England’s carnival atmosphere will endure for days to come after two late goals put the Three Lions firmly on the path to Euro 2020 glory.
Manchester City attacker Raheem Sterling and Tottenham striker Harry Kane struck twice within 11 minutes following a tense first half, giving England the platform to see off Germany and secure a memorable victory in the last-16 tie at rainy Wembley.
Some 40,000 supporters inside the stadium, many wearing the colours of the home nation, roared as their team went ahead thanks to Londoner Sterling’s third goal of the tournament in the 75th minute.
They included an animated Duke of Cambridge, the FA president, who threw his arms aloft alongside his seven-year-old son, Prince George, and the Duchess of Cambridge, as the goal went in.
Fans sought to rouse their heroes with a rendition of Three Lions and its familiar refrain “football’s coming home” early in the second half.
But a sweeping move involving captain Kane, playmaker Jack Grealish and defender Luke Shaw was finished off expertly by Sterling to send the crowd into raptures.
There was a similarly cacophonous roar from the partisan home support as Germany striker Thomas Muller dragged a late shot wide when clean through on goal.
Kane finished off a Grealish cross in the 86th minute to seal a 2-0 victory.
Outside, in designated fan zones, pub beer gardens and parks, there was little evidence that the tournament was being held in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Euros have been delayed from last summer as Covid-19 swept the globe, yet the customary reactions to an England goal – strangers hugging each other and drinks being hurled into the air – showed no sign of being tempered as the team held on for the win.
Many England supporters were not born the last time England faced Germany in the European Championships.
Back then, before a bumper Wembley crowd at the Euro 1996 semi-final stage, England’s quest for silverware ended in disappointment as defender Gareth Southgate saw his sudden-death penalty saved, and Germany advanced to the final.
On Tuesday, Southgate, now managing the national team, reacted with his customary composure as his side went ahead.
Speaking from a fan zone in Trafalgar Square, central London, following the first goal, Jay Gittelmon, 20, from north-west London, told the PA news agency: “I’ve never felt anything like that, it’s the best moment of my life.
“I had to use my inhaler as I ran out of breath.”
A party atmosphere broke out in Trafalgar Square after England scored their second goal.
Several men ripped off their shirts and started to dance on the tables, much to the annoyance of security.
England fan Matt Champion, from Bristol, who was celebrating his 32nd birthday, said: “It’s unbelievable, I never saw this coming.
“I bought a cigar in anticipation for the win from Cuba, I’m excited to smoke it.
“I’m very, very happy. This is the best birthday party I could have ever organised.”
Pubs swelled with supporters wearing replica football strips in the hours leading up to kick-off, while St George’s flags billowed in the mid-summer breeze as diehard and fair-weather fans alike enjoyed the feel-good spirit.
The hopeful disposition among England supporters has been boosted by an unbeaten, if unspectacular, canter through the group stages of the competition without conceding a goal.
And with the likes of France, the Netherlands, and reigning European champions Portugal already eliminated, commentators have suggested England’s path to major tournament success for the first time in 55 years has rarely been easier.
The undisputed high water mark of the England men’s team’s history – the 1966 World Cup triumph – came against West Germany.
England will now face either Sweden or Ukraine in the quarter-finals.
The Metropolitan Police said three people had been arrested at Wembley, one for racially aggravated common assault, and two for fraud by false representation.