"We weren't good enough" was the brutally honest assessment of Keith Andrews after the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2012 dreams turned into a nightmare, writes Glenn Mason.
Italy's 2-0 win in Poznan saw Ireland finish with no points following comprehensive defeats in their previous two games to Croatia and Spain.
It was a miserable night for the midfielder as he was sent-off in the 89th minute for a second bookable offence, which he believes was harsh.
Andrews said: "It's been bitterly disappointing. We said before the tournament we wanted to give a good account of ourselves and there was no point coming for the craic. We said that after we qualified against Estonia.
"To be perfectly frank, we simply weren't good enough. We didn't play as well as we could have.
"We played against some fantastic opposition but the bottom line is we weren't good enough."
Ireland paid the price at this tournament for a lack of concentration and organisation at set-pieces, an area that had been their strong point in qualification. Conceding early goals in the opening two games put them on the back foot before they had time to settle.
Andrews said that while Ireland could not draw on the talent of their Group C opponents, they have also not done themselves justice.
"We weren't at the races certainly in the first game," he stated.
"The second game we have got to hold our hands up. We were playing against a fantastic side. No matter how well you play you are probably going to lose.
"Tonight we gave a better account of ourselves and put it to them a little bit more. We showed a bit more fight that you are used to seeing from us, but again we fell that little bit short."
Indeed, Ireland started brightly as Italy looked nervous with the pressure of needing victory weighing on them in the opening stages.
However, Ireland could not convert that positive start into meaningful chances and Italy passed their way back into the game, with goals from Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli sending them to the quarter-final.
Andrews said: "There was bit of spirit. We wanted to try to produce something. We've been disappointed with the first two games. We tried to give it our all.
"Obviously, they have got some fantastic individuals in possession. They kept it very well. I thought in the second half, in particular, we brought the game to them as much as we could and overall we might have deserved something out of the game.
"They kept the ball very well, but when we got bodies in around them and tried to squeeze them, press and harass them on the ball, we got a good bit of joy squeezing in the final third. We got a few chances from that and on another night we would have taken them."
Attention now turns to the 2014 World Cup campaign, which begins with a trip to Kazakhstan in September.
Several of this squad could be missing from that flight due to retirement, but Andrews hopes the players contemplating stepping aside remain on.
He said: "We are all bitterly disappointed. We need to regroup. Whoever is going to leave might leave. They will make up their own minds in their own time when they go back with their families and friends.
"The manager, I'm sure, will get a group together for the friendly in August going into the qualifiers in September.
"The lads have got so much quality about them. They have been fantastic servants. You see Duffer (Damien Duff) tonight with his 100th cap. They are absolute stalwarts of the team of the last ten or 12 years.
"On a personal note, I've really enjoyed playing with them so hopefully they don't, but it's their decision."
The Dubliner also defended his manager against criticism that he did not change the rigid 4-4-2 system to combat the talents of their group opponents.
Andrews said: "Let's be frank, we haven't qualified for this tournament for 24 years.
"It is easy to sit there and criticise a man who got us the qualification. He's not really going to change something that's brought us a lot of success over the last four years."