BERLIN, June 30 (Reuters) - Germany were fortunate to have even reached the Euro 2008 final without playing especially good soccer most of the way and should not waste time lamenting the loss to a superior Spanish team, commentators said on Monday.
German newspapers and TV analysts were almost unanimous in their view that Spain richly deserved to win the European Championship 1-0 against a Germany team that, aside from their 3-2 quarter-final win over Portugal, never really got on track.
'We're still proud of you,' wrote Bild newspaper. 'It's bitter. The one goal destroyed our dreams. Unfortunately there was no 'happy ending' to the summer fairytale for us.'
More than 600,000 fans crowded into the public viewing area near the Brandenburg Gate hoping to relive the magic collective euphoria of the wins over Portugal and Turkey in the semi-final.
But they went home in tears last night.
German newspapers were full of praise for Spain.
'The artists from Spain wouldn't let themselves be bullied around,' wrote the Sueddeutsche Zeitung in Munich. 'After a strong start Germany lost their way.'
The Hamburger Morgenpost said Germany played poorly and were lucky that goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was able to limit the damage.
'Title dreams dashed,' the Hamburger Morgenpost wrote. '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.'
The Berlin-based left-wing daily Tageszeitung (TAZ) agreed Germany were outclassed by Spain and were lucky to get so far.
'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,' TAZ said in its usual blunt style.
Many dailies focussed on captain Michael Ballack's misfortune in finals. He had just lost the Champions League final with Chelsea before the tournament after losing in the final with Bayer Leverkusen against Real Madrid in 2002.
At the 2002 World Cup he missed the final after picking up a yellow card in the semi-finals. In 2006 Germany were beaten by Italy deep into extra-time of the semi-finals, a defeat that left Ballack choked up and in tears after the match.
'Why can't Ballack win a final?' asked Berlin tabloid B.Z. 'He fought, he bled, he lost. The trauma goes on.'
Germany's most popular TV analyst, Guenter Netzer of ARD, said in the end the best team won on Sunday.
'Congratulations to Spain but also I tip my hat in respect to Germany for even reaching the final,' Netzer, who helped West Germany win the European crown in 1972, said.
'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.'