BERLIN - Tens of thousands of jubilant fans massed at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on Tuesday to welcome the World Cup winners and new national heroes bringing home football's top prize for the first time to a reunified Germany.
The flag-waving crowd erupted in applause after news spread that the flight bringing the triumphant players to the German capital from Rio de Janeiro touched down at the airport shortly after 0800 GMT.
Crowds began massing in central Berlin before dawn and thousands more supporters gathered on a viewing platform under warm summer sunshine at Tegel airport to meet the plane, a Lufthansa jet rebranded "Fanhansa" for the team.
"This is a historic event," said 34-year-old bus driver Bernd Hesse, who managed to follow all the matches in Brazil on the radio when he was behind the wheel.
He noted that Germany fans had waited 24 years to bask in the glory of a World Cup victory, the first since the reunification of the country following three wins by the former West Germany.
"It's not every day that you get to see something like this," he said.
Lydia Lampa, a 28-year-old advertising executive, stopped by the airport with a friend on her way to work.
Wearing a Germany jersey adorned with the coveted fourth star for the latest World Cup win and a Hawaiian-style garland of plastic flowers in the national colours black, red and gold, she said she had watched every World Cup match featuring the Mannschaft.
"This is my way of saying thank you," she said.
"All the games were exciting and I wanted to see the players at least once live. I had a good feeling from the start of the tournament and I though, 'OK, this time we're going to win'."
Germany's unity team
A bus will ferry the Mannschaft to central Berlin.
After meeting Mayor Klaus Wowereit, they will stand a giant stage at the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of German unity since the country ended its Cold War division in 1990.