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.
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.
Two generations of England fan, Craig and son Charlie, flew in from London via Portugal this morning. Craig remembers the pain of previous years, says current team have supassed expectations already. Both predict 2-1 #Eng win. pic.twitter.com/Ptr1hellgm— Liam Tyler (@tyler_lj) July 11, 2018
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.
That giant Croatian flag came in handy as shelter when a sudden summer downpour struck in the centre of Moscow pic.twitter.com/7BYPF7mZeq— Liam Tyler (@tyler_lj) July 11, 2018
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.