England captain Steven Gerrard admitted his side are "going home with heartbreak" after losing the Euro 2012 quarter-final against Italy on penalties.
England were beaten 4-2 on spot-kicks after their quarter-final clash in Kiev had finished goalless after extra-time.
This was the latest in a long line of penalty shoot-out exits from major tournaments, following on from 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004 and 2006, and while Gerrard praised his team-mates for their showing in Poland and Ukraine, he conceded it was a painful way to go out.
"Everyone's been great in training, every time we've come out I think we've done the country proud, but again we're going home with heartbreak, which is difficult to take," he told BBC1.
The Liverpool midfielder added "I just feel for the players who from day one have given everything and today we did the same.
"This time in the penalty shoot-out we thought we might have the bit of luck we needed but it wasn't to be.
"Credit to Italy they are fantastic team and they got the luck in the shoot out."England found themselves in the ascendancy in the shoot-out when Riccardo Montolivo missed Italy's second kick and Wayne Rooney scored the next to put Roy Hodgson's men 2-1 up.
However, Italy slotted home their next three kicks while Ashley Young's effort come back off the crossbar and then Ashley Cole saw his attempt saved by Gianluigi Buffon.
England manager Hodgson told Radio Five Live: "Anyone can miss a penalty.
"They were not nonchalant, Ashley Young's smashed against the bar and Ashley Cole's was well saved by Gianluigi Buffon.
"A player's reputation should not be forged on a penalty shoot-out, their reputation should be forged on the four games and in those four games we have not lost."
He added: "We stuck to our guns right until the end and the players should be very proud of what they did.
"I have learnt a lot about the players and their determination and dedication to the task and the fact they are so keen to play for England.
"There were some heroic performances not only tonight but also in the previous three games."
Hodgson added on BBC1: "When we took it to penalties I was rather hoping it would be our tournament to win on penalties, certainly the practising didn't help us too much on this occasion, maybe it's just fated at the moment that we don't win on penalties but I really can't fault any of the players for their effort.
"At the end we had lots of players out there running on empty, with very tired legs, fighting off cramp, but they kept us in there until the end and when you go to penalties you do have a chance, but unfortunately Italy took the chance and not us."
Hodgson also praised the England supporters, adding: "They were quite magnificent throughout. I've never seen such enormous support from the first whistle."
Hodgson said at the post-match news conference: "We have to accept we weren't quite good enough over the 120 mins.
"Then we went down the same road we have gone down so many times before. A penalty shoot-out isn't a game of football. It is a different competition.
"I have been very happy with what I have seen from this group of players. This tournament has been very useful for the young players."
England goalkeeper Joe Hart admitted he felt "terrible" after being knocked out of the competition
He said on Radio Five Live: "We've gone out of a tournament that we've laid the foundations for really well, played with everything we've got and unfortunately we weren't good enough tonight, losing on penalties."
England rode their luck on occasion during the match with Italy, twice hitting the woodwork as well as creating a number of other decent chances.
The Azzurri also thought they had won the match six minutes from time only to see Antonio Nocerino's header correctly ruled out for offside.
Asked if he thought it was going to be England's night after those escapes, Hart said: "I thought it was going to be our night whether those things didn't happen.
"I thought it was going to be our night because of the side we had, the heart we had, the quality we had, but unfortunately it wasn't to be, we didn't do well in the shoot-out, myself included."
The Manchester City custodian also admitted he was struggling to take many positives from the experience immediately after the match.
"I'd like to be optimistic now but that's not the feeling in my heart at the moment," he said. "I'm an emotional guy and I put everything I had into these past couple of weeks.
"I'm gutted for the people who paid money to come out here to support us and see us and for the people back home."
On how he will reflect back on the tournament overall, Hart added: "Right now, not well. We'll have to wait and see in a couple of days."
Hart may have been struggling for positives but Hodgson was optimistic about the future.
He said: "If this group of players continues to show the same degree of determination and the will to be a team, and to work hard as a team, we've got quality players to come into our squad who will obviously to add to the competition...I'm convinced it won't be that long before we beat a top nation in a competition.
"We had our chance today and we came close to taking it but not quite, but I think we've just got to keep building on what we've done in this tournament.
"We've got to make certain the good things that we've done remain and we've got to keep working on the aspects of our play where we could be a little bit better."
Wayne Rooney admitted "it was a horrible way to go out".
"We are all gutted," said Rooney.
"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."
Winger Theo Walcott could only express his sorrow.
"It's a very cruel way to go out in any competition but someone was going to go out and luck did not go our way," he said.
"The two Ashleys are strong enough lads to come back from this and the lads will be with them.
"They are two of the most experienced players in that dressing room and they will bounce back from this even better players.
"I do not worry about that at all.
"We have got to look forward to the future. It is going to be bright, I am sure of that.
"The World Cup qualifiers are going to be tough. We have to learn some lessons from tonight as that is important for the young players - me being one of them."
Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo could not disguise his happiness, though, as he looked ahead to Thursday's semi-final with Germany in Warsaw.
"I'm very happy to get the man-of-the-match award, but the most important thing is the side have gone through to the semi-finals," he said.
"We deserved to do so.
"Now we have a semi against Germany to come, and we're all hopeful of getting through right to the end of the tournament."
Cesare Prandelli admits Germany are "favourites" to win the semi-final after praising Italy's "deserved" win.
"We have played a great game," the Italy coach told Rai TV.
"We deserved the win. We were really good against a big team like England. Then, at penalties, what is also needed is luck.
"This evening we played with heart, character and ideas against a difficult side. I also want to underline the spirit we showed.
"Are Germany favourites for the semi-final? Absolutely yes, but now let's celebrate this win and then we will think about the semi-final."