By Mike Collett
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 21 (Reuters) - England players Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart said on Saturday they were devastated by England's early elimination from the World Cup and apologised to the country for their failure.
England exited the finals at the group stage for the first time since 1958 after losing to Italy and Uruguay, their fate sealed when Costa Rica beat the Italians on Friday to ensure Roy Hodgson's side could not make the top two spots in Group D.
The squad will fly home immediately after they play Costa Rica in their last game in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.
Forward Rooney, who never appears that jolly at the best of times, looked even more bleak when he spoke to reporters at England's training base in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain.
"Obviously we are hurting to be out of the tournament. It is tough. We have a long few days ahead of us right now. We just want to go out and win the last game (against Costa Rica) on Tuesday, but right now it's not a great feeling," he said.
"The fans have been incredible to us. They have come a long way, it's not the easiest place to come to, and they have stayed up late back home watching the games, kid's staying up and we really appreciate the effort they have made and we are sorry for not going through," added the 28-year-old.
"We've dedicated our lives to this tournament and unfortunately we haven't succeeded. But hopefully in the future we can give them something to smile about."
Rooney scored his 40th goal for England against Uruguay - his first in a World Cup - but said he would not have fond memories of it because England lost.
"It was nice to score a goal in the World Cup, but in the end it means nothing because we are out of tournament and the England team is much bigger than just Wayne Rooney," he said.
Goalkeeper Hart said this was the lowest point of his playing career.
"It is a really strange empty feeling. I have put everything I have into this tournament, but this is ultimately pretty cruel and it is gutting for me," he said.
"But we'd like to thank all the fans for making it out to Brazil.
"It was hard enough for us to get to the games and look how well treated we are, so I can't imagine what some people have been through and what sacrifices they have made to make their presence felt at the games.
"We are well aware that people have changed their work times, stayed up late, kids have stayed up past their bed times to watch us. It meant everything to us and we can only apologise that we are not going further in the tournament.
"But we haven't left anything on the field, we have given everything to win and just not quite been up to it when required."
Both players agreed Hodgson was the right man to take England forward in the Euro 2016 qualifiers starting in September.
"What he has put in place makes him the right man," Rooney said. "There is great enthusiasm with young exciting players and we has changed the way we play even though the results have been disappointing."
The only bright moment of a sombre news conference came when Hart was asked what lessons England could learn from their campaign.
"Win your first two games if you want to stay in the tournament," he half-joked with an ironic smile. (Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Ken Ferris)