The Back of the Net boys report on Italy's triumph over England
Plucky England saw their hopes and dreams crushed yet again by penalties, exiting Euro 2012 on penalties in a way that can only be thought of as heartbreakingly fair.
A characteristic performance of brave ineptitude saw England push Italy all the way, before suffering the unbearable torment of losing a match to a team who played much better than they did.
Having struck the woodwork twice and had a goal disallowed for offside in a game they dominated, the Azurri were successful with four of their five penalty attempts, leaving England to reflect on the gross justice that had befallen them.
Ã¢ÂÂNo team deserves to go out on penalties,Ã¢ÂÂ said England manager Roy Hodgson. Ã¢ÂÂExcept when theyÃ¢ÂÂve shown no capacity to pass the ball to a team-mate, only had 32% of the possession, and taken 27 fewer shots than their opponents. Then they probably do deserve it, to be honest.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂWe were second best in every single department,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted captain Steven Gerrard. Ã¢ÂÂSo to be second-best at penalties too just seems wrong. Italy were much the better side, so the fact that theyÃ¢ÂÂre going through instead of us is perverse.Ã¢ÂÂ
The result looks set to increase the calls for penalty shootouts to be abandoned in favour of an alternative tie-breaking method, such as a coin-toss, a dance-off, or by checking which team lies closer to the Greenwich Meridian.
Meanwhile, magnanimous Italy manager Cesare Prandelli was prepared to confess that his side were the recipients of a massive stroke of fairness.
Ã¢ÂÂPenalties are nothing but a contest of nerve and skill, removing any element of random chance,Ã¢ÂÂ he told FourFourTwo. Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs a complete lottery."
More match reports from Back of the Net:ESP 2-0 FRA: France fail to turn up, turn up, fail to turn up, loseGER 4-2 GRE: Germany put long-suffering fans through slight discomfort POR 1-0 CZE: Ronaldo: "Ronaldo? Ronaldo, Ronaldo. Ronaldo!"UKR 0-1 ENG: Oddly apportioned karmic refund sees England through