Wayne Rooney admitted 'it was a horrible way to go out' after England suffered yet more penalty heartache in Kiev.
For the sixth time, England bowed out on penalties, losing 4-2 to Italy after their Euro 2012 quarter-final had finished goalless. This time, they even managed to get their noses in front before Ashley Young and Ashley Cole failed with successive kicks to leave Alessandro Diamanti to belt home the winner.
"It was a horrible way to go out," said Rooney. "We are all gutted. It was a tough game and we all worked hard, so to lose on penalties is a horrible feeling for everyone."
But he added: "We can hold our heads up high. There are a lot of young players in the squad and that will help them in next tournament."
Although manager Roy Hodgson was understandably disappointed at his team's plight, he could have few complaints.
Other than one Glen Johnson effort in the opening stages, England created barely a chance of note. In contrast, Italy peppered the England goal at regular intervals and, in Andrea Pirlo, had the game's outstanding player.
"It's a sad moment," said Hodgson. "It is always difficult after a defeat, but the support we received today was really quite incredible, from the first minute to the 120th.
"The mood back at home and the feeling we have being supported back here has made the defeat even harder. We so much wanted to stay on and give the fans a reward for the support they've given us. I couldn't ask any more than the players gave tonight. They gave their all.
"We have to accept we weren't quite good enough to win it over the 120 minutes and, in the shoot-out, we went down the same road we've been so many times before."
England were like walking wounded at the end, with Scott Parker's Achilles problem forcing him off during extra-time and Steven Gerrard battling to overcome cramp from before the end of the 90 minutes.