England & Croatia fans mass in Moscow ahead of World Cup semi-final

11 Jul, 2018 15:07
England & Croatia fans mass in Moscow ahead of World Cup semi-final
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© Gleb Garanich / Reuters

England and Croatia fans have been gathering in the center of Moscow ahead of the teams’ World Cup semi-final in the city later on Wednesday.

Both nations have endured a lengthy wait since the last time their respective teams reached this stage of the tournament. England’s last appearance in the final four came in Italy 28 years ago, while Croatia last made the semi-finals in France in 1998.

The number of England fans following their team in Russia has been sparse up to now, with the number at games generally being in the low thousands.

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However, the team’s run to the semi-finals has seen an influx of support as fans scrambled for flights to Moscow and tickets to the game.

Frequent chants of “football’s coming home” could be heard on the Moscow streets on Wednesday – a song that has been increasingly revived as England’s campaign in Russia has gathered pace.

Other groups paid tribute to England manager Gareth Southgate, chanting “Southgate you’re the one, football’s coming home again,” in a new twist on an early 2000s pop song by Atomic Kitten.

England fans also strung up flags along Nikolskaya in a spot previously occupied largely by the Argentina supporters in Russia. 

Craig and his son Charlie were among the fans flying in on Wednesday, in their case via Portugal. Craig said the chance of seeing the team in a World Cup final for the first time in nearly 30 years had been too good to miss.

Both sets of fans mixed freely, with Croatian supporters also out in large numbers, typically decked out in the distinctive red and white pattern of the team’s kit.

One group of fans unfurled a giant flag in the team’s colors just off Red Square, with the message 'Spasibo Rossiya' (Thank You Russia) written across it. 

The banner also came in handy when a sudden summer downpour hit Moscow.

The teams are aiming to book a place in Sunday's final against France, which will also be played at Luzhniki. 

For England it would be a first appearance in a World Cup final since they won their home tournament in 1966, while for Croatia it would their first ever time playing in football's biggest game.