Despite a heroic performance from Jordan Pickford, Marcus Rashford saw his penalty skim off the wrong side of the post, while both Jaden Sancho and Saka had their spot-kicks saved by the AC Milan keeper.
In the end it wasn’t to be for Gareth Southgate’s men. But they are a young team, and they will be back.
It had looked so promising.
England got off to the dream start when Luke Shaw put them in front after just two minutes.
The Manchester United full-back finished off a sumptuous move which he’d started, latching on to Kieran Trippier’s laser-guided cross to rifle the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma in the Italian goal.
England were dominant in the first half, and Italy rarely troubled them, aside from one moment of individual brilliance from the talismanic Juventus star Federico Chiesa, who brushed past Declan Rice and blasted past Jordan Pickford’s post.
Whatever Italy manager Roberto Mancini said at half-time clearly worked.
Italy emerged with renewed purpose, pegging England back and looking a lot more dangerous.
The pressure paid off midway through the second half.
In the midst of a stramash in the box following a corner, Marco Verratti snuck in at the far post and his header was tipped on to the post by Pickford, but Leonardo Bonucci swept home the rebound from a yard out.
England came back into it more as the game entered its closing minutes, but neither team seemed prepared to go all-out for the winner.
The teams could not be split in 30 minutes of extra-time. It was inevitable.
Penalty shoot-out drama
The penalty shoot-out was an emotional rollercoaster for the thousands in the stadium and the millions watching back home.
After assured finishes from Berardi and Harry Kane, Pickford saved Andrea Belotti’s penalty. Momentum to England.
Centre-halves Harry Maguire and Bonucci both converted their penalties with aplomb. But then it all went wrong.
Rashford, a hero both on and off the pitch this past year, sent Donnarumma the wrong way, but his effort went agonisingly wide.
Federico Bernardeschi put Italy 3-2 up as he went down the middle.
It looked to be game over when Jadon Sancho, another player brought on for the shoot-out, saw his effort saved.
But Jorginho, Chelsea’s penalty specialist, saw his effort saved by Pickford – with a little help from the post.
Up stepped 19-year-old Arsenal starlet Saka. Huge pressure, and a huge shame, as his effort was saved by the imperious Donnarumma.
England were within touching distance of their first major international honour since 1966.
It was not to be. Football’s not coming home. Not this time. Instead, it’s bound for Rome.