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England's Wayne Rooney (left), Joe Hart (centre) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain leave the Team hotel yesterday in Krakow, Poland

England's Wayne Rooney (left), Joe Hart (centre) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain leave the Team hotel yesterday in Krakow, Poland

Owen Humphreys

KRAKOW, POLAND - JUNE 25:  England manager Roy Hodgson and captain Steven Gerrard arrive for a UEFA EURO 2012 press conference on June 25, 2012 in Krakow, Poland.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

KRAKOW, POLAND - JUNE 25: England manager Roy Hodgson and captain Steven Gerrard arrive for a UEFA EURO 2012 press conference on June 25, 2012 in Krakow, Poland. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Scott Heavey

KRAKOW, POLAND - JUNE 25:  England captain Steven Gerrard arrives for a UEFA EURO 2012 press conference on June 25, 2012 in Krakow, Poland.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

KRAKOW, POLAND - JUNE 25: England captain Steven Gerrard arrives for a UEFA EURO 2012 press conference on June 25, 2012 in Krakow, Poland. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Scott Heavey

KRAKOW, POLAND - JUNE 25:  England manager Roy Hodgson and captain Steven Gerrard arrive for a UEFA EURO 2012 press conference on June 25, 2012 in Krakow, Poland.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

KRAKOW, POLAND - JUNE 25: England manager Roy Hodgson and captain Steven Gerrard arrive for a UEFA EURO 2012 press conference on June 25, 2012 in Krakow, Poland. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Scott Heavey

England's Wayne Rooney (left), Joe Hart (centre) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain leave the Team hotel yesterday in Krakow, Poland

Justice was done in the end. England are out of Euro 2012 and deservedly so. Had they somehow made it into the semi-finals it would have gone down as one of the great swindles of our time.

Italy and the mercurial Andrea Pirlo outclassed Roy Hodgson's side for virtually all of the 120 minutes and eventually came good 4-2 in a thrilling penalty shoot-out.

Any other outcome would not have been right.

I thought the previous quarter-finals were one sided when Cristiano Ronaldo, sorry Portugal, beat the Czech Republic, Germany swept past Greece and Spain passed France into submission.

But this clash was in a different league. The gulf in class was wider than the Grand Canyon.

How it got to penalties was staggering. Italy should have had this one wrapped up in normal time with something to spare.

They got there in the end to emerge victorious, but Germany were also winners, and will enter the semi-final on Thursday much more refreshed than the boys in blue.

I guess, though, as long as Pirlo is playing for Italy they will have a chance.

The shoot-out summed him up — a class above anyone else on the field with that magical little chip down the middle into the net.

Pirlo would have looked foolish had his trick not come off, but appropriately, given his performance in the match, he ended up looking cooler than the Fonz.

He's 33 now and I wonder in all his years of playing has he enjoyed an easier big time match than he did last night.

I was under the impression that Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck were supposed to put the Juventus star under pressure.

They must have been handed an exclusion order to stay away before the first whistle because nobody went near him all night.

Given space Pirlo has the class to hurt you and he caused Hodgson's team pain time and time again.

If Italy's finishing had been as accurate as Pirlo's exquisite passing the Azzurri would have won 6-0.

It wasn't just Italy's waywardness in front of goal that kept England in it. There was the good fortune factor as well.

England rode their luck in the group stages, but the players must have been thinking about a night on the Vegas tables after the 120 minute scoreless draw with the Italians, who hit the post twice.

To be fair the magnificent defending of John Terry and to a lesser extent Glen Johnson plus a few decent saves from Joe Hart also helped send the game to penalties.

But Hart, despite much pre-match talk that he would be a shoot-out hero, didn't save any of the Italian strikes.

The one that was missed went wide.

The Chris Waddle and Gareth Southgate award this time for England went to Ashley Cole and Ashley Young. Don't think there will be too many parents calling new born boys Ashley this week somehow.

It was another exit from a tournament on penalties. But there was no hard luck story this time.

England were awful. In big games like this you look to big players but bar Chelsea skipper Terry, a one man wall, the top guns simply didn't perform.

Gerrard, outstanding in the tournament in the group stages, was largely ineffective apart from set pieces, Cole gave the ball away far too much and Rooney was so bad he made Robbie Keane's performances in the tournament look good.

And as for Young, even before his penalty miss, he was absolutely appalling.

Hodgson has been rightly praised for his substitutions in this tournament, but he made a blunder by not replacing the Manchester United winger.

So, Sir Alf Ramsey, Sir Bobby Robson and Terry Venables remain the only coaches to have taken England to a semi-final.

By the time the World Cup in Brazil comes around it will be 48 years of hurt.

For Italy, though, the dream lives on.

We should have known they would be in the mix. After all, they entered the tournament amid the backdrop of another match fixing scandal back home. It was the same in 1982 and 2006 and they won World Cups then.

I still fancy Germany to beat them, but you never know.

Belfast Telegraph