Roy Hodgson says he will "look back positively" on England's UEFA EURO 2012 campaign despite his side's quarter-final exit at the hands of Italy.
Flanked by his captain Steven Gerrard, the 64-year-old manager offered a detailed analysis of England's performance at the tournament and suggested the foundations have been laid for a promising international future.
"We've done well to get through the tournament without [Wayne] Rooney and without losing a match in normal time," said Hodgson, ahead of the squad's afternoon flight back to London. "We wanted it so badly and when your dreams are shattered, you can't put too positive a spin on it, but I suppose we'll look back positively on the way we've performed here."
Hodgson said England "tried to play quite positively" and dismissed concerns over their lack of possession. "The statistics that interest me are the ones showing how much possession you've had in the final third and the number of times teams get behind you in the final third."
Gerrard, meanwhile, conceded "the football hasn't been fantastic" but feels England gave a good account of themselves in Poland and Ukraine. "I think the supporters will be happy that we've played for the shirt," said the Liverpool FC midfielder. "We've given it a lot of effort and there was a lot of pride out there. If you think how far we've come since we met up four or five weeks ago, everyone has given it their best shot."
The 32-year-old, who revealed he will be staying on as England captain following talks with Hodgson, said he was "reasonably happy" with his own displays at the tournament but admitted that was no consolation for the heartbreak of another penalty shoot-out defeat: "It's frustrating and disappointing because we came to close to ending that quarter-final hoodoo."
Hodgson hinted England's poor record at penalties was exacerbating the situation for future generations, but argued no amount of training could have altered the outcome of the spot-kick lottery.
"What can possibly prepare you for those sorts of situations?" he asked. "We practised, we talked about it, we did all the things we could possibly do from a professional point of view, but it still doesn't change the fact that [Andrea] Pirlo has the infernal confidence to do a 'Panenka' chip over the goalkeeper. Our players were desperately trying to do the penalties that we'd practised and unfortunately it didn't come off."
Hodgson said the five weeks he has spent with the squad have proven "invaluable" in terms of getting to know his players, while the more experienced heads in the squad, particularly Gerrard and John Terry, were a "big, big help" in the dressing room. Wayne Rooney also "spent a lot of time talking to the younger players in the team", the likes of which have given Hodgson every reason to be positive about the future.
"I think there are some very good young players coming through and doing well at Under-21 level," he added. "It'll be interesting to see how we do at the Olympics. There are younger players breaking into teams – we've had a couple of them here. We'd have had even more had it not been for injuries, so we have to be optimistic and we have to believe."
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