But it was a bright start from manager Hope Powell's ladies, led brilliantly throughout by skipper Faye White, wearing a face mask after dislocating and fracturing a cheekbone in the quarter-finals.
Eniola Aluko proved a real menace down the left wing in the opening exchanges but after 19 minutes, not even White could prevent the opening goal from Germany's prolific striker.
Prinz, who amazingly had no goals to her name in this tournament before this clash, burst into the box and after collecting a clever pull-back from Grings she blasted the ball into the net.
The English women looked rattled and worse was to come when Behringer picked the ball up just past the half-way line and fired in the second to sting goalkeeper Rachel Brown's fingertips.
Powell predicts bright future for England
Memories of England's comeback from being 2-0 down against Russia last week flooded back as winger Carney poked the ball in at the back post after brilliant work from Smith, who had dinked her way past three defenders.
Jill Scott almost nodded in the equaliser but the Germans struck back five minutes into the second period.
Annike Krahn's shot rebounded off the post and with the ball bobbling along the line, it fell to 19-year-old Kulig who poked in from 10 yards.
Still the English women, looking for a first win over the Germans in 19 meetings and in their first European final since 1984, would not lie down and it was another slice of Smith innovation that carved open the defence.
White proud despite final defeat
The Boston Breakers striker brought the ball down instantly from a Carney pass and the German keeper Nadine Angere was soon picking the ball out of the net after a fine strike from Smith.
Germany increased the tempo and grabbed their fourth with Grings heading in a smart cross from Kerstin Garefrekes.
England's heads went down and Grings was on target again after 73 minutes as she linked up well with Prinz to finish from the edge of the box.
It was cruel on the English as Germany turned on the style to fire in a sixth with Prinz crashing in her second.
But the defeat should not take away from England's achievement in reaching a first final in 25 years - an achievement that Fabio Capello's men's side will hope to emulate in South Africa after securing qualification to the World Cup.
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