After England's latest tournament failure, I analyse what went wrong and how things may be better in the future.
SO ENGLAND are not good enough. Well there's a surprise. Despite winning what appeared to be, on paper at least, a tough group, we should have known that when it came down to it, when it really mattered, we would come up short. Again.
But the truth is we probably got about as far as we could reasonably have hoped to with the squad we had. The only criticism you could aim at Roy Hodgson was that he was far too negative. Not losing appeared to be more important than winning, and it was that negativity that ultimately cost us the chance of reaching the last four.
Let's be honest, Italy were beatable. They arrived at the tournament on the back of a poor run of form, and it was only a nervy win over the Irish, the weakest side in the competition, that sent them into the quarter finals at the expense of Croatia.
Yet despite all this we went into the match with the same phlegmatic approach we had in our previous games. In fact the only time we have shown any real ambition under Hodgson was after going behind against Sweden.
Of course those tactics had worked well enough in the other matches but this was not the group stage. It was winner-takes-all, and over the 120 minutes we were clearly second best.
Despite this, however, I was confident we would win the shoot-out. All our previous exits on penalties had come after really good performances. The two semi finals defeats at the hands of the Germans - in 1990 and 1996 - were probably the best two displays I have ever seen from an England side.
We deserved to beat Argentina in 1998, while the two defeats to Portugal in 2004 and 2006 were both very unfortunate. Ironically our only shoot-out success had come after a drab 0-0 with Spain at Euro 96 so I felt perhaps history was on our side. But it was not to be.
Unlike previous exits, however, I was not upset or angry this time. No. Just disappointed. Disappointed we did not go for it a bit more.
You could tell by Hodgson's team selection, the same side that had laboured to victory over Ukraine, that he was content to sit back, trying to nick a goal on the break. But the longer the match went on the more we seemed to be simply holding on for penalties. Strange for a country with such poor a record in shoot-outs.
I don't buy into the fact that we defended particularly well either. Italy were afforded several good chances over the 120 minutes and with better finishing they would have won comfortably.
I do not feel Hogdson utilised his squad particularly well either. He simply stuck with the same players in every match, like he did not trust the others. His insistence in perservering with James Milner and Ashley Young, despite neither having a good tournament, was baffling, especially as we had more dynamic alternatives on the bench. And Rooney? Well perhaps we would have been better keeping him at home...
But in all fairness to Hodgson, he only came into the job three weeks before the tournament started and did not have enough time to adequately prepare. He did the right thing by building from the back, making us organised and difficult to beat, so I have no doubt we will improve over the next couple of years.
Therefore I am not going be too critical. The team did as well as could be expected - even if the performances were not great - but there are several positives we can take from the whole experience.
Andy Carroll, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all did their long-term prospects no harm what-so-ever, while Steven Gerrard proved himself to be a very good captain. Meanwhile, in Joe Hart we have a goalkeeper as good as any in the World.
We also have a some good players ready to burst onto the international scene. Jack Wilshere will surely be a main-stay in midfield for years to come, while others like Daniel Sturridge, Jack Rodwell and Connor Wickham offer hope for the future.
So while we looked as far away as ever from competing with the very best in Ukraine, there is at least a chink of light. Plus, in Hodgson I believe we have the right man to take us forward. But I guess only time will tell.