London: Britain's newspapers on Monday lamented England's defeat on penalties to Italy in their Euro 2012 quarter-final - but they agreed that the better side had won.
"A beginning, a muddle and an end: an ordinary team bows out," said the Times' Simon Barnes.
Barnes bemoaned the "dreadful inevitability" of England's departure on penalties - they have now lost six out of seven shoot-outs at major tournaments - and the gulf in class between the two teams.
England started the match brightly but a combination of tiredness and relentless probing by Italian playmaker Andrea Pirlo meant they were grateful to reach penalties.
The Daily Telegraph argued that for all their endeavour, England's players would be acutely aware of how far they remain behind the world's elite.
"Italy, and Andrea Pirlo in particular, were vastly superior," said the broadsheet.
"This is not simply the extension of a curse. This was a problem with a footballing culture."
And The Guardian wrote: "There will be many regrets at what might have been after the resilient, disciplined and very occasionally exuberant victories against Sweden and Ukraine."
Pre-tournament expectations were at an all-time low with a late change in manager and a crippling injury list overshadowing preparations, the paper noted.
However, the unity shown in qualifying from a tough group meant fans could feel better about the tournament than the disastrous World Cup 2010 campaign, the papers argued.
Popular tabloid The Sun meanwhile hoped humour would ease the Monday-morning blues.
"Anyone for Tennis?", it asked: Wimbledon starts on Monday.