England loss fails to dull buoyant mood as flag-draped estate sees Belgium win

PA

Support, you may expect, was going to be unwavering at the Kirby Estate with its hundreds of England flags when the Three Lions took on Belgium in their final World Cup group game.

Though Wednesday's showdown wasn't an ordinary match. The winner would top the group but face an arguably tougher route to the trophy with a possible quarter-final meeting with Brazil.

Manager Gareth Southgate made eight changes to his young squad, resting many of the players that thrashed Panama in a move that signalled a less than total commitment to victory in this match.

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In front of a big screen surrounded by balconies of flags and banners reading "England can't stop Putin it in the net" and "Harry Kane super tsar", some 100 fans at the south-east London housing estate had one thing on their minds: England beating their Red Devil rivals.

Chris Dowse, 39, is the man behind the 300-odd flags. His efforts earned him a phone call from England players Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold from the tournament in Russia.

He had no doubt England were hungry for a win.

"He's made eight changes but they have something to prove," he said ahead of kick-off.

England football
England football

Children with ice lollies and England hats waved flags as parents enjoyed the odd beer and a sausage roll during the game.

The Vindaloo and Three Lions anthems rang through the streets at half time, along with the voices of the estate.

Every chance near the enemy net was met with universal cheers and followed by groans when the target was missed. Gasps met the only goal of the game when Belgium scored.

With a 1-0 loss, the mood was still buoyant. England finished second in the group, destined to meet Colombia next.

England v Belgium
England v Belgium

Nestled in the corner of the estate is the red, blue and yellow flag of the South American nation.

That flat is home to Jorge Marmolejo and his family. Mr Marmolejo, 42, moved to England when he was 18 and is torn between which country to cheer for. But either way his cheers will be from within the Kirby Estate.

"It's going to be good fun," the site manager said. "Because what I love about this estate is the unity - no matter where you are from, you are welcome."

Mr Dowse agreed with his neighbour's take on Tuesday's match.

"It will be Colombia against England but we'll come together as a community and do it again," he said.

"Win, lose or draw we will be out partying with them."