problems remain”. Bild says Löw looked “empty, frustrated and depressed”.
But the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung accuses the German national team of delusion. The paper’s match report has the headline “The self-deception has been exposed” and it says: “Last Exit Wembley. After 15 years, the era of Joachim Löw has come to an end in one of the most traditional places in football. The national team presented a disappointing performance in a comparatively weak round of 16 duel.”
Meanwhile, the Süddeutsche Zeitung says the poor pre-match form of Harry Kane was like the set-up to a cruel gag on Tuesday night as England got revenge for years of pain at the hands of the Germans.
The paper says: “Harry Kane, an internationally-recognised joker, had planned for exactly this punchline for a long time: three games doing nothing, and then a raid on the German Football Association.
“England avenged themselves for what, from the point of view of the English, is a horrible football history, in which they slipped into doom far too often without doing anything, and in which very often someone missed a penalty.”
The English papers: Dream sequences
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) June 29, 2021
Meanwhile in the UK papers, The Sun responded to the victory with characteristic serenity. “England fans are daring to dream that football could finally be coming home”, the paper says on its front page, under the header: “55 years of hurt never stopped us Raheeming”.
In fact, dreaming features heavily on the front of most of the newspapers, almost as if England beating Germany at Wembley is too unbelievable to happen in real life.
The Daily Mirror’s front page headline says “Time to dream” and the Daily Express assures England fans that “No, it wasn’t a dream! We really did beat Germany”. Meanwhile, The Guardian’s front page says the match was “Like emerging from a dream into a strange new light”.
The Daily Mail features a picture of a grinning Prince George on its front page, above the headline: “By George, we did it!” The young prince watched the match from a box at Wembley with his parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The paper calls England’s win a “superb display of resilience and perseverance”, while The Times says on its front page that England are now the favourites to win the tournament. Who is dreaming now?
Read more: 55 years of hurt wiped out in 90 minutes