England had sweated blood during the 120 minutes of their Fifa World Cup semi-final at Italia '90 before going down on penalties to Germany in Turin. A combination of Peter Shilton's haphazard penalty technique and Stuart Peace and Chris Waddle's askew radar meant Sir Bobby Robson's team were cruelly denied a place in the final they would surely have won against hosts Italy.
Following the first bout of spot-kick heartbreak, striker Gary Lineker put England's sporting endeavour in perspective. "Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win." Paul Gascoigne's tears, David Platt's swivel and Robson's jig were consigned to irrelevance; destiny had already decided that England would lose to the major tournament results factory.
In tennis, matches against world number-one Novak Djokovic are starting to be attached with a similar inevitability. At the ATP World Tour Finals, the planet's top eight players hit the ball over a net across eight days and at the end, the Serbian won for a fourth year in a row. It was an all-too familiar tale for a sport which has had the life squeezed out of it by Djokovic, who won 11 titles in 2015 including three grand slams.
Such was the success of the now 10-time major champion that the achievements of Serena Williams, who fell agonisingly short of winning all four grand slams in the women's game, is a mere footnote below the dominant figure that is Djokovic. The 28-year-old is certainly not the most popular, talented, charismatic or good looking player in tennis history, but he is starting to build a body of work to rival and eclipse many who have gone before.
Like every champion thoroughbred, when the prizes were being handed out on the ATP tour, Djokovic was never far away from the action. From 16 major tournaments entered during 2015, the Serb failed to reach the final just once; Ivo Karlovic was the only player to oust him prior to the sharp end of a tournament in Qatar before the season had barely begun.
Djokovic may not possess the affable personality that 24/7 media scrutiny demands him to have, but when it comes to sporting application, prowess and commitment, there are few in the world who can match him. At the US Open he was shamefully jeered as he romped to victory over Roger Federer, with an ignorant crowd overlooking his status as a fine champion to instead judge a popularity pageant.
Sections of the quarter of a million people to come through the doors at the O2 Arena last week often flirting with repeating such a reception towards one of the great champions of world sport. Michael Schumacher and Tiger Woods may have been lambasted for their manner and demeanour, but their brilliance was never challenged. Why should Novak be treated any differently?
Tennis media are given unparalleled access to the best players in the world and though post-match press conferences can very often involve repetitive questioning, a player can sometimes reveal himself. Questioned about the Syrian refugee crisis, Djokovic – though not adverse to subjects of humanitarianism – gave the most thorough and honest answer of the week paying tribute to Serbians who had opened their doors to those fleeing. And he gives out chocolate. Some bore.
To those who choose to criticise an era where Djokovic is dominating beyond all recognition, it shows a depth of character to the number-one player, who is also father to son Stefan who is barely 13 months old. So don't miss the opportunity to herald Djokovic for what he is, we miss our greatest champions when they are gone.