ears rolled down the cheeks of Gianluigi Buffon but the legendary Italy 'keeper said there were "no regrets" despite the Azzurri missing a golden chance to beat Germany to a Euro 2016 semi-final spot on Saturday.
An emotional Buffon told media after Germany's 6-5 penalty shoot-out win in Bordeaux:
"The tears are for my disappointment. It was a magical experience that revived something in all of us and our fans, but it's come to an end."
"It's a shame. When a team (Germany) misses three penalties out of five and you still don't manage to win it becomes complicated. Sometimes it goes your way, other times it doesn't. But that's all a big part of sport, and you have to accept it."
We wanted to leave this tournament without any regrets and that's what we will do. We made our people proud and for this we can't be sorry.
After their quarter-final finished 1-1 in regulation time and neither team scored in extra-time, Italy's bid to put two forgettable World Cup campaigns behind only unravelled at a dramatic penalty shootout.
#Buffon: "Regrets can arrive when you feel you didn't give everything but that's not the case. We were a step away from a great feat."— Italy (@azzurri) July 2, 2016
It was Antonio Conte's last game as coach ahead of his move to Premier League giants Chelsea.
But Juventus goalkeeper Buffon, 38, indicated the defeat would not hasten his international retirement.
Buffon, who believes there is also a big future for Italy's young team, said:
"Personally, I'm fine. I still get fired up by these games and I feel that I've still got something to give to this squad. I'm happy and proud to have worked alongside this squad. They (Germany) deserved victory more than us, but this game will serve the lads well."
And Twitter was abuzz with tributes to how classy Buffon was and always has been:
Gianluigi Buffon has stated he will play for #ITA at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
He's not finished yet! pic.twitter.com/PBCUKnwo5L— FourFourTweet (@FourFourTweet) July 2, 2016
Monsieur Buffon✋🏻🇮🇹😬.July 2, 2016
Gianluigi Buffon: "After an evening like that there's nothing to blame yourself for. Just sorry to be going home." pic.twitter.com/ootpcnZdfZ— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) July 2, 2016
Italy has always been a tough rival. Tonight's match is totally tiring yet awesome. Hats off to #Buffon, one of the greatest GKs ever!— Miroslav Klose (@miroslavklose__) July 2, 2016
I really can't deal with Buffon in tears. pic.twitter.com/sBGWAUlVdv— Gaby McKay (@GabyMcKay) July 2, 2016
Gianluigi Buffon...July 3, 2016
Buffon, 38, not retiring, wants to play in 2018 WC.
Meanwhile, Messi, 29, retires after losing in Copa America... pic.twitter.com/eFSDxvdyPP— Coral (@Coral) July 3, 2016
With AFP inputs (Images: AFP)