England glee proves why Liverpool fans revelled in Champions League run
Following much optimism and tremendous hoopla after years of not getting anywhere in the biggest tournament they can compete in, England finally succumbed to defeat in an Eastern European capital.
Liverpool fans know the feeling, but they couldn't bank on the nation telling them that they'd overachieved, that even reaching the Champions League final indicated a brighter future.
Generally, few "neutrals" could rein in their glee at the outcome. Any attempt to put the Reds' European campaign into perspective -- no one predicted they would get that far -- was greeted with hilarity.
It therefore feels like fair game when some Liverpool supporters reacted in kind at the fall of brave Gareth Southgate and his happy band of gallant young warriors.
So much for the whole nation rallying round the team. It was a waste of breath trying to explain the difference between club and international football, but in all of the comparisons one difference was ignored.
England haven't been at this stage of a tournament for 22 years. That's an awfully long drought and the nation's giddiness, though irksome and bordering on xenophobic at times, was understandable.
Obviously club rivalries played a major part in the reaction to Liverpool's defeat at the hands of Real Madrid on May 26. It isn't just important that your own club wins, but that rivals also lose. If it's in an ignominious fashion, so much the better.
Gary Neville felt euphoric enough to rewrite an Anfield song, but his new-found lyrical skills unsurprisingly deserted him when England were coming home, not with football but with nothing.
Liverpool's situation is slightly different. Reaching the last four of a cup is routine for the Reds, even in an era where they are said to be struggling.
They've featured in 10 semifinals during the last 12 years. What's troubling is that they've only won one of those cups, and have second in the league only twice during that time.
Getting the job done has become Liverpool's biggest headache of modern times. While it would be incredibly churlish not to feel happy and optimistic after reaching a first Champions League final since 2007, defeat just extended a dry spell that doesn't keep with a club claiming to be one of the biggest in the world.
Progress is always to be applauded. If Liverpool fans felt their team should have got more respect in May, they at least knew they were getting under others' skins. Their club was back in the big time, and there was widespread concern bordering on fear that they'd win their sixth European Cup.
It's a stretch, but that fear is a backhanded mark of respect and the subsequent glee entirely fuelled by relief at the outcome. The question always asked at such moments: Are Liverpool back for good -- or is this yet another false dawn?
Of course it's great to get so far in the Champions League, as well as qualify for it again. It isn't merely rationalisation to enjoy it. Silverware isn't the only indicator of success, but at this elevated level it pays not to push that angle too hard for too long.
Liverpool have forgotten how to win trophies. Doing so elevates you above any petty jealousy. Rivals can say whatever they want, then.
Sergio Ramos must have heard all manners of abuse during his career but there he was holding the European Cup aloft. Again. Think he's bothered what people call him, or that people revelled in his tears after Spain's departure from Russia?
For any major footballer or club, trophies are the determinant factor in where you stand in the game. Progress is good, but in a way it can be skewed by how far you'd fallen in the first place.
England's recent tournament record has been atrocious; no wonder their fans got carried away this time.
Jurgen Klopp has got Liverpool playing great football. He's reached three finals, qualified for the Champions League two years in a row and seemingly ended the club's appalling record in the transfer market.
His team scored 135 goals last season. Only one Liverpool side in history has ever scored more. There is much to be optimistic about and thankful for, but like all big clubs it cannot simply rest there.
Year by year, the bar rises and the pressure must be unbearable sometimes. It's possible for a team to not win anything and still be idolised. Everyone remembers and reveres the 1974 Netherlands side far more than their eventual World Cup conquerors, West Germany.
The romantic subplot of a team with a "fatal flaw," forever doomed to be unlucky, is embellished by the Dutch still never having won it.
A club like Liverpool, with its great success in the past, can't ever go along that route. There can be a satisfaction beyond the winning of trophies, but at this level it can only ever be a temporary reprieve.