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As Germans fight off hangovers after a night of extravagant partying, their team’s history-making win represents a decade of reforms in economics as well as soccer.
BERLIN, Germany — When the scoreless World Cup soccer final went into extra time late Sunday night, Berlin’s streets and subways were deserted.
With the match commentary blaring from open windows and doors, however, you could walk from the neighborhoods of central Mitte to nearby Kreuzberg without losing track of the game. On every corner, fans spilled out of bars, cafes and restaurants, jostling for a glimpse of the action on television screens.
When substitute Mario Goetze chested a clean pass onto his left foot and volleyed the ball past Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero to finally give Germany the lead with 113 minutes gone, a roar of exhilaration erupted across the city.
Crowds outside the Turkish cafes of the immigrant-dominated neighborhoods Kreuzberg and Neukoelln burst firecrackers and beat drums.
When the final whistle blew minutes later, the denizens of the hard-core German dives known as “local smokers” broke out into choruses of “Olé, olé, olé, all Germans, sing Olé!” — an announcement that the all-night party had begun.
“We're the World Champions!” shouted a group of men draped in German flags as the celebration moved to the street.
Unlike in Argentina, where at least 70 people were injured as disappointed fans smashed shop windows and vandalized cars, across Germany, virtually the only casualties were brain cells as the drinking continued into the early morning.
Nearly a quarter million people watched the match on the so-called “fan mile” created around Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate, which police had to close off before the game started to prevent overcrowding.
Police estimated that another 15,000 took to the famous Kurfuerstendamm shopping avenue in former West Berlin after the final whistle.
As the sun rose this morning, thousands were still at it, judging from the occasional blare of car horns and the sound of drunken singing.
German astronaut Alexander Gerst congratulated the team from space.
Chancellor Angela Merkel posed for a selfie with striker Lukas Podolski.
US coach Juergen Klinsmann — who helped Germany win the cup as a player in 1990 but failed as coach for the national side in 2006 — echoed widespread opinion, saying, “The best team won the 2014 World Cup.”
For coach Joachim Loew and the German players — a dream team of veterans who had largely stayed together since winning the Under-21 UEFA championships in 2009 — the victory was a major vindication. Perennial bridesmaids, “Der Mannschaft” had been to the semifinals or finals in every World Cup since 2002 without bringing home the hardware.
After a dismal performance in the 2004 European Championships, the team launched a decade of reform under then-coach Klinsmann. For Low, who continued the regime after he took over two years later, another loss may have meant losing his last World Cup chance.
For the country at large, the win also represents a historic and symbolic victory — and the peaceful jubilation made for a fitting end to a dream performance.
Although the former West Germany won the World Cup three times, most recently in 1990, Sunday's match marked the first victory for the unified country.
Germany’s World Cup victories have also represented the country’s economic fortunes. Stunning the world in 1954, the first win symbolized Germans’ emergence from devastation in World War II.
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Sunday’s win now marks Germany’s position as Europe’s economic and political powerhouse, after a decade of reforms enabled it to drop its image as the sick man of Europe.
With five prominent players who were born abroad or eligible to play for other countries, the team also represents a new, increasingly immigrant-friendly country confident in its role in the world.
Goetze, the player who pounded in the winning goal, hadn’t even been born when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 — perhaps the last time this city saw a party of this magnitude.