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By Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN, June 28 Half a million German soccer fans gathered in Berlin were left in a state of shocked silence on Thursday after Italy crushed their Euro 2012 hopes with a 2-1 semi-final victory.
Brimming with confidence that their unbeaten team would advance to Sunday's final against Spain, the huge crowd gathered in front of giant screens at the Brandenburg Gate ready to party but were numbed by Italy's triumph. Many left in tears.
"It's totally depressing," said Michel Schorsch, a 17-year-old Berlin student at the popular public viewing area.
"The Italians killed the party. They beat us again. Germany were better in the first half but Italy got two chances and scored twice. What a drag."
Clad in the black, red and gold of Germany, fans packed the closed-off central Berlin boulevard stretching from the Brandenburg Gate back more than a kilometre.
Germany coach Joachim Loew has made a point of thanking the frenzied crowds in the capital for giving his team additional motivation.
"I can't believe this crap," said Sonya Wedlich, a physical therapist whose face was painted in German colours. "It makes me ill to lose to Italy again. Everything was going so well until tonight. I've got to get out of here."
The mood was bright at the outset as Germany had a handful of scoring chances but turned nervous after their team fell behind. The crowd gasped in disbelief when Germany went down 2-0 and went silent after that. Thousands left at halftime.
However, for the handful of Italian fans celebrating among the weeping Germans, it was a night to remember. There are about 600,000 resident in Germany.
"It would have been nice to see Germany win but I'm just as happy that Italy beat them again," said Nick Rudolf, a 19-year-old fitness trainer who has a German father and an Italian mother. "It's cool to be for both teams."
Ricco, a 34-year-old teacher who drove an hour to Berlin to see the match, said Italy's early goals spoiled the party.
"We came here to enjoy a great party but the only thing we're going to get out of this is a great hangover," he said. (Editing by Iain Rogers)