Euro fever as England fans climb on buses and dance in streets before match
England fans have flooded into central London ahead of the big game against Italy as anticipation of the Euro 2020 final reaches fever pitch.
One group of around 30 jumped on top of a stationary single-decker bus close to Wembley Stadium this afternoon as they danced and joined in songs including ‘England ‘til I die’.
Hundreds of excited supporters also turned Leicester Square into a sea of red and white as they released flares and joined in chants.
Many danced through the streets on their way to bars or to Wembley itself with just hours to go before kick-off.
Some raised glasses as they enjoyed pre-match drinks while others thronged onto Tube trains, with one man going bare-chested with the St George’s Cross emblazoned across his front.
Another member of the Three Lions faithful shimmied up a lamppost as he let off a red flare and his friends linked arms and cheered below.
Reflecting the national mood, the distinctive red-and-white cross was also given pride of place on the London Shard. A brass band making its way through the streets added to the party feel.
There was little sign of social distancing or mask-wearing, with corners of Leicester Square packed out by crowds in full voice.
A UEFA fan zone in Trafalgar Square, which is operating ticketed entry, was also full of exuberant supporters. Newlyweds Amish and Nimisha cut a more civilised image as they posed in their full wedding gear with matching England shirts outside the nation’s home of football.
Neil James, 32, from Horsham, Surrey, told the PA news agency: ‘I’m so fortunate to be here, I never thought I’d see anything like this in my lifetime.
‘I can’t even comprehend the idea England could win something, I just want to drink and drink tonight, work tomorrow is on the back burner.
‘It’s all about tonight.’
Gareth Southgate thanked fans for their ‘incredible support’ throughout the tournament, which has seen the England team reach their first major final in more than half a century.
Good luck messages have been sent by the Queen, the Duke of Cambridge, the Prime Minister and even Hollywood star Tom Cruise, as the players prepare for an epic showdown at Wembley Stadium.
In a video message on the official England football Twitter account, Southgate – who has been praised for his leadership of the team – said the fans’ support has given them a ‘huge lift’.
He said: ‘We hope that you’ve enjoyed watching us play. I’m very grateful to all of the players and the incredible staff I’ve got with me, that we’ve been able to get to our first final for 55 years.
‘But of course we know now we’ve got to deliver for you, so we’ll be doing everything we can. Your support and energy has given us a huge lift, and I know it will on Sunday.’
The Queen paid tribute to the ‘spirit, commitment and pride’ of the squad, while her grandson William, who is president of the Football Association, said it is ‘so exciting’ to get to this point.
Fans were in party mode as they arrived outside the famous London stadium several hours before kick-off on Sunday, proudly sporting the team colours and draped in England flags.
With the game on home turf, England’s fans are expected to outnumber those cheering for Italy among the 60,000-strong crowd.
Although tickets quickly sold out, a category A seat did became available around 2pm for 945 euro – around £807 – and was snapped up almost immediately.
Victory for England would mark the men’s football team’s first major tournament win since the 1966 World Cup success, which also took place at Wembley.
The Metropolitan Police have urged fans not to come to London unless they have match tickets or somewhere booked to watch the game.
The force said it will be deploying ‘a great many officers and specialist units to prevent crime and disorder and respond to any incidents right across London’.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: ‘The Met has a significantly enhanced policing operation in place and will adapt as necessary to the increased numbers of fans enjoying the match. We will continue to deploy a great many officers and specialist units to prevent crime and disorder and respond to any incidents right across London.
‘We want people to be able to enjoy the Euros 2020 final safely and securely, behave responsibly and consider the safety and welfare of others.
‘London still remains in a public health crisis. There are government guidelines in place and we ask people to follow these and remain socially distanced.
‘We will enforce legislation proportionately and as appropriate and engage with crowds. But I urge people not to gather in large numbers.
‘If you don’t have a ticket to the matches or fan zone or an official booking for a pub, bar or club my message is clear: please do not come to London – you could end up missing the game.’
It is predicted fans will buy more than seven million pints on Sunday alone, and in a welcome boost to the economy, it is estimated some £815 million will have been spent in pubs and hospitality venues by the end of the competition.
The final – which is expected to attract a record television audience – is due to kick off at 8pm and will finish by 10pm if it ends in normal time, but could end closer to 11pm if there is extra-time or a penalty shootout.
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