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Germany's pain too raw to think about positives

Written by: Staff
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BERLIN, July 5 (Reuters) Losing to Italy still hurts far too much to search for the bright spots of Germay's World Cup campaign even if the hosts surpassed many of their goals, team manager Oliver Bierhoff said today.

More than 2,100 letters of support poured in from around the world to the squad's hotel in Berlin during the hours after their 2-0 semi-final defeat by Italy in Dortmund yesterday and fans cheered when the team bus arrived at 3 am.

''We feel this never-ending emptiness right now,'' Bierhoff told a news conference. ''We all had this dream. Suddenly it's over. No one feels like analysing it right now.'' However, he said the gloom would soon lift and the team that started out as long-shots before their improbable run based on crowd-pleasing attacking football would find plenty to be proud about.

''We accomplished some great things in this tournament,'' said Bierhoff, the former striker who scored the golden goal for Germany against Czech Republic to win Euro 96 in England.

''We're incredibly proud of what was achieved. We played football that was not only successful but thrilled. I think we were the most exciting team in the group stage. We (then) beat great teams, Sweden and Argentina, and just barely lost to Italy.'' Bierhoff said perhaps the most important aspect of their progress was that the team, which had slumped to 19th in the FIFA world rankings and went out at the group stage of Euro 2004 without a win, had restored their reputation on the world stage.

''Seldom have the ties between the fans and team been as close as they are now,'' Bierhoff said, referring to the wave of patriotism and strong support that has been generated.

''The crowds sensed this team would do everything they could for them,'' he added.

REUTERS PKS RK2002

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