England's World Cup dream ended in Moscow on Wednesday. Mario Manzukic pounced on a lapse in concentration from John Stones to send Croatia into the final and England not quite home but to a third/fourth place playoff.
Usually when England exit a tournament 'Flops' is the most common word running through the headlines. Not so this morning - 'Heroes' and 'Brave' are the descriptions used. A common theme running through the reaction to last night's defeat is one of hope for the future.
In The Daily Mail, Martin Samuel said there was no shame for England.
"Yet England were, in many ways, the best team here. Not in football terms, or technical terms. No one is claiming England are better than France, or Croatia, the finalists, even Belgium or Brazil. The result does not lie.
"But as a team, a band of brothers, a group of players amounting to more than the sum of their parts, England were outstanding. So there is no shame here, no failure. England did as well as could possibly be expected given their youth, inexperience and the absence of a marquee midfielder like Modric.
"Southgate has done an exceptional job and the national team should be his to mould for another four years at least. He deserves that, and so does this team, loyal to a fault.
"Anyone who thinks England were simply fortunate doesn't know football. This game was the proof of it. The teams battled to a standstill, both exhausted, all energy and emotion spent. They could not have given more, either of them and that a single goal separated them was fitting."
The Daily Mail
Paul Hayward of The Telegraph said there are only positives to be taken from this World Cup.
Then you turn to the culture change: to possession football (which fell apart, admittedly, after half-time), to boldness, and togetherness, laced with modesty and a refusal to be weighed down by the past. History is still there, lurking in the shadows. England have lost four of their five semi-finals in tournaments, reaching only one final since they joined the World Cup party in 1950. So this story runs from 1950 to 2018, not from 1966, as people often say. But to hold this against Gareth Southgate and his young squad would be cruel and destructive. The gains are there to be counted.
The Daily Telegraph
In The Guardian, Barney Ronay spoke of the hope England's journey has given to the country's youth.
It is hard not to feel part of the enthusiasm for this team comes from a feeling of relief. A lot of young English people have been told for the last few years that times are hard, that their lives are set one way and that things were always, always better in the past.
Watching this England team – and yes, it is of course just a football team – has seemed to provide a different kind of script. A young, unheralded bunch of players have gone further than those before who were more obviously talented, more golden, more authentic, finding ways to succeed through teamwork and energy and a refusal to be cowed.
It is hopeful to see this, to look at Alli or Harry Maguire or Jordan Pickford and say, well, people told them that they probably couldn’t do it either.
In The Times, Matt Dickinson writes of an England team ultimately short on quality but also one which still has a bright future.
This was one of those “oh-so-near” moments they sing about in Three Lions. Against all odds, it really was. We have spent the past four weeks wondering, through victories over a modest group of opponents in Tunisia, Panama, Colombia and Sweden, just how good this England team really are. Last night we got the answer that, deep down, most of us suspected: good but not quite good enough to pull off the minor miracle that they had the nation dreaming about. This is not a time to decry inadequacies, but ultimately there was not quite the quality that you need when competing in a semi-final against a team as strong as Croatia.
What is certain, though, is that England have a far stronger team and a brighter future than was previously imagined.
The Daily Mirror's John Cross called it a missed opportunity.
In the end, it finished in agony and heartbreak.
"A torturous night when England threw away the opportunity of a lifetime and it could end up haunting this generation for the rest of the careers.
"You do not get many chances to reach a World Cup final and, as good and as uplifting as this journey has been, it will not ease the pain of what might have been.
"We can only hope the players will not be scarred by the devastation of defeat when they should remember the best of times from this wonderful adventure as a life building experience."