England, Croatia aim for the final

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Anticipation is reaching fever pitch as England look to reach their first World Cup final since 1966 by defeating Croatia on Wednesday.

Millions of fans will follow the match, which takes place in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium from 19:00 BST.

England’s sole World Cup triumph came 52 years ago, and they are in the last four for the first time since 1990, when they lost to West Germany.

The winners will face France in the final at 16:00 BST on Sunday.

“We’ve made several pieces of history,” said England manager Gareth Southgate. “We’re just hoping to break more of those barriers down.”

Streets are set to be deserted as people cram into pubs, gather around big screens or stay at home to cheer on the team.

Hundreds of England supporters have been arranging last-minute trips to Russia after the side booked their semi-final place with a 2-0 win over Sweden on Saturday.

Croatia have made the last four once before – losing to hosts and eventual winners France 20 years ago.

“We respect everyone – England, France. But none of the squads is better than us,” said head coach Zlatko Dalic.

England will wear an all-white kit for the game, which is being refereed by Turkish official Cuneyt Cakir.

It’s coming home? Heatwave, big screens and police warning
As the country enjoys a long heatwave, England’s success has heightened the feel-good factor.

From ice cream vans to brass bands – the ‘Three Lions’ song has become the soundtrack to the summer and is set to top the charts again on Friday after a massive spike in streams and downloads.

Originally written by The Lightning Seeds and comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel for the Euro ’96 tournament, its famous “football’s coming home” chant has been resurrected.

Southgate has said he could not listen to the song for 20 years after his penalty shootout miss in the semi-final, but added: “It’s nice to hear people enjoying it again.”

Massive celebrations have followed England victories so far, and a crowd of 30,000 is expected to watch the match on a big screen at London’s Hyde Park, with events in other cities including Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Bristol.

However, police have warned fans not to “overstep the line”.

They are hoping to avoid a repeat of the alcohol-fuelled scenes at the weekend when people clambered over cars, buses and emergency vehicles.

Ambulances dealt with as many calls as they traditionally do on New Year’s Eve.
(BBC)

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