Is it coming home?
An England fan shows her support outside the Samara Stadium prior to the FIFA World Cup quarter final match against Sweden
An England fan shows her support outside the Samara Stadium prior to the FIFA World Cup quarter final match against Sweden
Owen Humphreys - PA Images via Getty Images

It started as a bit of football nostalgia, fans humming “football’s coming home” wistfully. But the volume has been steadily increasing and will reach fever pitch at 3pm today when England face Sweden in the World Cup quarter-final on Saturday afternoon.

Though it was more than half a century ago that England last won the World Cup, fans are now convinced that victory is once again within the nation’s grasp after defeating Colombia in their last-16 encounter on Tuesday night.

The jubilant mood has been buoyed by the near-perfect weather across the country, with temperatures on Saturday set to reach 33C – the warmest of the year – in time for kick off.

The buzz will no doubt be a welcome distraction for the embattled Prime Minister Theresa May, who on Friday convened an emergency cabinet meeting at Chequers for a high-stakes showdown over Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

Understandably, Britain’s pubs, press and pundits are also brazenly stoking the excitement with prophecies of success and promises of near limitless refreshment as the team prepares to feel the heat in Russia.

England's triumphant 1966 World Cup win
England's triumphant 1966 World Cup win
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The press

“My Band of Brothers” heralded The Mirror, on Saturday morning, with a picture of Harry Kane. “Let the three lions roar” splashed the i newspaper. The Times offered a cut out and keep guide to beating Sweden while The Daily Mail offered a free “Come On England” hat.

Meanwhile, Stockholm’s morning newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, published an informative piece listing ten local fountains Swedish football fans can dive into should they secure victory on Saturday.

The daily newspaper Aftonbladet quipped: “A Portuguese, an Argentinian, a Spaniard and a German walk into a bar. The Swede couldn’t be there, because he was still in the World Cup.”

The challenge

England came to the World Cup in 2018 with somewhat low expectations from their fans, but as they prepare to face Sweden, manager Gareth Southgate says this generation might not get a better chance to triumph.

The Three Lions won a penalty shootout against Colombia in Moscow, in what was the UK’s most watched television event since 2012, with viewing figures peaking at 24.4 million.

England fans in Brighton celebrate victory after the win against Colombia
England fans in Brighton celebrate victory after the win against Colombia
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“Although our team will be better in two years with more life experience, maybe the cards on injuries and things won’t fall as kindly and we won’t get this opportunity again,” Southgate told ITV News.

“Football can bring connection through a country and I’m delighted we are exciting people, bringing enjoyment and we want to keep it going. It’s dangerous if I start to get carried away, but I’m proud of the way we’re playing,” he said.

“It’s a huge privilege to be able to send everybody to work happy, to be able to make a difference to people lives,” he added.

The Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, is certain of a victory. During a live event hosted by HuffPost UK in Birmingham, the former John Lewis boss confided: “I think we will win on Saturday. I was glued to it on Tuesday. What I saw was a team of incredible emotional resilience and the commentator said this is more of a battle of mind than battle of sport and I actually thought that was right.”

That excitement will be amplified as the match - regarded by many as the national team’s most important game for game in 12 years - will be broadcast on big screens across the country.

The fans

Social media is brimming with optimism that football is indeed, coming home, with some claiming a win for England will outshine even a victory at Wimbledon. Others have chosen to make a tongue-in-cheek link between Andy Murray’s withdrawal from the tennis this year to the fact he did not play in the 1966 championships when England last tasted World Cup victory, as yet another indicator that #ItsComingHome. (To be fair to the two-time champion, he wasn’t born until 1987.)

Joe White, who is flying from Birmingham to Majorca on Saturday at 2.55pm, has specially petitioned Primera Air to either show the match on the flight... or else delay it for two hours.

Meanwhile some other sporting events have made special dispensations in order to accommodate the match and early kitchen closures are being announced to allow catering staff to enjoy the game.

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What the experts say

Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has warned Saturday’s match will be “their most difficult game so far”.

Manchester City defender John Stones has said the Swedish team cannot be underestimated, stating: “There are no easy games. I think if you say it’s an easy game in a quarter-final of a World Cup, then you are pretty stupid to say that.

Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has warned Saturday’s match will 'difficult'
Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has warned Saturday’s match will 'difficult'
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“They’ve got a lot of quality. They play very structured from the back, sit quite deep from what we’ve seen, and we know what we’re up against.

“Sometimes they can throw you these teams, they can go kind of under the radar, but there is no question they are a good team. They wouldn’t be where they are if they weren’t.”

Writing for Betfair, former England player and pundit Rio Ferdinand, echoed those sentiments. “So next up are Sweden and we have to respect them because this won’t be easy. Complacency is the danger, but I don’t think it will creep in because Gareth won’t allow it.

“The players are in the groove right now and they’ll stay there. These England boys are focused and professional.”

The highlight of Sweden’s campaign so far was beating Mexico 3-0 to top its group.

Manager Janne Andersson’s side then won a tight contest with Switzerland in the last 16. Andersson says he is unlikely to spring a surprise on Southgate in their match on Saturday.

“There was a coach once who said his team was quite easy to analyze but difficult to beat. That is a good description of us,” Andersson told reporters on Friday.

Sweden have, of course, enjoyed some memorable World Cup campaigns in the past. They reached the final on home soil in 1958, where they lost to Brazil. In 1994 they made it through to the semi-finals, until Brazil once again crushed hopes of a place in the final.

The last time England and Sweden met in a competitive fixture was at the European Championship in 2012, when Roy Hodgson’s England team won 3-2 thanks to a Danny Welbeck goal.

Overall, across 24 meetings, England have won eight games to Sweden’s seven, with nine ending in a draw.

A boost fuelled by beer and burgers

A Three Lions win at the World Cup would be an “unalloyed, unadulterated absolute good” for the UK economy, the Bank of England governor Mark Carney has said.

Speaking at a Northern Powerhouse Business Summit in Newcastle, Carney was asked by a delegate about the economic impact of an England win.

He replied: “It would be an unalloyed, unadulterated absolute good. Everything would be good.”

Alcohol sales are expected to spike
Alcohol sales are expected to spike
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In part that could be down to predictions that England’s quarter-final game could generate £860m of grocery sales on Friday and Saturday, a 5% uplift on usual figures, according to Kantar Worldpanel.

Strategic insight director Matt Botham said: “We’re looking at an extra 1.4 million trips to the shops on Friday and Saturday.

“Alcohol will be the big winner. We’d expect sales to go up by a whopping 25%.

“This would bring in an extra £26m to the market in two days alone, and over 30% of the extra shopping trips made would include alcohol in some format.”

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Despite the weather, M&S, which has been the official suit supplier to the England team since 2007, said demand for waistcoats – like that worn by England football boss Gareth Southgate had risen 35%.

Asda said it was expecting a 1,966% increase in sales of sausages, meatballs and barbecues on last week and is preparing to sell 1 million kilograms of charcoal.

On Saturday alone, Asda expects to sell more than 750,000 packs of beer and cider and 4.6 million cans and bottles of beer.

If it comes home

If England wins on Saturday, Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has said he will hand out free souvenir T-shirts. The Newcastle United owner has won the rights to make shirts with the official Three Lions logo, emblazoned with the words “2018 Winners” underneath it.

A spokesman for Sports Direct said: “Mike knows the whole country will go potty if Gareth Southgate’s boys go all the way.

“The only limit on how many we can give away will be how fast we can get them printed.

“Mike’s ordered everybody at Sports Direct to pull out all the stops in order to make it happen.

“Mike has always been an England fan and he was in Mexico in person to see the heartache of Maradona’s Hand of God goal, and in Italy in 1990 to see Gazza’s tears. He knows how much it will mean to people if we bring home the World Cup.”


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