It’s the hope that kills you.
But at least Gareth Southgate’s bold, brave and brilliant England team have brought the hope back this summer – and then some.
There is little point deliberating over ifs and buts from that defeat.
Because remember the pits of Iceland just over two years ago?
And Brazil two years before that? Not to mention South Africa…
Gary Neville put it brilliantly in commentary, simply stating: “Previously there wasn’t a connection to the team. It was viewed with despair.”
We all have new heroes now – and from some of the most unlikely sources.
Kieran Trippier is only the third England player ever to score in a World Cup semi-final.
The others? Sir Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker.
Jordan Pickford will inspire a new generation of goalkeepers.
Harry Maguire’s head is now getting tattooed all over various body parts.
Harry Kane is going to win the Golden Boot at the biggest sporting tournament on the planet.
Each and everyone one of that 23-man squad and their progressive young manager has restored the pride in this country, uniting a nation while it’s being torn apart by its leaders.
Remember this was never meant to be their year. Never.
Sure the draw opened up, but on July 11 there were just three teams left in the World Cup and England were one of them.
Pickford, Marcus Rashford, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and co. will all be joined by the next generation who know how it feels to be world champions.
They’ll get their chance. An even better chance.
But for now let’s cherish the class of 2018.
Every single member of that squad was left in a miserable, inconsolable heap of limbs and tears after the final whistle.
The night before their Belgian counterparts looked scarcely bothered at all – as if a routine league game had just finished – as they suffered the same heartbreaking semi-final fate.
That desperate reaction from the England boys merely reiterates the connection they’ve established with their now adoring fans.
Kieran. Jordan. Raheem. Jesse. We salute the lot of you.
You’ve given us a last minute winner. A 6-1 drubbing. A penalty f***ing shootout victory.
Because it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Sure the World Cup may be heading to either France or Croatia, but football has already come home.