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Germany Coach Julian Nagelsmann Reflects on Heartbreaking Euro 2024 Exit

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BERLIN — Germany’s coach, Julian Nagelsmann, struggled to hold back tears on Saturday as he discussed his team’s exit from the European Championship following their match against Spain the previous night.

Nagelsmann praised his team’s efforts throughout Euro 2024 and their competitive spirit in Friday’s match against Spain, highlighting the importance of collective work and social cooperation. Despite their valiant efforts, Germany’s journey ended when Spain’s substitute Mikel Merino scored in the final minute of extra time, securing a 2-1 victory and a spot in the semifinals for Spain.

“We would have liked to have given the fans more, to stay a while longer, played good football, successful football, and we’d have liked to have collected the title,” Nagelsmann said.

Acknowledging Germany’s recent struggles in major tournaments, Nagelsmann emphasized the need for national support. “We needed the people of the country behind us because we know we simply weren’t good at the last tournaments. As a team and as a federation, we didn’t give much back to the people of the country from a sporting perspective. From the last matches, I think the fans realized that we want to achieve something and change things,” he stated.

Nagelsmann spoke about the emotional investment his players made, noting that nearly every player left the camp with tears in their eyes, a testament to their dedication and the support from the entire staff.

The narrow loss to Spain left Germany pondering missed opportunities. Key moments, such as Niclas Füllkrug’s effort hitting the post and the controversial non-award of a penalty when Jamal Musiala’s shot struck Marc Cucurella’s arm, were points of reflection. However, German soccer federation president Bernd Neuendorf and team manager Rudi Völler chose to focus on the positive impact Nagelsmann’s team had on restoring German pride after several disappointing tournaments.

“A few months ago, our dream was to get the fans back on board, to make our fellow people in Germany proud of us again,” Völler said. “You could feel it in every game, even yesterday, despite the huge disappointment. But the people are standing right behind us, and that’s a great feeling.”

Interest in the tournament soared as Nagelsmann’s team progressed. Public broadcaster ARD reported that over 26 million viewers watched Germany’s quarterfinal against Spain, the highest viewership for any game in the tournament and significantly more than Germany’s World Cup games in Qatar, where they were eliminated in the group stage.

Despite the growing interest, visible support in Berlin remained modest, with few German flags flying. Some cars displayed small flags, and convenience stores and restaurants showed flags to attract customers to watch the games. While the enthusiasm was evident, many Germans remained hesitant to display symbols of national pride.

Looking ahead, Nagelsmann emphasized building on the team’s performances for the 2026 World Cup in Mexico, Canada, and the United States. The 36-year-old’s contract was extended through the tournament shortly before Euro 2024.

Nagelsmann also underscored the broader societal lessons from his team’s journey, advocating for a shift from individualism to collective action. “Today, it seems more important to take an Instagram photo in front of some mountain, alone. Collectiveness to achieve things together is extremely important. We need to move away from incredible individuality and toward a group focused on doing good and achieving something. The football tournament showed that,” he concluded.

Source: AP