England's World Cup dreams were shattered on Wednesday with a 2-1 loss to Croatia in the semifinals. When player Kieran Trippier scored an early goal against Croatia in the first quarter, in fact, crowds of England fans erupted in raucous joy.
This was only Croatia's second ever World Cup semi-final after defeat in 1998 to France and it is France they will face on Sunday in Moscow.
As England stalled it was Croatia who produced the powerful late surge to win through goals from Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic, showing strength nearly beyond reason given their World Cup exertions.
England's chances of advancing still seemed decent enough as long as the score remained deadlocked.
"Heartbreak": The i Paper leads with an image of a dejected Harry Kane at the end of a semifinal that "started so well" only to end "in gut-wrenching despair" and concurs that England will "still return as heroes". And it nearly happened early in the extra session when John Stones rose to meet a corner kick, only for Vrsaljko to clear the goal-bound header off the line.
Even in penalties, you wouldn't have counted this England team out.
"I don't think when people look at the experience and last 18 months, that people expected us to be in a semi-final of the World Cup". Croatia deserved the victory.
Croatia's strength clearly lies in the central-midfield department that includes Real's Luka Modric and Barca's Ivan Rakitic.
"It's going to hurt for a while", captain Kane said afterward. In big games it's small margins. "I reckon there's a lot we could've done better". Look at the other teams they'll be up against.
"Having said that, what I will say is that I am remarkably proud of the group of players that have really advanced". They were a joy to watch.
Vida had on Sunday said that the "glory to Ukraine" video he posted after his team beat Russian Federation on penalties in the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday night was not a political message.
England faltered at that third hurdle with a World Cup final beckoning - the good work undone by exhausted legs and perhaps a withdrawal of ambition to protect a precious lead.
While Belgium beat favourites Brazil only to be unseated by France in the semi-final, England's opponents were Colombia, Sweden and Croatia - not easy but unquestionably more manageable.