The Germans, among the favourites after winning 15 straight competitive games before Thursday’s loss, will learn from this experience and eye their next title challenge with a lot more mental strength, according to coach Joachim Loew.
“There is absolutely no reason to question everything now,” said Loew. “We were the youngest team in the tournament. We won all our games in a tough group. The team will stomach this defeat as well and continue to develop.
“Clearly we are all disappointed but the team has showed soul and for us, overall, it was a good tournament,” added the 52-year-old.
Germany FA president Wolfgang Niersbach echoed that view.
“Joachim, you have done a superb job and we are extremely happy to have you as our coach,” he said in an early morning address at the team hotel. “The path of this team is long from over but it is a young team overflowing with talent.”
Loew, who took charge after their 2006 World Cup semi-final exit by Italy, steered them to a runners-up spot at Euro 2008 and a third-place finish at the 2010 World Cup before reaching the semi-final stage again in Poland and Ukraine.
A perfect qualifying campaign with 10 wins in 10 games – a German record – and another three victories in the group stage against Portugal, Netherlands and Denmark rightly made Loew’s team, with an average age of 24, one of the front runners.
With half a million people cheering them on at every game from a gigantic Berlin fan zone, the Germans looked to have the tailwind needed to lift their fourth European crown and their first major tournament title since Euro 96.
A 4-2 demolition of Greece in the last eight further boosted domestic euphoria but it also clouded weaknesses at the heart of their defence that was not lost on the Italians.
With holding midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger a long way from his best and playmaker Mesut Ozil below-par throughout the tournament, Germany were always going to be vulnerable.
Italy forward Mario Balotelli twice took full advantage of their weaknesses, embarrassing their central defenders to steer his side to a 2-1 victory and put German champagne on ice for at least another two years until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“There were several young players who came into the team at the Euro like Marco Reus. Others like Mario Goetze also have great prospects. There will be no major personnel overhaul. We have after all a very young team,” said Loew.
“Sure there is disappointment but everyone will rediscover their motivation and will set new goals.”