In my neighbourhood, they let off fireworks after the first, second and third goals. But after Toni Kroos sidefooted in the fourth, there was only silence. People started to shake their heads in disbelief rather than pump their fists into the humid summer air: “Was that another goal, or just the replay?” the man sitting next to me asked. Even the keenest pyromaniacs of Berlin had not prepared for a feast of football like this one.
Interviewed on German television after the match, the World Cup record-scorer Miroslav Klose seemed unable to articulate an appropriately enthusiastic response, automatically resorting to the “must try harder” soundbites one would expect after a narrow 1-0 victory: “Toni [Kroos] always delivers the ball where it needs to be. But we need to keep on working on that.”
The newspaper Bild was simply lost for words: “7-1. Without comment!” read its front page. The first six pages of the broadsheet-sized tabloid simply carried stills of the seven goals.
On the sports pages, the paper finally had a go at grasping the historic dimension of the match: “90 Minutes. 7 goals. 1 victory for eternity. We’ll be telling our children about this. No, our grandchildren, our grand-grandchildren. In a hundred years people will still talk about this game.”
Die Welt was more sceptical: “In 50 years’ time, our descendants will look at this result and think: that’s a printing error.” Die Zeit, meanwhile, called it “Germany’s greatest match since the miracle of Bern in 1954”.
How does one even analyse such a delirious game of football, many German newspapers asked. Many focus on Brazil’s tactical shortcomings, while a few praised the previously maligned German coach: “It was Löw’s masterpiece. On Sunday he can only surpass himself,” wrote Klaus Hoeltzenbein in Süddeutsche Zeitung.
In its player ratings, Bild decided to give top marks to every member of the team, knighting Thomas Müller with an A*. But the surreal quality of the evening was summed up by Süddeutsche Zeitung’s user-generated player ratings, in which the goalkeeper on the right side of a 7-1 drubbing was voted man of the match.
“We’re on to the next stage, but a little bit of humility is also a good thing,” Löw said directly after the match. He, like most of Germany’s fans, remembers that there was a similar euphoria and disbelief after Germany beat Argentina 4-0 in the 2010 tournament. In the semi-final, Germany lost to Spain and flew home empty-handed. For now, the fear of another near-miss is keeping a lid on emotions.