England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce said the defeat by Holland on penalties in the European Championship semi-final was the proudest moment of his career.
Pearce wants to carry on as England Under-21s coach full time
With the score level at 1-1 after extra time, Pearce's youngsters went out after a dramatic match in Heerenveen.
"It was an incredible evening," stated Pearce after the 13-12 shoot-out loss.
"I get emotional about representing my country anyway but I told the guys it was the proudest moment in terms of achievement I've ever had in football."
With players forced to play on through injuries and another three knowing they would be suspended if England reached the final, Pearce's side battled their way to within sight of that showdown.
The shoot-outs I've been involved in as a player were five or six kicks so we were doing something right
He added: "They are crestfallen. They gave their lot emotionally and physically. They've sweated blood for the country and it was not quite good enough.
"You want to be out there, it's a small second best being a coach."
Before the amazing spot-kick shoot-out, Leroy Lita gave Pearce's youngsters a first-half lead and Maceo Rigters equalised with an 89th-minute scissor-kick.
Steven Taylor was injured in the build-up to Holland's goal - an ironic twist after the fall-out following England's goal in similar circumstances against Serbia.
But Pearce said: "The game carried on, we've got no complaints. The Dutch scored a goal fair and square."
With Taylor limping on and Nedum Onuoha helped off with an injury, England held on during the period of extra time.
"Whether I could have patched up a team for the final, I don't know," revealed Pearce.
"It would have been nice to go all the way but I'm not so sure we could have fielded a side."
Taylor had to take a penalty after the Dutch coach's intervention
He had no complaints about opposite number Foppe de Haan storming on to the pitch to tell the referee that Taylor had to take a penalty.
"When their coach raised the point, I was going to agree with him," said Pearce.
"It's the fairest way of doing it. It was the right and proper way to do it. The only thing it did was enhance the magnitude of Steven Taylor."
Pearce's side scored 12 out of 16 from the spot and the England coach felt they benefited from their daily practice sessions.
He added: "We were prepared, for weeks we were practising.
"The shoot-outs I've been involved in as a player were about five or six kicks so it's a step in the right direction."
Pearce will now assess his future and sit down with Football Association officials about the possibility of taking the England Under-21 position on a full-time basis.
"Whether it is me or someone else, there is a nucleus to take it forward," he stated. "It's down to the FA but I have enjoyed it immensely."