Captain Steven Gerrard insisted England's heartbroken players had done the country proud after their 4-2 penalty shootout defeat to Italy in the Euro 2012 quarter-final.
Roy Hodgson's dogged side rode their luck on several occasions but managed to hold on to a goalless draw at the end of 90 and then 120 minutes after extra-time.
And when Riccardo Montolivo missed from the spot during the shootout, England had the upper hand. But both Ashley Young and Ashley Cole missed to allow substitute Alessandro Diamanti to seal a semi-final berth against Germany.
Yet Gerrard paid tribute to England's battling players, who withstood heavy pressure throughout the match, and had to survive 36 shots on their goal.
"The players have given eveything. I thought we might have the luck in the penalty shootout this time but it wasn't to be," he told the BBC. "When you get your nose in front during a shootout, you just hope you can hang on but credit to Italy, they got the luck in the shootout.
"The lads at the back were fantastic, we have done the country proud but we go home heartbroken and that is hard to take."
Goalkeeper Joe Hart bemoaned his inability to stop any Italian penalties in the shootout - especially from team-mate Balotelli, who beat him with the first penalty of the game's final act.
"I went in confident we would win the game, I was required to step-up and didn't make the saves. They were superior in regards to chances, but we were very resolute and gave everything when defending.
"I face penalties against Mario Balotelli on the training ground and I felt confident, but he took a good penalty. Of course I expect to make saves, I feel like no-one can beat me.
"I'll take away the great way we qualified, we've lost at the end of the day, but I don't think anyone has let the country down and we have adapted well to the manager."
We have done the country proud but we go home heartbroken and that is hard to take Steven Gerrard
Wayne Rooney had a limited impact on the game and never quite looked match sharp but he said he was at a loss to explain why England can;t seem to triumph in a penalty shootout.
"We're gutted about it, people weren't expecting much this tournament but we've shown we are a good team," he said
"This experience will help the young players. I don't know why we can't win penalty shootouts, it's a hard way to go out and it's happened too many times now.
"There weren't that many chances in the game, apart from Balotelli at the start maybe, we defended well and hoped for a chance on the break."
Winger Theo Walcott insisted the tournament had demonstrated England had hope for the future as their attention now turns to their World Cup qualification campaign.
He added: "The Italians play great football and frustrated us going forward. It just wasn't meant to be and it's a cruel way to go out. The lads can be proud we got this far.
"Bring on the World Cup qualifiers now. We'll be much stronger next year. We couldn't get the goal at the start and Buffon made some world-class saves. We've had some luck, at times, but tonight, it didn't go our way.
"We didn't create that many chances. We always believed we could have gone further, we have to learn from this. It's such a shame we couldn't maintain that 20 minutes, but that's football.
"They are very strong characters and the lads will be with them if needed. Cole and Young will bounce back as even stronger players and we won't have to worry about them in the future."