The countdown clock will now have to be reset for 2026.
It has been hanging there, hidden from public view, at England’s St George’s Park base for nine years – the timepiece that was set to hit zero with victory at the 2022 World Cup.
The clock was the direct result of former Football Association chairman Greg Dyke’s bold opening keynote address at London’s Millbank Tower in September 2013, when he set a much-derided goal of winning the tournament in Qatar.
In the end, England fell three wins short. Saturday’s quarter-final defeat against holders France ended their hopes.
But time does not stand still. When the dust settles, attention must turn to Euro 2024 in Germany before another World Cup, to be co-hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States.
So where do England stand as they look to end the cycle of disappointment and become winners at last?
England may have done better to reach the semi-final in Moscow in 2018 than they did here in Qatar but Gareth Southgate class of 2022 is unquestionably in much healthier shape for the future.
Six of the starting line-up that lost to Croatia four years ago were still in place against France – but there is a dash of youthful brilliance about England’s current team, which gives it far more room for development than the one that featured Dele Alli going into decline, Jesse Lingard and the veteran Ashley Young.
England’s young generation, barring the accidents or the unforeseen, will be getting to its peak at the next World Cup – and what a peak that promises to be.
Jude Bellingham, at just 19, is a future world star. He has already shown remarkable maturity for Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, has captained the Bundesliga giants, and was one of England’s standout performers here.
He is the ideal modern midfield player, with skill, grace, power and intelligence. Bellingham is a future England captain. When he becomes available in the transfer market, Europe’s elite will form an orderly queue.
Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka is just 21 and is well-versed in the fluctuating fortunes of international football having missed a penalty in the Euro 2020 final shootout loss to Italy at Wembley.
Not only does this outstanding young personality have strength of character, he also has glorious skill and an ability to express himself freely on the field.