England fans are collectively reeling from the same old punch that reliably returns once every four years.
For a brief moment, it looked like the road to the World Cup final was opening up for Gareth Southgate’s men and millions held their breath.
In the end, his injured Lions hobbled off the field wondering what could have been.
Fans across the country think the same after 90 minutes in which England were arguably the better team.
Perhaps for the first time under this manager, England really seemed to belong at the top and tied the world champions shot for shot.
And yet, it is France heading to a semi-final on Wednesday night as England fans wonder if they can get a Morocco shirt delivered in time.
Among the gutted but undeterred fans was Sir Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick as England won the 1966 World Cup final.
He tweeted: “Proud of every player and the way they played.
“Sometimes the heart just doesn’t get what it wants at night.”
The Prince of Wales was also watching. He wrote: ‘Gareth, Harry and all the England team and staff, gutted for you all.
“You have invested so much in this tournament and we are all so proud of you. Heads up and see you next!”
Former England international Gary Lineker said: “Again heartbreaking but no shame in losing to a great French side and congratulations to them.”
“There was so little choice between the two camps. This beautiful young team (from England) have given their all and will only get better. Their time will come.
Newcastle legend and former England striker Alan Shearer perhaps came closest to summing up the overwhelming mood of fans across the country.
He said: ‘2 decent sides. A missed pen. Thin margins. Shit happens. Well done France.
In terms of quality, tension and drama, the match had all the hallmarks of a final, even though it took place two games before the tournament decider.
England performed their main task of keeping French striker Kylian Mbappe quiet and young stars like Buyako Saka, Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice had their best games in England jerseys.
They fought their way back into the tie after being hammered against the run of play when a first-half shot from outside the box by Real Madrid’s Aurelien Tchouaméni snuck past.
A penalty from Harry Kane after a foul on Saka earned England a deserved equalizer before falling behind again to a header from Olivier Giroud, who capitalized on the first thing on the approach. a defensive slip.
England were given a lifeline when Mason Mount burst into the box and fans were already thinking about extra time when the captain stood up to take the penalty.
Any remaining belief that this could be England’s year seemed to follow the ball over the bar, over the pitch and into the stands when it was ignited by the usually reliable Kane and is never completely back.
England huffed and huffed in the remaining minutes and the fans dutifully did the same, but hope was quickly fading.
A free-kick from Marcus Rashford in the dying seconds on the edge of the box provided the last slim hope of coming back into the game.
The stage was set, the script was written, and you could hardly choose a kinder lead to take on the role of the knight in shining armor.
A great effort just missed – like England, just – just – not quite enough.
The manager, players and supporters will only have to wait 18 months for a chance at redemption and another chance at silverware.
Euro 2024 starts in Germany in 552 days and England starts again.
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