In the wake of the 4-1 battering by Germany which brutally ended England's World Cup campaign, fans and the media alike are currently going through what might be termed the Five Stages of Football Grief.
First is the denial. This kicked in about 30 seconds after Frank Lampard's 'phantom goal' was missed by the match officials in Bloemfontein. "This can't be happening, we should be level!" we all shouted. This was surely denying the fact that had Germany taken all their chances, England would have been dead and buried and Lampard's shot would have been an irrelevance.
Second comes anger. Most of us are actually still there. Fingers are being pointed, voices are being raised. Former England midfielder Chris Waddle was magnificent on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday, practically foaming at the mouth at the final whistle.
The stages left to go are bargaining (probably concerning negotiating down Fabio Capello's inevitable £12m pay-off for the last two years of his contract), depression (for at least the next two years) and, eventually, acceptance - i.e. that England are not a team with a God-given right to reach the finals of major tournaments.
The thing about this World Cup exit is that it feels like a game-changer. In previous tournaments in my lifetime - France 1998, Euro 2004 spring to mind particularly - the England team have gone down in a blaze of glory, or at least have been able to blame others (match officials, winking Portuguese wingers) for defeat.
Now there is nowhere left to go. It has become obvious to all that systemic failings within the England team - perhaps even within English football - have contributed to the abject performances in South Africa. This is football grief at its most raw.
Everybody with a stake in English football is today pouring over the evidence in a bid to isolate the causes and suggest remedies. One of the most often-cited points is that England lack strength in depth, that going down to grass-roots level England does not have the coaching expertise to produce "quality" players.
It is a point that rankles (and not just because "quality" is a noun, not an adjective).
England's youth squads have been on an upward curve - the Under-21s reached the European Championship final last year, and the Under-17s went one better earlier this year, winning the trophy. With all the money sloshing around the Premier League, more and more potential players are being taken into professional academies and provided with access to coaching of the highest standard.
No, it's not that England don't produce "quality" - it's that we fail to recognise the "qualities" that make a top-class footballer. Intelligence, technique and discipline - in my view the hallmark of a good footballer - seem to have been thrown out of the window at the expense of pace, trickery (which are luxuries) and that truly nebulous term "spirit".
This last is epitomised by John Terry's performances in the last fortnight. If there is one thing Terry can't be criticised for it's his spirit, however grudgingly: one has to accept that the Chelsea captain wears his heart on his sleeve. He cares deeply. However, when England have had their backs to the wall, Terry has not provided the calming influence, nor the intelligence needed.
His desire to put his body on the line for England's cause masks errors. The now infamous attempt to block a Slovenian shot with his head during England's final group game is a prime example. Preventing the opposition from having a shot is far more important than throwing yourself haphazardly in the way of them. And Terry has lacked positional discipline, exposed so cruelly when he meandered upfield for a Lampard free kick with Germany leading 2-1, only for the Germans to counter, taking advantage of Terry's absence, to put the game beyond England.
Picking Terry out is unfair though. Some players apart - Milner and Barry would probably qualify for this in my book, though this is open to debate - every England player has suffered from similar tendencies in South Africa: and this, despite their apparent "world class" status.
If we learn one thing from the World Cup so far, it is that teams with an apparently limited supply of "quality" in playing staff can achieve more than the sum of their parts through intelligence, technique and discipline. New Zealand, Slovenia, Japan, perhaps even Uruguay, do not boast the talent pool which their World Cup performances would suggest. Instead, they have relied on good preparation, appropriate squad selections, some fine coaching and a few fine individuals - many of whom would fly below the radar in England.
The England's Under-21 team which lost to their German counterparts last year included the likes of Mark Noble, Fabrice Muamba, Lee Cattermole and Michael Mancienne. Yet none of these players would get a look-in for the World Cup. I seriously doubt that's because they are not "quality" players - more, it's because they don't fit the current paradigm of what a successful international player supposedly constitutes.
That needs to change. England have a wider talent pool than people give them credit for. Not only that, but as this tournament has proved, sometimes selecting the best individuals produces inferior performances than selecting the best "team" - by which I mean eleven players who co-operate and understand each other the best.
It's time for us to re-assess what makes a good England international. Is it purely about selecting the best eleven individuals and throwing them together? Or is it about finding players with the "qualities" to work together at international level? I think the evidence of Sunday's match against Germany suggests the latter route might be one worth taking in the next few years.