It was almost the end of 55 years of hurt for England, with Gareth Southgate coming a penalty shoot-out away from taking the Three Lions to their first major tournament win since the 1966 World Cup.
Then, as now, the tournament for England was played, mainly, at Wembley Stadium, and the further that England got into the tournament, the more that the ‘it’s coming home’ narrative fed into the nation’s consciousness.
However, three penalty misses from Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka put paid to their hopes and dreams.
Southgate could be seen consoling each player at the end of the game, just as Terry Venables had done when Southgate himself missed a spot-kick in the Euro 96 semi-final.
Indeed, the manager has been such a breath of fresh air, both in terms of his tactics and his demeanour, that calls for a knighthood still aren’t off the table.
“I like everyone else was disappointed by the result last night and congratulations to Italy,” health minister, Edward Argar, said on LBC, cited by the Evening Standard, in response to the question as to whether the manager was worthy of the title of Sir.
“But what I was not disappointed by was the fantastic performance of our national football team.
“A young team who have done so much and achieved so much to bring our nation together, to give us something to be positive about.”
“I was really sorry to see some of the disgusting online racist abuse that has been meted out to them, totally unacceptable, no place for that in our country or in our sport.
“But I like the rest of the nation share in the pride at our amazing football team and I’m sure that there will be many ways in which we can say thank you to them and recognise that and I suspect that will be looked at in the coming days.”
There isn’t likely to be too many dissenting voices should the government recommend one of the highest honours be bestowed upon Southgate.