MARSEILLE • World champions Germany flew home from Euro 2016 yesterday for a post mortem into how they missed the chance to add the European title after their 2-0 semi-final defeat by France.
"France have earned the right to be in the final and I think that they will win against Portugal," said Germany's coach Joachim Low. "I think France are good, but we were better."
His appraisal did not find many backers back home.
"France totally deserved to win," former captain Michael Ballack told German daily Bild.
Lothar Matthaus, Germany's most capped player, was critical of Low for again changing his system, saying that "it creates uncertainty".
Germany reverted to their standard 4-2-3-1 formation against France, having played with a back-three set-up against Italy in the quarter-finals.
Despite the loss, Low can still reflect on a decade in charge of Germany. Under his stewardship, they have reached at least the semi-finals of the last six major tournaments.
The 56-year-old has a German FA contract until the 2018 World Cup in Russia and while his bosses want to extend his deal, he has left his future open and will consider his future in the light of their Euro 2016 post-mortem.
"I'll speak to the players and coaching staff when we look at the tournament," he said. "There will be a relatively short analysis of the tournament, as I didn't see that we made many mistakes."
Low and his squad would know that they wasted a good chance to beat the hosts. Germany were punished for some sloppy first-half finishing as they failed to convert any of their 18 shots on goal, despite enjoying 68 per cent of possession.
"We played our best game at these European Championship, as weird as that sounds when you've lost 2-0," said midfielder Toni Kroos. "I can't blame the team for anything and we went behind after a stupid incident."
The "stupid incident" was referee Nicola Rizzoli's decision just before half-time to give a penalty after he spotted a handball by Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger - and it changed the course of the game as France scored their opener from it.
"The penalty was of course a shock and I had to calm the players down in the dressing room," said Low. "Then it was hard for us, as they countered very well. We were brave, and overall our team did well."
Yet, he would be worried at the way the world champions lost their heads and never regained their composure. Ballack's pre-tournament comment that Germany lack strong leadership may well return to trouble Low.
Low will point to injuries and defender Mats Hummels' suspension as the main reasons for his side's loss. Yet, with Mario Gomez injured, neither Mario Gotze nor Thomas Muller - who has now gone 11 straight games without scoring at Euro Finals - hit the net in France.
On a more positive note, after two years of experimenting, Low seems to have found his ideal back four with Joshua Kimmich and Jonas Hector having nailed down the wing-back berths.
And in Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil, Germany are never short of creative play-makers to find holes in the opponents' defence.
But, two years after Miroslav Klose retired, Germany still do not have a settled striker, a problem Low must solve if the Germans are to retain their World Cup title.