BERLIN, July 5 (Reuters) - Germany bid an emotional farewell on Wednesday after Juergen Klinsmann's team failed to provide the fairytale ending to a World Cup campaign which has electrified the nation and filled it with pride.
'The dream is over', 'The night of tears', and 'We're crying with you,' were some of the headlines splashed across front pages after Germany's last-gasp 2-0 defeat against Italy in the World Cup semi-final in Dortmund on Tuesday night.
Images of tearful players and distraught fans stood alongside a shot of Klinsmann with his face buried in his hands as Germany's once unfancied squad came within minutes of securing a penalty shoot-out for a place in Sunday's final.
'This World Cup has changed the emotional state of this country,' wrote Berlin tabloid BZ.
Flag-waving in a country schooled on suppressing feelings of national pride since World War Two had reached unprecedented levels during the tournament. There were noticeably fewer banners flying from cars and windows after Germany's loss.
'The dream of victory has died, but Germany still won, because we will never forget these days, our pride and the joyful black, red and gold and the carefree spirit of the heroes surrounding Klinsmann,' BZ said.
Papers showed no lingering resentment about the result, and praised both teams for their efforts.
'The Italians were simply better', said mass-selling daily Bild. 'But lads, you're still heroes! We're crying with you.'
Such was the interest in the game that television viewer ratings reached a record 29.7 million, which does not include the millions of fans who watched in bars and in public viewing venues, according to a German media watchdog.
The Berliner Morgenpost said the infectious enthusiasm of Klinsmann's young team had been a joy to behold.
'And for 3-1/2 weeks at least, they've changed the people in the host nation - they've made them happier, more relaxed, and more self-assured,' the paper said in an editorial.
Yet amid the celebration of the players, daily Der Tagesspiegel singled out fans for criticism following a match in which the Italian team endured a stream of whistling throughout.
'The Italians were whistled at when they arrived, as they warmed up and when the team list was read out,' it wrote.
'Even when the strains of the Italian national anthem rang out, some fans continued to whistle. Only gradually did fairness prevail.'