IT is not spoken about in concrete terms. Rather like the sun, it is too imposing to look at directly.

"What do you think about Sunday?", "So... Sunday?" and "Dare I mention Sunday?" we ask with tentative metonymy.

Every English football fan has something to say, to share, to opine and to debate on about Sunday.

For on Sunday, the English national football team came the closest to winning a major tournament in 55 years only to be felled by an old foe. Not Scotland, nor Germany, but penalties.

After an impressive European Championship 2020 campaign, England drew 1-1 with one of the tournament’s favourites, Italy, before losing 3-2 in a rollercoaster of a penalty shootout.

It was the only loss the Three Lions suffered in seven games, which saw five clean sheets and giants Germany vanquished.

Luke Shaw gave England a dream start, drilling in a second-minute half-volley. Had it come too early? An out-of-sorts Italy did their best to allay English fears. But the visitors, ever more impressive in the second half, levelled to take the final to the dreaded spot kicks.

And though beaten, the battling Lions can be immensely proud of themselves, and we of them.

Here are six things we learnt.

1. Fortune smiled on Southgate - until the critical moment

Make no bones about it, Gareth Southgate is a fine coach and clearly an excellent man-manager. To chalk his successes up to luck is pure churlishness.

He is not, however, a brave coach, exemplified in his team selections throughout the competition, but vital goals from player-of-the-tournament contender Raheem Sterling pulled England along.

The draw itself was generous to England in the group stages and then placed them on the easier side of the knockout rounds.

What about the inexplicable miss from Germany’s Thomas Muller? Or Italian tormentor-in-chief Federico Chiesa having to leave the field in the final?

But when he brought on Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho in the dying stages of extra time, Southgate not only rolled the dice but he spun the roulette wheel and called “twist” while sat on 19 at the blackjack table. Brave? Perhaps. Foolishly reactionary? Yes.

2. Southgate deserves another chance...

His ultraconservative style infuriates. England set up not to lose, and attacking players like Jack Grealish and Phil Foden were too often deployed as delayed knee-jerk reactions rather than jewels in a front-line crown.

But twice he has led England out in a major tournament, and twice the nation has dreamed. That must count for something.

He seems a thoroughly decent chap too and is a grand sartorial ambassador for a country whose previous prominent representatives were topless louts (more on them in a bit).

If he can place more trust in his embarrassment of attacking riches, he has every chance of joining Alf Ramsey in the pantheon of English managers. And how will we know unless he takes the team to Qatar?

3. … they all do

There were question marks over the team selection, as there always are, but the England players acquitted themselves superbly.

Southgate has put together a team in his mould – just listen to Harry Kane or Bukayo Saka speak – and has them playing for him and each other. Case in point: the workmanlike first-half press which gave Italy no room to breathe.

The World Cup is only a year away. Even the oldest players in this youthful squad will have every chance of being on top form come next November (yes, this piece boldly presumes success in the qualifiers. Feel free to rip it up if that does not come to pass).

4. Watching England remains a seat-of-the-pants affair

Barring a criminally dull goalless draw with Scotland and easing to a 4-0 crushing of Ukraine, the Three Lions insist on making us sweat. There were three one-goal winning margins, a 2-0 victory over Germany that for the most part is only truly enjoyable in hindsight, two forays into extra time and a penalty shoot-out.

Small wonder the pub is the place to be.

5. England have some real talent at their disposal

Jordan Pickford has matured immeasurably. A keeper whose over-excitability has cost club side Everton on numerous occasions, he kept five clean sheets from seven games in the European competition. He has been seeing a sports psychologist, though his endearing hyperactivity is still there, viz. telling himself out loud “no problem” before pulling off an outstanding save against penalty maestro Jorginho to keep England’s hopes alive in the final’s shoot-out.

The outstanding ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice in midfield belied their respective ages with composed performances while left-back Luke Shaw – who was given a rough ride at Manchester United under Jose Mourinho – was outstanding going forward, with a hand in both goals against Germany and a thumping half-volley against Italy from a move he started.

The players who were left behind, like Mason Greenwood and Ben Godfrey, will only benefit from another year’s growth and surely be in with a shout of selection.

6. The tournament brought the best out of England

Rarely has there been such an eerie hush on the streets as there was on the night of July 11.

England mourned.

But from the darkness has come light.

Even before the final began a popular uprising against the louts (told you) whose mean-spirited fandom poisons the England well and the dog-whistle calls of politicians who gave tacit permission to those booing players taking the knee, despite it being gut-wrenchingly obvious that racism is still alive on the English terraces and on social media.

It did not take long after the final for all but the most boneheaded of supporters to put their collective arm around Rashford, Sancho and Saka, three exemplary young men whose penalty misses deserve to become footnotes in their careers. The messages of support left on the vandalised Rashford mural in Manchester are a signpost to where all our thoughts should be.

This England squad went toe-to-toe with some of the best in the world and did not look out of place. It is heartening to see that this is the overriding message coming home.