The 11th of July is not a good date for England to be playing big international tournament matches.  Just three years ago in Moscow, Gareth Southgate’s young side lost a World Cup semi final against Croatia. Fast forward to the same date in 2021 and another heart-breaking loss has befallen England, this time in the final of Euro 2020 against Italy – on penalties, of course.

The game itself was the usual tight and cagey affair that finals of international tournaments so often are. England had the better of the first half – the Italians dominated the second, and yet clear-cut chances were hardly in abundance. Extra time was relatively even, but by then the tiredness for both sides had started to creep in.

I’m not going to dissect the penalties, despite having my own views on what happened and who took the kicks. We should simply be proud of those who were selected to step up and accept that it didn’t quite go our way.

England should have done better to capitalise on the stunned Italians after we took the lead so early. England should have gone for the jugular and scored the second, instead of sitting back and trying to defend a lead for so long. Instead, they allowed the Italians to come back into the game in the second half. The equalising goal with three-quarters of the 90 minutes played was inevitable.

Positive changes should have been made earlier to turn the tide and allow England to get back on the ball and start taking the game to the Italians again. When they did eventually come it was too little too late.

Now is the time to reflect and build back up again. The potential is still there, and we must realise it.

This morning, rain is falling outside as I write this. It really sums up the mood of the nation the day after the night before. After the toughest of 18 months, victory at the Euros would have been absolutely fantastic for the nation – the perfect remedy.

Football may not have come home in the literal sense, but in other ways it did. Gareth’s young team wore the Three Lions on their shirt, expressed themselves and got our world in motion. They were on the ball and can be so proud of what they have achieved in uniting the nation and making sure that we never stop dreaming.

Whilst the sorrow is amplified and raw now, cast your mind back to Euro 2016, and the loss to Iceland. The lowest of the low in footballing terms for this country. Then the Allardyce scandal followed by the seemingly underwhelming appointment of Gareth Southgate. Yet here we are only a few short years later, hurting after a 4th place at the World Cup, 3rd at the Nations League and 2nd at the Euros. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what will hopefully come in Qatar next year.

Gareth may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as Atomic Kitten would say, he certainly has been the one – the one to steer this proud footballing nation to being back amongst the best in the world. After his personal pain in 1996, he has earned his redemption ten times over. He is certainly the perfect person to comfort Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka.

Speaking of those three, the abuse that I have witnessed on social media towards them today is disgusting and abhorrent. This is why our players take the knee. Those who have contributed to the horrific racist abuse are a disgrace and are no England supporter. They are the worst of the worst and should face consequences for your sickening actions. They do not represent England.

England is a green and pleasant land, full of wonderful and talented people, and vindaloo. We certainly ain’t no hooligans, but a stupid and ignorant minority are. In this country we have a football team that over this last month has made history. They themselves have made the good times we have all enjoyed, and for that we should be forever thankful. Thanks to them, Neil Diamond’s lyrics have been belted out around Wembley and the nation, and thanks to them we have finally had something to smile and cheer about.

After the Denmark win, I did honestly think that this was our time – more than any other time, this time. Of course, as we know, it wasn’t, and all my John Barnes-inspired rapping was to no avail and the years of hurt go on.

This England team will come again. So many of the squad are still so young and are yet to hit their peak. I firmly believe that England will have their moment in the near future, and football, in the literal sense, will come home. Surely, Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds will get the chance to change their lyrics eventually, and we will get our happy and glorious moment.

Daniel Wales – @danielwales023