KIERAN TRIPPER’S superb free-kick has given England a stunning lead in their World Cup semi-final.
As millions up and down the country got set to watch Gareth Southgate’s men in action, the 27-year-old calmed nerves by giving the Three Lions the advantage.
England’s players looked cool and calm as they took to the field and used Raheem Sterling’s pace to scare the sluggish Croatians.
London’s Oxford Street is usually buzzing with commuters, but it lies empty and busy roads like the A11 in Suffolk are deserted as commotion builds inside boozers and homes up and down England.
Jamie Vardy’s wife Becky and Harry Maguire’s partner Fern Hawkins could be seen strolling into town as they joined thousands of beer-swigging football fans in the Russian capital.
Wayne Rooney and David Beckham are among the Three Lions legends to send their support to Gareth Southgate’s side on social media.
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A surge of 10,000 supporters more than doubled backing for Southgate’s young Lions overnight gearing up for the biggest game in a generation.
Fans in England colours and Southgate-style waistcoats danced congas on the smart shopping street leading into the Red Square.
It was by far the biggest Three Lions party of Russia 2018 – and will get even bigger if the first England team since 1966 reaches Sunday’s World Cup Final against France.
As few as 2,000 England fans have cheered on the team in Russia at previous games after being deterred by high costs and Russian Ultra yob fears.
Fans gathered around the Red Square as they eagerly-await England’s first semi-final since 1990
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England supporters are in good spirits outside the ground
Well-heeled lionhearts have even stumped up thousands to fly to the game by private jet, aircraft charter specialist, Air Charter Service revealed yesterday.
A spokesman said: “We’ve received hundreds of phone calls this week from fans trying to get to Russia to see England in the semi-final.
“And a handful of very confident fans have booked for the final itself.
“Private jets and larger aircraft are taking a more than 500 England supporters to Moscow for the semi and 16 so far flying in for the final on Sunday.”
They were savouring our best chance in decades to grab football’s greatest prize.
And Southgate’s waistcoat style was at the heart of the soccer party last night as England’s official tailors Marks and Spencer flew in supplies of the £65 suit accessory from London.
The retailer revealed yesterday that its waistcoat sales had doubled since the start of the World Cup thanks to the Southgate effect.
Store bosses launched joined in the Sun fun by launching a #waistcoatwednesday promotion offering £15 off the must-have fan attire on selected styles costing £35 to £65.
But thousands have now thrown caution – and their wallets – to the wind in the hope of watching our first World Cup semi-final since Gazza’s tears game at Italia 90.
England mad Peter Wood, 63, from Bristol, said: “The atmosphere here is the best I’ve experienced at and England game and the Russian have been fantastic.
“I was at our last semi final in Turin where Gazza cried after we lost of penalties to Germany and after 28 long years of heartache following England, I’m back.
“But this time I’m hopeful that we can go one better and all that pain can be put behind us. Come on England!”
Keith Sutton, 63, from Salford, Manchester, said: “It’s our biggest game in a generation and I wasn’t going to miss it.
“The football mania has been incredible back home but it’s just as crazy here.
“Moscow’s really buzzing and confidence is growing that we can get past this last hurdle then beat France and finally bring the World Cup home.”
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England Supporters band drummer Steve Holmes, from Sheffield, said as he slipped on a £35 M&S version of Southgate charmed garment: “This is just the job.
“The fit is a little snug but I’ll look likely a proper gent as we sail into the World Cup final.
“Gareth is our hero and if we all have his style, we’ll go all the way and bring it home.”
Martyn Olds, 63, who runs a cardboard box firm in Bristol said: “I love this new Southgate look and I’ll be dressed to the nines like this at the game.
“Southgate has been nothing short of a genius after we suffered so long under idiots like McClaren, Capello and Hodgson.
“Gareth not only looks smart, he thinks smart and that’s why we’re going to win the World Cup.”
Retired HR consultant Stuart Mackenzie, 67, from London said: “I’ve never felt smarter – it’s how a true English gentleman should look at a football match.
“This World Cup has been an incredible experience and just keeps getting better and better.
“And now we look the part as well!”
Croatia – led by Real Madrid genius “Lucky” Luca Modric – will be our toughest opponents yet as we battle to meet either France or Belgium in Sunday’s final.
England have the advantage as Croatia needed two exhausting extra time and penalties knockout games in a row to make the semi.
And thousands of Russians inside Moscow’s 81,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium are expected to side with England after an insulting gaffe by a Croatian star went viral online.
Defender Domagoj Vida was videoed screaming “glory to Ukraine” with scout Ognjen Vukojevic after his side’s quarter-final penalty shootout success over the hosts.
Russian-backed forces are at war with Ukraine in the east of the country and Vida looks certain to be booed every time he touches the ball tonight.
Vukojevic was sacked, while Vida apologised for the incident.
Tickets for the game were still available for around £650 on the internet on Monday, but the figure was rising by the hour as kick-off time drew closer.
Supporters face a bill of about £3,000 to watch England try to clinch a place in the final.
Millions of nervous football fans will throng the country’s pubs and beer gardens as England prepare for their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years.
Offices across the country will see a mass exodus around 4pm as fans spark an early dash to make it home for tonight’s 7pm kick-off.
One of the biggest fan gatherings will be at London’s Hyde Park where 30,000 are set to watch the action of big screens.
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