Quiet as a tomb. That was how Joachim Low described the mood in the dressing room after his 198th and final game as Germany coach.
Beaten by England, knocked out of Euro 2020 and unable to match expectations for the second tournament in a row, the Germans could only be silent.
At the final whistle, said Manuel Neuer, he had looked over to the touchline and felt a pang of regret as he saw Low shaking hands with Gareth Southgate.
There was devastation for Joshua Kimmich (left), Thomas Muller (right) and all of Germany as they crashed out of Euro 2020, losing to England at Wembley
The long era of Joachim Low ended with the disappointment of an early exit from the Euros
Here was a man who had reinvented German football and made heroes of Neuer’s generation, leaving his post without fanfare in the North London drizzle.
‘It was an inglorious end to a glorious era,’ wrote a wistful Tagesspiegel on Wednesday.
At face value, Germany had lost a finely poised battle to a more clinical England team. In a game between two relative equals, the side with more momentum had won out against a stagnant, cramped opponent.
Though it could easily have gone the other way, the game seemed to sum up all problems of the back end of Low’s reign.
The veteran coach was too cautious, too slow to make changes, and left fans with more questions than answers.
Muller can’t believe it after shooting wide having charged clear of the England defence
Defender Antonio Rudiger reflects on Germany’s exit as their Euro dreams died at Wembley
Why couldn’t this gifted team create more chances? Why could they not go up a gear when they needed to? Why did Jamal Musiala come on so late?
Not that the failures of the last few years should overshadow Low’s achievements.
In his 15-year tenure, the 60-year-old has reimagined Germany, and turned a once maligned footballing nation into one of the most exciting in the world.
To say that he should have won more silverware, that Germany are no longer the winning machine they were in the late 20th century, is to miss the point.
There are now many more major powers in international football and many more games to play at major tournaments. That Low never failed to reach a semi-final between 2006 and 2016 is and will always remain an astonishing record.
Germany’s front pages on Wednesday reacted to their Euro 2020 defeat to England which brought an end to manager Joachim Low’s time in charge after 15 years leading the team
Hamburger Morgenpost paid ‘huge respect’ to Low despite bowing out against England
Defeat was the dominant story on the front pages with player and fan dejection central
Yet like Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, even a great manager can stay too long.
Desperate to leave on a high, Low missed his chance to exit gracefully in 2018, and has spent the last few years plugging holes which were largely of his own making.
His departure is now a welcome chance for Germany to stop tinkering and start laying proper foundations for the future.
‘I do think that some players will develop,’ he said with an optimistic nod towards Euro 2024, which Germany will host.
Germany striker Timo Werner is denied by England keeper Jordan Pickford in the first half
That and other misses proved costly when Raheem Sterling opened the scoring for England
‘We have young players who will learn from this and be at the top level by 2024 in terms of age and experience. So we can expect a lot.’
Unlike Arsenal, the DFB at least have a clear plan as to who should take charge of that overhaul.
In Hansi Flick, the German federation have got their dream candidate and a man who knows the organisation inside out, having worked as both Low’s assistant and later as sporting director between 2006 and 2017.
That he was so keen to leave Bayern Munich to take the job shows just how keen he is to take on the challenge.
Flick will of course be expected to complete and smooth over a generational changing of the guard which Low has somewhat botched in recent years.
The high point of Low’s reign as Germany boss came in 2014 when they lifted the World Cup
So it proved a solemn end as Low’s Germany were second best to Gareth Southgate’s England
Yet perhaps more important is that the new coach instils a clear playing style, devoid of ideology and tailored to the players he has. He did that with enormous success in Bayern, and it is now desperately needed in the national team.
That may also mean that the older players are not immediately shown the door. One of Flick’s major achievements in Munich was to restore the likes of Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng to their former brilliance, and he may feel he needs such figures in the Germany set-up for as long as they can serve him.
It is not as if there is no reason to turn to experience: Mats Hummels was imperious in the first half against England, and apart from his dramatic late miss, Muller was also a crucial player at this tournament.
Whether in the experience of those players or the youthful verve of Musiala and Kai Havertz, Flick has both the means and the mentality to make Germany winners again.
The baton now passes to Hansi Flick, seen watching Germany’s Euro 2020 game with Hungary
As Low’s former assistant, Flick knows the national team set-up inside out as he takes over
Perhaps the only question mark is whether he, like Low before him, can build something which will last beyond the home Euros in 2024.
For it is not just Low’s shortcomings which have been shown up at this tournament.
Amid the gloomy post mortem in the TV studio on Tuesday night, the presenter on ARD asked whether the manager or the federation should shoulder more of the blame.
It was a hard question for a pundit to answer, but one which will probably be asked much more in the years to come.
Germany, after all, competed at this tournament without a sitting president in charge of their federation.
The question is whether Flick will usher out the older players like Mats Hummels (left)
The DFB has been rocked by a string of corruption scandals in recent years, and the levels of toxicity in its leadership structures are now off the scale. A major personnel change is already taking place, yet it remains unclear who will guide the ship back into calmer waters.
The likes of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Philipp Lahm have already distanced themselves from the top job.
Whoever it is will need to do more than root out corruption and host a successful tournament in 2024.
They will need to consolidate and adapt the structures which allowed Low’s Germany to be successful for so long.
Flick will have to decide whether to dispense with players he trusts, such as Muller
The emergence of talented youngsters like Jamal Musiala offers hope for Germany’s future
They will need to restore the image of the federation and the positivity which once surrounded the national team. They can no longer rest on the laurels of the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.
As Germany steps into the unknown of an era after Angela Merkel and Joachim Low, they will need to stop tinkering, and start building the future.