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‘I can now go to my grave happy’: England fans in raptures

Football might just be coming home. Even Prince William thinks so. A young, unfancied England team reached the semi-final of the World Cup yesterday, with a two-nil victory that sent a nation into a collective frenzy.

At the final whistle, Gareth Southgate, normally mild-mannered, walked on to the pitch and roared his approval to 5,000 England fans who roared back.

Up and down the country, millions of fans back home danced, jumped and screamed with joy.

In the Samara Arena, the dedicated following refused to leave, not quite believing what the side, the most inexperienced left in the competition, had achieved.

An hour later when fans were still in the stadium and singing their hearts out, Southgate returned to the pitch and waved his arms as if conducting an orchestra. The crowd loves the manager and he adores them.

Supporters could be excused the wild celebrations. The last time England reached the last four of a World Cup, their heroes in the win over Sweden – goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and goalscorers Harry Maguire and Dele Alli – weren’t even born.

England manager Gareth Southgate

Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Southgate urged the nation to coninture the party. “We will enjoy tonight, I hope everybody at home enjoys tonight because as we know, it is not very often that it has happened,” he said, well aware his team is making history.

“The country going to the semifinal is an amazing feeling,” said Alli, 22, “we owed it to the fans back at home. We see how they have all been supporting us and believing in us.”

Pickford, 24, also praised the support, both in Samara and the millions at home. “England fans are a different class,” he said, “When the fans are like that, it makes us even better and so much more relaxed.

“We can go and create our own history, but… it is not going to be easy, but we will work hard enough and our ability should show.”

Maguire said simply: “You can’t get better than that.”

The support is coming not just from fans in pubs, at home and on the terraces.

Jordan Pickford partner, Megan Davison, inside the stadium before the match


The Duke of Cambridge, president of the Football Association, posted on Twitter: “You wanted to make history @England and you are doing just that. This has been an incredible #WorldCup run and we’ve enjoyed every minute. You deserve this moment – Football’s Coming Home! W”

Meanwhile Prime Minister Theresa May, in need of good news, declared: “Huge congratulations to Gareth Southgate and his team. Another excellent win to make the whole country proud.”

The Prime Minister also hinted that the boycott on ministers and royals attending the World Cup in Russia could be eased if England make the final.

Asked whether the position could change she said “we take this every game at a time” but the Government had been “very clear” about why the decision was taken.

England had been comfortable after a headed goal that settled nerves in the 31st minutes by Leicester City’s Harry Maguire, a hitherto near unknown footballer who is rapidly becoming the housewives’ favourite.

Britain’s deputy ambassador Lindsay Skoll, a 47-year-old mother had already declared that she “loves Harry Maguire” and his “boyish” looks.

The game was sealed with another headed goal from Alli after 58 minutes while in between Pickford, the penalty hero from the game against Colombia, made four spectacular saves in front of a 45,000 crowd.

England supporters in London 

REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Back in England, the nation sweltered and swooned in near record temperatures, enjoying pre and post game barbecues that had seen supermarket sales rocket and roads emptied by kickoff.

For the first time in this World Cup, England fans outnumbered the opposition supporters, by about three-to-one, outsinging and outchanting them too.

For an hour afterwards, they stood in the stands singing “we don’t want to go home”. Supporters had dreaded coming to Russia, fearful of violence and with relations between the countries at a new low after the nerve agent attack on a Russian spy in Salisbury in March. Now fans don’t want to leave.

“This is the biggest victory since ’66. I say that because I have never been to a semi or a final,” said Darren Hurst, 54, a council sweeper, of Derby, “It is football heaven. My dad Les, who died three years ago from cancer, told me all about the 1966 final and I can now go to my grave happy that we have got all the way to a semi-final. I really do think we are going to do it this time.”

England fans enjoy the pre match atmosphere in Samara 

Alex Morton/Getty Images

Roy Hallett, 53, a railway worker who had made a 48-hour dash to Samara with his 25-year-old son. “This was more enjoyable than usual. We bought four beers at half time to celebrate. I know it was a bit early but you’ve got to do it sometimes.”

Mick Hall, 62, a manager from Grimsby, couldn’t believe it: “Twenty-eight years ago I was watching on TV, now I’m here for it. All the guys in the local pub will be singing for us.”

Matt Pooley, 44, who works in finance in London, cried on the final whistle. “It felt appropriate to cry for getting to the semifinal for the first time in 28 years,” he said.

His friend Geoff Gibbs, 54, said: “It was an impassioned performance, we knew what we needed to do and we did it.”

The pair were interrupted by a group of Russian fans who wanted to take selfies with them and their England flags. “In Russia we love!” one cried. “This is history!” said another.

“This is history. Tonight you’ll make history!” Mr Pooley responded.

Football mad bride Nadine Hanlon reacts after England score in the FIFA World Cup 2018 quarter-final match between Sweden and England

Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Immediately after the match, fans were thinking how to get tickets to the semifinal in Moscow. Tim Payton, 44, a consultant from London, was hurrying to the other side of the stadium to try to buy tickets off departing Sweden fans.

Bookmakers made England 5-2 second favourites, down from 18-1 at the start of the tournament, to lift the World Cup behind France. A record amount was bet on an England game although bookies will have recouped some with captain Harry Kane failing to score for the first time in the tournament.

The television audience on BBC was estimated at 30 million although the corporation’s iPlayer, which allows games to be watched almost as live, broke down with two minutes to go, spoiling the opportunity for some fans to cheer at the final whistle. Wednesday’s semi final at 7pm in Moscow will likely break all records.

About 10,000 fans are now expected to travel to Moscow in the hope of obtaining a ticket for the semi-final although prices will rocket in a thriving black market.

British Airways reported a 700 per cent surge in searches for flights to Russia since the win over Colombia on Tuesday.

At half time National Grid saw a spike in electricity of 1,000 megawatts – equivalent to 46 million fridge doors being opened simultaneously. By the final whistle, electricity consumption surged by 1,400 megawatts as the nation brewed up a much needed cup of tea.

Fans are already confident of getting to the final, England having ended up in the easier section of the draw. On Twitter, an image went viral showing a mocked up picture of Southgate carrying a flat-pack box from Ikea, the Swedish company,  with “trophy cabinet” emblazoned on it.

The result had been predicted by Neil Rowe, a British Airways pilot from London, who has started dressing in Southgate’s Marks and Spencer suit as he watches from the ground. Television cameras captured the Southgate lookalike being congratulated at half time. Wearing a blue waistcoat, slim trousers and a closely-cropped beard, Mr Rowe had predicted the win.

Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/07/can-now-go-grave-happy-fans-home-russia-raptures-england-reaches/

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