Champions thrill Berlin with congas, air guitars and cheers
Almost half a million fans lined the streets for Germany's World Cup victory parade to the Brandenburg Gate yesterday and were treated to some bizarre party antics from their heroes.
After an 11-hour flight back from Brazil, delayed for two hours after a baggage carrier collided with the aircraft, the Germany squad flew in low over the "fan mile", where the public had been gathering since the previous evening.
After landing at Berlin's Tegel airport, the Germany captain Philipp Lahm led the team off the aircraft holding the trophy aloft, followed by Bastian Schweinsteiger, who was draped in the German flag and sporting a bandage under his right eye after getting a cut to the face in the final against Argentina.
The team then set off on a two-hour trip to downtown Berlin in a black bus which had been painted with the years of Germany's World Cup victories: "1954, 1974, 1990, 2014!"
The players all changed into matching black T-shirts bearing the number "1", then climbed on board an open-top bus for the last stage of a journey that has lasted 24 years since their previous World Cup triumph.
Then the squad took to the stage at the famous landmark, to be greeted with chants from the crowd of "football gods".
But there were problems with the sound system, which meant that most of the players' words were lost in the din. The fans cheered louder then ever when defender and Berlin-born Jerome Boateng shouted: "I can't hear you!"
In a rehearsed piece of stage theatrics, Lahm had emerged concealed by four of his team-mates, who walked out with heads bowed and arms behind their backs. Then the quartet suddenly fell to the ground while the captain held the trophy aloft to the cheering crowd.
The squad then started to dance and play air-guitar before kicking little replicas of the World Cup football Brazuca into the crowd and performing a conga around the stage, led by Schweinsteiger triumphantly holding the trophy aloft.
"We're all world champions!" the Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "Of course, it was a long way to the title, and an incredibly tough one in the end. But we're incredibly happy to be here with the fans now."
Midfielder Toni Kroos led the crowd in a chant of "Miro Klose" – a tribute to veteran striker Miroslav Klose, who became the World Cup finals' leading scorer during the tournament with 16 goals.
"We're just mega proud of this achievement, after standing here in 2006 and 2008 as third and then as second – and now we've finally done it after this long journey, with this sensational team," Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker said, while Chelsea striker Andre Schurrle added: "It's beautiful. It feels very good, it's all gone perfectly for us."
Striker Thomas Mueller posted a selfie in front of the crowd on Twitter, and said: "Waaaaaaaahhhhnnnnnssiiiiiiinnn! (Insanity) Thank you for this great reception! Dear fans, you are a champion!"
The president of the German Football Association (DFB), Wolfgang Niersbach, said of the squad's reception: "This is a dream. Seeing this enthusiasm, I do not know what in our country can trigger this sense of belonging more than this World Cup. Our players are looking forward incredibly to enjoying this moment."
Fans agreed. "It's indescribable," said Till Uhlig from Hannover, who was among the throng.
"They've all taken their holidays to come here. It's absolutely crazy. We were behind the stage where the bus pulled up. Just incredible."
Berliner Katrin Fels added: "We knew it would happen. It was clear from the start of the year that we had the best team. It's perfect, perfect for all generations."
Schweinsteiger is targeting further glory with Germany after finally winning his first major trophy with the national side.
Ever since he made his international debut in 2004, Schweinsteiger had become used to just coming up short in major tournaments.
Of the five he played in prior to Brazil, Schweinsteiger reached the semi-finals on three occasions and at Euro 2008 he was part of the Germany team that lost to Spain.
All that changed on Sunday night, though, when he and his team-mates beat Argentina 1-0 to win the World Cup in the Maracana.
Schweinsteiger does not want this to be the last time he lifts a trophy, however.
With a young squad in place, he feels there is plenty of potential there for Germany to go on and win many trophies in the near future.
"This will give us hunger now, absolutely," the midfielder said. "We want to do it again at the next tournament. The important thing is that the young guys have the experience of this tournament and we will go to France (for Euro 2016) and try and do it again for sure.
"It won't be easy because we have a young team. But we have some players like Philipp Lahm, Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker who have the experience. This mix makes a big difference."