Another international football tournament, and another early exit for the nation that invented the sport; the Guardian reports:
Stop all the clocks. Make alternative plans for final weekend. Remove the cautiously-hoisted George Cross flag from your passenger window. England are out of Euro 2012 after a defeat on penalties to Italy on a night of grand footballing drama in Kiev that was first explosive, then thumb-gnawingly attritional and finally rather desolate.If there is consolation for England it is that they have exceeded expectations in Ukraine: and here they played their part in an absorbing quarter final, capped by the operatic agony of a shoot-out to end a campaign serenaded right to the death by a wonderfully unrelenting band of England supporters inside the stadium.The end when it came was swift: with the match scoreless after 120 minutes Riccardo Montolivo missed an early penalty for Italy, only for Ashley Young to then miss for England too, before Ashley Cole's kick was saved, leaving Alessandro Diamanti to win it for Italy – which he did nervelessly.And so football may not be coming home, but England's footballers are, after a final trip back to Krakow to say farewell to a city that has proved a happy choice as team base. There will be many regrets at what might have been after the resilient, disciplined and very occasionally exuberant victories against Sweden and Ukraine. But then, this has turned out to be an unexpectedly uplifting tournament for England fans generally, fortified in advance by widespread rock-bottom expectations of a team stitched together in record time and depleted of key players.
Guardian writer Barney Ronay can paint this as a valiant performance by the English, but there's no escaping the fact that this was another bitter disappointment for the team and their supporters. A penalty ahead half-way through the shoot-out, they should have won, but they didn't. Ashley Young missed the target and Ashley Cole's penalty was saved, and that's all Italy needed to advance to a semi-final showdown with Germany.
It was a long time between Rugby World Cups for New Zealand; 24 years. But England's drought now stretches back to the World Cup on 1966; 46 years. England will celebrate like all get out when that drought finally ends, but in the meantime, it's deja-vu all over again.