England heads home from Euro 2012 today with the familiar feeling of a penalty shootout loss at a major soccer tournament.
England was beaten 4-2 by Italy on spot kicks after the teams tied last night's quarterfinal match in Kiev 0-0 after 120 minutes. It was the sixth time in seven occasions England lost a shootout at a European Championship or World Cup.
"It's obviously a hard way to go out and it's happened too many times now," England striker Wayne Rooney told reporters. "Hopefully there's going to come a time when we win one."
Rooney and several teammates left the field distraught after giving up a one-goal advantage in the shootout when Ashley Young and Ashley Cole missed consecutive attempts, giving substitute Alessandro Diamanti the chance to send Italy into a semifinal against Germany in three days.
England's elimination comes after manager Roy Hodgson had five weeks to prepare his team for the 16-nation tournament following his May 1 appointment. His predecessor Fabio Capello quit following a disagreement with the Football Association over its decision to strip John Terry of the captaincy after he was accused of racially abusing another player.
England surprised even Hodgson by finishing atop its four- team group to set up a last-eight matchup with Italy, which finished second in Group C behind defending champion Spain.
After shutting out an Italian team that had 64 percent of the possession and a tournament-high 35 goal attempts, 20 of which were on target, England failed to take advantage by winning the penalty shootout.
"Our defending was very resolute and we did very well to hold out and give ourselves a chance," Hodgson, 64, said in a news conference. "But it was a chance we couldn't take."
Once England had secured a place in the knockout stages, Hodgson put on extra practice sessions to ensure his players were primed for penalties.
Still, hitting shots at goalkeeper Joe Hart at the team's base in Krakow, Poland, wasn't an exact reproduction of what they faced at Kiev's 65,000-seat Olympic Stadium.
"We've watched these players taking penalties in training because penalty taking has become a bit of an obsession for us in English football and they've done extremely well," Hodgson said. "But you can't reproduce the tension, you can't reproduce the occasion, you can't reproduce the nervousness."
England took a 2-1 lead after Rooney converted following Riccardo Montolivo's miss. Andrea Pirlo, a World Cup winner in 2006 and the man of the match last night, deftly chipped his penalty down the middle of the goal to tie it at 2-2.
Young smashed his shot against the crossbar and Antonio Nocerino scored to put Italy 3-2 up. Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon saved Cole's shot toward the bottom right and Diamanti fired his kick into the opposite corner before being mobbed by his teammates.
"The cool, calculating way that Pirlo had the confidence to chip the goalkeeper, that's something you either have or you don't," said Hodgson. "There's no amount of coaching or training that can reproduce that."
England's loss came exactly eight years after it was knocked out by Portugal on penalties in the quarterfinals of Euro 2004. It's only shootout success at a major tournament was against Spain in the last eight of Euro 1996.
Sepp Blatter, president of soccer's governing body FIFA, said May 25 that he wants to find an alternative to decide tied matches, saying that the sport "loses its essence" when penalties determine the winner.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said he concurred with Hodgson's assessment that penalties are "80 percent luck."
"Obviously some decisive players miss less because they have the right coolness and concentration and they're used to this type of pressure," Prandelli told reporters. "But yes, I agree with Roy Hodgson that luck is the most important thing."