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Euro 2012: England can 'hold our heads high' despite penalty exit, claims Wayne Rooney

Striker admits players are 'gutted' after failing to get past Italy, but backs young stars to shine at World Cup 2014.

Alessandro Diamanti celebrates scoring the winning penalty against England
Alessandro Diamanti celebrates scoring the winning penalty against England

Wayne Rooney believes England's players can hold their heads high despite suffering another penalty heartache to bring their Euro 2012 dreams to an abrupt end.

For the sixth time, England crashed out of a tournament penalties, losing 4-2 to Italy after their quarter-final encounterhad finished goalless.

England had taken the lead in spot-kicks before Ashley Young and Ashley Cole failed with successive attempts, leaving Alessandro Diamanti to hammer home the winner.

"It was a horrible way to go out," said Rooney.

"We are all gutted.

"It was a tough game and we all worked hard, so to lose on penalties is a horrible feeling for everyone."

But he added: "We can hold our heads up high. There are a lot of young players in the squad and that will help them in next tournament."

Although manager Roy Hodgson was understandably disappointed at his team's plight, he could have few complaints.

Other than one Glen Johnson effort in the opening stages, England created barely a chance of note.

In contrast, Italy peppered the England goal at regular intervals and, in Andrea Pirlo, had the game's outstanding player.

"It's a sad moment," said Hodgson.

"It is always difficult after a defeat, but the support we received today was really quite incredible, from the first minute to the 120th.

"The mood back at home and the feeling we have being supported back here has made the defeat even harder.

"We so much wanted to stay on and give the fans a reward for the support they've given us.

"I couldn't ask any more than the players gave tonight. They gave their all.

"We have to accept we weren't quite good enough to win it over the 120 minutes and, in the shootout, we went down the same road we've been so many times before."

England were like walking wounded at the end, with Scott Parker's Achilles problem forcing him off during extra-time and Steven Gerrard battling to overcome cramp from before the end of the 90 minutes.

"We tried our best," said Hodgson.

"We worked as hard as we could and survived the cramps and the physical problems that one or two players suffered.

"We weren't playing for penalties but our defending was very resolute and we did very well, especially during the strong spell of pressure in the second half, to hold out and give ourselves a chance.

"Unfortunately it was a chance we couldn't take."

And so Hodgson was left to lament a lack of the composure from the spot so obviously shown by Pirlo, who chipped his effort in the calmest manner possible.

"It has become an obsession for us in English football," he said.

"They'd all done extremely well in practice.

"But you can't reproduce the tension, the occasion, the nervousness.

"This sort of cool, calculated way that Pirlo had to have the confidence to chip the goalkeeper - you either have that as a player or you don't, and no amount of coaching or training will help produce that."

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