The greatest party that never was
- 5 Jul 06, 03:23 AM
DORTMUND - For the second time in four days I was there, in the thick of it waiting for the boiling atmosphere to bubble over and the party to start.
But again the atmosphere was killed in a second - the second it took Fabio Grosso to curl the ball round Jens Lehmann and into the net to set Germany on the way to World Cup semi-final defeat.
It's such a shame the way it has ended for the hosts.
They have been friendly and self-effacing, not wanting to play up their team's chances too much but secretly wishing their dream would come true.
Quite apart from the way other nations have reacted to the Germans in this tournament, they have grown as a nation themselves.
Maybe that's why when the hammer blow of Alessandro del Piero's second goal came they took it on the chin - a lot better than the English fans managed anyway.
Maybe that comes down to expectation, the Germans exceeded their modest ones with a semi-final appearance while Sven-Goran Eriksson's men failed to live up to their own over-inflated ones with another last-eight exit.
There were no excuses being bandied around, a lot acknowledged the Italians were the better side - the team with more adventure in extra time.
That's not to say they weren't devastated by defeat.
The streets of Dortmund were packed from about 1pm, everybody with a German flag, tattoo or replica shirt - the Italians were encountered very rarely.
The sweltering heat and beating sun did nothing to dampen a growing party atmosphere - this was it, this was going to be glory for Jurgen Klinsmann's side, no doubt about it...
I was trying to find the ideal venue for the game as it kicked off, the German national anthem echoing around the now empty streets as I ducked my head in one bar after another - including one aborted attempt to get a vantage point in a place called HappyHappyDingDong.
I finally settled in a sports club in a side street called Badukan, specialing in martial arts, to watch the first half, but headed to the city centre's vast fan fest - incorporating five big screens - during the break.
That was packed to the rafters so I jostled for a view of one screen from the centre of a quite major junction.
Check out our pictures soon - it's rather late now.
Some were using beer kegs and palettes to gain those few extra inches needed for a clearer view of the action - and anybody too tall in front was greeted with a volloy of bottle tops and told to get out of the way.
A lot of people had given up by the end, and sat on the kerbs content to be within the atmosphere without actually seeing the screens.
The mood had been nervous throughout, and there was just a massive groan as Grosso's shot hit the net - they must have fancied their chances on penalties and to come so late the goal was a cruel blow.
The second goal just sent people flooding towards the U-bahn, the dream over.
It didn't take long for cries of "Super Deutschland" to rise above the post-match anlaysis, but I just slunk away into the night, another potentially massive party scuppered.
With the amount of people out on the streets, it's hard to imagine what it would have been like for the final in Berlin.
But instead, it is the modest number of Italians that will be there, and I'm sure the hosts will greet them with open arms.
"A time to make friends" is the World Cup slogan and no-one can doubt the Germans, people and football team, have done that - sorry your party was spoiled.