ENGLAND fans who have jetted in for the semi-final have backed Gareth Southgate’s young team to reach the nation’s first World Cup final in 52 years.
Supporters showed their colours in central Moscow ahead of the semi-final against Croatia and said they believed the key to success was the youthful team’s work ethic and pride.
The 23-man squad, which has an average age of just over 26 and was the tournament’s third youngest, have the hopes and expectations of a nation on their shoulders.
The Duke of Cambridge, who is president of the Football Association, told the Three Lions the whole country is behind them.
William said: ‘Come on England — it’s coming home!’
Those three words, from the anthem Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) by Baddiel and Skinner and the Lightning Seeds, have become the mantra of the travelling support.
Police estimated as many as 10,000 England fans could be in the Russian capital for the game, which kicks off at 9pm local time (7pm UK).
Among them were father and son Joe and Andrew Settle, from Bolton, who have never travelled away with England but decided they could not miss the chance to see the national side in a World Cup semi-final.
For Joe, 62, it will be his first live England match.
He said: ‘I’m hoping their (Croatia’s) luck has run out. Two penalty shootouts and they weren’t that good, they just scraped through.
‘I think it’s our year this time.
‘There’s no out and out stars and everybody just looks at them as young lads, making their way out, they’ve not got above their station. And they’re just thinking, “we’ll get behind these lads”.
‘They’re not bothered about the money, they look like they are enjoying it, they want to do it and they’re proud to do it for their country.’
He predicted a 2-0 England win and said he believed the celebrations would be on a larger scale than in 1966 if England go on to win the trophy.
‘I remember watching ’66 on TV as a little lad and going outside playing football afterwards until it was dark,’ he said.
‘It was very uplifting for the country but because there was no internet, not as much media, you didn’t actually know what was going on.
‘There were some newsreels and everybody was uplifted but this time, from every part to the country, you are going to see what’s happening — it’s going to be brilliant.’
George Lee, 59, from Hull, also backed Southgate’s young team to get to the final, predicting a 2-1 win.
He said: ‘We thought we’d do well because you’ve got all the youngsters in now, you know there’s no superstars where they just walk about, “I can do what I like”.
‘They’re all young, hard-working lads. These are good kids, hopefully they will win it for us. It’s exciting times for these young fellas.’
Scott Ratcliffe and his 10-year-old son Eliott, who has broken up from school, were in the queue to pick up their Fan IDs, having arrived in Moscow yesterday.
The 46-year-old, from Four Oaks in Birmingham, said: ‘Absolutely flying — can’t explain how good it feels, especially after Italia 90.
‘I couldn’t get there, tried three times so I’ve waited 28 years to get here.
‘I think it’s going to be very tight, Croatia are not going to be a pushover, by any means.
‘They’ve got a good side, they’ve improved over the years, but I look at England at the moment and think we’ve got a fantastic side.
‘You’ve got to look at that squad now and think, you know what, they’re going to get a result.’
Mr Ratcliffe opted for a tight 2-1 England win.