This morning, the English nation is afflicted by an all too familiar feeling, having been eliminated from a major football tournament on penalties. This time, however, there is no discernible feeling of injustice, or even anger. There is a sense that the quarter-finals represented the limit of the abilities of this squad of players, and deep down many people realise that Italy were the superior team over the preceding 120 minutes of football.
The statistics on possession and pass completion tell their own story. Andrea Pirlo delivered a magisterial performance in the Italian midfield, and England proved incapable of stemming the flow of his passes.
As well as lacking in some technical areas, England also looked fatigued from quite early in the proceedings, as if the exertions and effort, both physical and mental, of negotiating the group matches had drained most of their energy. For the most part the effort was there, but it looked like a match too far, even if Italy were prevented from scoring. If the Azzuri's forwards had been less profligate in front of goal, the scoreline would have been more representative of the balance of play.
I discussed the match with a friend late last week, and he suggested that Wayne Rooney should have been omitted from the starting line-up, because he would disrupt and disturb the balance of the England team. As it happened, Rooney was ineffectual against Italy, but I don't feel that his presence unsettled England as such. Formations and tactics played no major role last night, as opposed to technique and fatigue. Rooney endeavoured to make things happen, popping up all over the pitch, but he was simply lacking sharpness.
After an early flurry from England, it was Italy who dictated the course and tempo of the match. The aforementioned Pirlo was a joy to watch, running the show consummately. In fairness to England, they rarely lost their shape in defence, and I thought that John Terry and Glen Johnson in particular gave impressive performances.
So, not quite the sinking feeling of previous England "failures", as there is less thought of "what might have been". England did not disgrace themselves overall, even if they were ultimately found wanting. There is now time and space for Roy Hodgson to remould and reshape the team in accordance with his own vision and ideas, and some of the personnel might be different once the World Cup qualifiers get under way.
As for Euro 2012 itself, one has to favour Germany to reach the final now, not only because of their own potency and abilities, but because of the toll which last night's game will have taken on Italy.