Pre-match optimism hits the streets as England take on Germany in Euros showdown
Excitement reached fever pitch as buoyant England football fans limbered up to roar their team to Euro 2020 glory ahead of their last-16 showdown with Germany at Wembley.
Pubs swelled with supporters wearing replica football strips in the hours leading up to the 5pm kick-off, while St George’s flags billowed in the mid-summer breeze as die-hard and fairweather fans alike got into the feel-good spirit.
In designated fan zones across the country, and outside Wembley where 40,000 supporters were already showing signs of creating a partisan atmosphere, people cheered and sang songs in support of England manager Gareth Southgate and his team.
Under grey north London skies, throngs of supporters heading to the match to belt out acapella renditions of England anthems, including the enduring crowd favourite Three Lions, with its familiar refrain of “football’s coming home” reverberating down Wembley Way.
Some supporters, eager to soak up the atmosphere inside the ground, took their seats more than two hours before the match started.
They were joined in time for kick-off by the Duke of Cambridge, who is President of the Football Association, the Duchess of Cambridge and their seven-year-old son Prince George.
Not everyone was able to watch the match, however, as a vehicle fire on the M62 in Greater Manchester on Tuesday afternoon resulted in gridlock and delays of at least two hours.
England fan Marcus Ridge, 32, from London, was in a confident mood ahead of kick-off.
Speaking from the Durrell Arms in Fulham, west London, he told the PA news agency: “I reckon we’ve got it covered – it won’t be easy though.
“Could go either way, we don’t have a good record against the Germans when it counts.”
Asked how he would celebrate if England won the match, Mr Ridge replied: “Lots of lager.”
Fellow England supporter Abdul Mohammed, 33, from Fulham, added: “I’m hoping England win but it’s the hope that kills you.
“So far the line-ups have been too defensive, too scared. We need to just go for it.”
And there was encouragement for the team from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, a Southampton supporter, who posted a photo of himself on Twitter pulling on an England shirt, with the caption: “Bring it on.”
The hopeful disposition among England supporters has been boosted by an unbeaten, if unspectacular, canter through the group stages of the competition without conceding a goal.
And with the likes of France, the Netherlands, and reigning European champions Portugal already eliminated, commentators have suggested England’s path to major tournament success for the first time in 55 years has rarely been easier.
The undisputed high-water mark of the England men’s team’s history – the 1966 World Cup triumph – came against West Germany.
So it is a familiar foe who awaits at Wembley, standing between the likes of current Three Lions’ skipper Harry Kane, defender Harry Maguire and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and a quarter-final tie against either Sweden or the Ukraine.
The late afternoon kick-off time prompted calls for supporters to be granted an early end to their working day, and a 4pm finish to watch the match on television.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, not known to have a keen interest in football, would be watching as much of the tie as possible “in between his work commitments”, his spokesman said.
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