So, farewell for now, Germany. You were thrillingly good. And then you suddenly fell to bits when it really mattered. Yes, it turns out you really are our kind of glorious losers after all. There is probably an exact German word to describe the turnaround in English attitudes to the German national team. This is after all a language with a leaning towards creative compound nouns, something that no doubt translates directly as bang-on-German-joined-up-word-syndrome.
For example, the German word for nipple is Brustwarze, or "breast-wart", a formulation so brusquely matter-of- fact it seems to suggest all on its own a culture of gloriously uninhibited corporeal joy: hiking nudists, skinny-dipping pensioners, swaggeringly shame-free doctor's surgery visits, naked muscular men sprinting heartily four abreast along sandy beaches in the 1930s, and many other staples of everyday German life.
With this in mind it would be surprising if a sudden and zealous Love of the German national football team wasn't covered somewhere (as in: "watching the goals against Greece on YouTube he experienced a violent case of Deutsche-Fussball-Lineker-swoon"). And while Spain versus Italy is certain to be an absorbing final, albeit one still destined to resemble for long periods a display of elite competitive basket-weaving, there is perhaps still time to dwell on one of the more notable English side-effects of Euro 2012. The fact is a love of German football has for the first time entered the mainstream. The English now like the Nationalmannschaft with almost the same degree of reflexive certainty they once hated them. And while this German team may not be kings of Europe, they have still emerged as kings of our furred and hardened English hearts. It is, naturally, all very disturbing.
Where did the evil go? Did we imagine that air of ringlet-tossing Euro-naff, the sense of maddeningly engineered athletic certainty, the butt-slapping disco-victory poses of Andreas Möller? What a contrast this time around with Bulgaria 94 and Yordan Letchkov, enduring icon of the avenging baldie power-header. During the defeat by Italy even the BBC punditry team managed not to gloat or crow, instead continuing to hang on Jürgen Klinsmann's every word as though seeing something miraculous in his being able to speak at all, appearing on our screens like a wonderful talking horse, albeit one with the voicebox of a very wise, sad Californian robot boy.
No doubt this is all a bit old hat among the more cosmopolitan strain of Fussball-intellektuell found on these pages, but more broadly it is still heartening that such ingrained enmity should have dissolved into tender fellow-feeling. It has been a complicated process, one that has required, in the shape of Spain, a necessary straw man, a replacement bad guy to set against the exemplary Germans. "They do it right. They do it in a way that makes sense," the man on the rolling sport news radio station said shortly before Germany's semi-final, going on to describe how in Spain's case the technically refined possession game is in fact simply a product of a sickening "mañana" culture, a symptom of laziness, sloth, leaving the washing up, possibly even recreational drug use.
It's OK, though. We have Germany. And not just any old Germany, but this lissom, skilful, unexpectedly fragile Germany, managed by the compelling Joachim Löw, the evil genius Darth Vader father figure you never had, and staffed by a cast of likable, ethnically far-flung Euro-dudes. Even the deeply German Mario Gomez has an alluring delicacy, something tremulous and stricken, like an idealistic Victorian schoolmaster with a secret. Plus, best of all, they lost. Chasing the game against Italy they seemed suddenly familiarly confused, all those basic skills dissolving in a tearful haze of Rooney-panic.
Germany have now racked up an agreeably mild and alluring 16 years of hurt, most notably taking in six trophyless years of the current modernising Wunderkind era. And this is really what it's all about: the system. Transfixed by its own generational ineptitude, English football has been desperate for a friend for some time, some benevolent head prefect on which it can develop an imitative crush. Spain: forget Spain. We can't do that. Plus it turns out there is now that comforting sense of some revolving onanistic dwarf-circus being rolled out, a debauchery of self-pleasuring over-skill that is perhaps best avoided altogether.
Never mind that the Bundesliga's compulsory academies and the legislation against roving billionaire owners are almost impossible to replicate in an English game carved up, as ever, between competing destructive interests. Germany still look like the team we should have been, and perhaps might still be. There is something in that athletic, hard-running style that makes the needle twitch, and which, despite the technical and tactical refinements, speaks distantly to a shared Saxon folk-memory of bladder-smuggling shout-ball, the siege-tower aerial assault, the midfield fireplace-wrestle.
Not that any of this matters for now. Germany will watch Sunday's final from the convalescent's sofa, comforted by its systems and structures, its brooding emergent power. England, meanwhile, can take little from this championship beyond a familiar sense of entropy and an unfamiliar admiration for a team that looks a bit like how we might have looked, stomach held in, hair plastered from ear to ear in front of the beach hut mirror, for now lost in the unexpected consolations of Mannschaft-defeat-love-sadness-surprise.