Latest score: Ukraine 0-4 England
Harry Kane sent England fans into a state of ecstasy by scoring a goal less than five minutes into the Three Lions’ Euro 2020 showdown against Ukraine.
Fans who dare to dream that Gareth Southgate’s men will march past Ukraine on the path to glory were given an early boost when the captain hit the back of the net just minutes into the match.
Jubilant fans in London’s Trafalgar Square jumped up and screamed with delight, throwing their cups of beer into the air and hugging each other in celebration.
England need to win at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday to make it into the semi-final, and fans and pundits are optimistic there will be joy at the final whistle.
Fans have been urged not to travel as Italy remains on the UK’s amber list, but support for Gareth Southgate’s men remains high regardless of pandemic restraints.
Pictures showed Gareth Southgate’s men looking relaxed on the pitch in the couple of hours before the 8pm kick-off, while England fans posed in front of the Colosseum ahead of the game.
Some fans have managed to get tickets for the game as they live outside the UK.
Meanwhile in London, people gathered in the fan zone in Trafalgar Square ahead of what they hope will be a night to remember for all the right reasons.
Among them is Rachel Harvey, 27, who works in business development at a London university.
Ms Harvey said: “I think England are going to win. I reckon it’s going to be 2-1 to England.
“I feel like it’s a great thing to watch the game here in Trafalgar Square. The fact that we’re doing this feels like life is getting back to normal.”
Sam Carlisle, 26, from Reading, had also headed to Trafalgar Square to enjoy the pre-match buzz.
He said: “I just wanted to get in the eye of the storm really – just before the match trying to soak a bit of atmosphere and try and see what it’s all about.”
When asked if he was nervous, he said: “Not as much as Tuesday, I think we should be able to do it – think of it as two friendlies before the final.”
Elsewhere, fans in Three Lions shirts were filtering into Soho and lining up to get into pubs to watch the game.
Ha Young, 24, from Seoul in South Korea, came all the way to London just to support England during the Euros.
She told the PA news agency : “I really love the national team captain, Harry Kane, because I support Tottenham. Hopefully Kane gets a goal and it’s an easy game for England. I think the score will be two nil.”
If England wins, Ha said she will be hugging her friends and yelling. When asked what she will do if England loses, she simply said “that will not happen”.
One England fan who lives in Germany will be hoping his luck improves after missing “a real chance in a lifetime” to watch England play, after returning a positive Covid test before he was due to travel to Italy.
“I was quite nonchalant when taking (the test), never considering the prospect of what was about to happen,” Gary Wills, 49, told PA.
“And then I was called in and told it was positive, totally gutted. For me, it was a real chance-in-a-lifetime thing, a real blow.”
Former football manager Harry Redknapp is predicting a 3-0 win for England, while former England goalkeeper David James said he believes it will be a 2-1 win for the Three Lions.
The game sees the men’s team attempt to reach their first European Championship semi-final for 25 years.
England’s Lionesses reached the Euros semi-final in 2017 but were knocked out after being beaten 3-0 by the Netherlands.
Southgate’s squad, meanwhile, reached the semi-final of the World Cup in 2018.
If the team manage a victory in Rome, they will face either the Czech Republic or Denmark next week.
The match will largely have Ukraine supporters in the stands of the Stadio Olimpico.
Regulations in Italy mean supporters would have needed to have spent five days in quarantine and have had a negative post-isolation Covid test to be allowed into the stadium.
That means those backing the squad on Saturday night in their first away game of the tournament will either be those who call Italy their home, or who have travelled from another European country to attend the match.