Before kick-off here, Gary Lineker walked down the steps of the top tier of the Luzhniki Stadium and took a photograph of the scene below.
It was understandable. It has been a long time since we have been here, a long time since we have felt what it feels like for much of the rest of the world.
International football. Glory, glamour, progress and hope. And now last-gasp pain but sweet pain nonetheless. Better to hurt than just feel numb.
The back page of the Daily Mail on Thursday, saluting the work of Gareth Southgate's England
England's Kieran Trippier opened the scoring against Croatia in the World Cup semi-final
The last time we were here -metaphorically speaking - Lineker was playing. Italy in 1990 was a summer that gave the English football fan something to love. A World Cup semi-final that ended in glorious, narrow defeat. It was enough.
that, with the exception of the 1996 European Championships played at
home, came regression, stagnation, anger and then something close to
The Premier League grew,
the lure of international football shrank and we ended up where we were a
month ago. The dawn of another World Cup where almost nothing was
expected of our team.
So, despite the dreadful disappointment of what was lost here, we must recognise where Gareth Southgate and his team have taken us and just how quickly.
A couple of months ago there was a debate on social media about England. Someone was saying that international football no longer mattered. The opposing view was that it did. But both protagonists had missed the point.
The truth is that football supporters in England hadn't grown tired of international games. They had grown tired of boring international games that never took us anywhere.
Before kick-off, Gary Lineker took a photo of the unfolding scene at the Luzhniki Stadium
The last time England were in a World Cup semi-final was in 1990 and Lineker was playing
That was the key point. That is what had caused the disconnect between England players and the public and it is this that Southgate and his team have fixed so quickly here in Russia.
In England we had become so used to our players shrinking in major tournaments that it has been uplifting to see them grow in to this one. England will not be in the final and that will hurt for a while. But they came mighty close and ultimately that should sustain us.
As England walked on to the field on Wednesday night, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford pumped his fist three times. It seemed deliberate, a signal. At the age of 24, he was ready and this is a group of players that will leave this tournament as better players and more confident people.
We must recognise where Gareth Southgate and his team have taken us and just how quickly
Their clubs will benefit from this when they play in Europe, the Premier League will benefit and, down the line, so should the national team.
We have probably not been able to say that since that tournament Lineker graced in 1990.
Michael Owen left France '98 with reputation enhanced and Wayne Rooney came of age in Portugal in 2004 but these were just flickers in the dark. This, on the other hand, has felt like a sea change and the timing is perfect.
The next European Championships will be preceded by a domestic winter break and will be played, at least in part, at home.
So not only do we have a bright manager and and emerging team, we have a platform for further improvement.
England fans had grown tired of boring international games that never took us anywhere
England were terrific in spells here. Quick, purposeful and hungry. They probably should have sealed the game during a period of dominance in the first half. Ultimately, concentration lapses cost them and we can forgive them that.
Previously in Russia they had carried some luck. An easy group, a straight forward path to the last four and a shoot-out win against Colombia that could easily have gone the other way had their opponents not lost their nerve.
But the important part of that is that Southgate's players have used those moments of fortune as stepping stones. England are probably not among the six best teams that started out in this tournament but there has been gradual progress and a change of tone and that is what matters.
The late Jimmy Armfield - veteran of two World Cups - used to say that it was important that players were 'good tourists'. They needed to be capable of thriving in the peculiar environs of a long trip away from home.
Southgate's Three Lions beat Colombia on penalties on their way to last four of the World Cup
What Jimmy should also have acknowledged is the role of the manager in that. It is he who sets the tone and undoubtedly Southgate has provided an atmosphere in which his players have felt comfortable.
On Wednesday night the English brought sound and colour to the Luzhniki. England supporters have enjoyed themselves here over the last four weeks and many of them have travelled far enough and spent enough in return for very little over the years to be able to say they deserve it.
That particular bunch - the members of the England Travel Club - never gave up on their team and neither, really, did the rest of us. We were just waiting for them to wake up.
England fans have enjoyed themselves at the World Cup in Russia over the last few weeks