BERLIN — Hundreds of thousands of jubilant Germans welcomed their triumphant national soccer team home in Berlin today, waving flags and wearing the national colors as they basked in the nation's fourth World Cup victory.
Landing at the capital's Tegel airport, captain Philipp Lahm led the team down the plane's stairs holding above his head the golden trophy secured in Sunday's final, with midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger close behind him wrapped in a German flag.
Nearly half a million revelers packed Berlin's “fan mile", a 1.3 km stretch of road running from the west of the capital up to the iconic Brandenburg Gate, for a massive party. Many more lined the streets in the city center along the team's route.
Fans in Germany shirts, many with their faces painted in black, red and gold and some wearing wigs and bandanas in the national colors, had started drinking beer hours before the team's touchdown.
“It's an amazing atmosphere, it doesn't get any better than this,” said Lukas Klein, 19, who drove through the night from the northern city of Bremen to be in Berlin. He told his boss he was sick.
A roar went up from the crowd when the team's plane circled overhead, and the fans counted down from 10 to its touchdown on the tarmac. “Football's coming home!” they bellowed.
“I am really excited to welcome the world cup winners during my lifetime. I am from East Germany and this is important,” said Guenther Richter, 51, from East Berlin.
Sunday's 1-0 victory over Argentina in Rio de Janeiro marked the first time a reunified Germany has been world champion, with West Germany having won the trophy in 1954, 1974 and 1990.
Television channels blanketed the airwaves with coverage and newspapers dedicated whole editions to the victory.
“This is what four feels like!” splashed top-selling Bild on its front cover, with a picture of the team with their hands raised. Underneath it described what it considered the four attributes of the team: self-confident, together, fierce, modern.
Germany snatched the win in extra time with a stunning goal from fresh-faced Mario Goetze, the nation's 22-year-old boy wonder.
The crowds chanted Goetze's name along with that of Schweinsteiger, who got a battering during the final match and ended up with a bloody cut under his eye.
“Welcome, World Champions!” Berliner Zeitung splashed on its front page.
Even the usually sober Handelsblatt business daily ran a picture on its front page of coach Joachim Loew, affectionately known as Jogi, under the headline “Model Germany".
The success of the national team since 2006, when Germany hosted the World Cup, is widely seen as having helped Germans take greater pride in their nationality, which their history had previously made them uncomfortable about displaying.