The hopes of an expectant nation are resting on the shoulders of the England football squad, as fans rise early and begin a day of celebrations ahead of the Three Lions’ historic Euro 2020 final against Italy tonight – their biggest match in almost six decades.
Millions of England fans will be sporting reds, whites and blues in their living rooms and in pubs across the country, with 60,000 supporters expected to cheer on Gareth Southgate’s men at Wembley in the side’s first major final since the 1966 World Cup win.
The Queen, Prince William and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have all showered the Three Lions in praise, while thousands of England supporters urge the side to ‘bring it home’ on Twitter – with some fans revealing they have been so excited that they did not sleep last night.
The British Beer & Pub Association predicts England fans will buy 7.1 million pints on Sunday, while over the weekend an estimated £750million is expected to be withdrawn from cash machines – up 12 per cent on the same period a year earlier, according to ATM network Link.
In a welcome economic boost, by the end of the competition, it is estimated that £815million will have been spent in pubs and hospitality venues, with 32.6 million pints sold, a report by Vouchercodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) said.
A number of schools have already said they will allow pupils to start later on Monday if they wish to and some employers are considering letting staff enjoy a celebratory – or consolatory – lie-in after what could be a very late night.
The final – which is expected to attract a record television audience of 35 million – is due to kick off at 8pm and will finish by 10pm if it ends in normal time, but could end closer to 11pm if there is extra time or a penalty shootout.
The official England Twitter account posted this morning: ‘A matchday like no other’ – sparking a flurry of excited and anxious messages. One expectant fan wrote: ‘Massive day ahead, first final for @England in my lifetime. Wherever you’re watching it, whatever your plans are, enjoy! Proud of the squad and what they’ve done so far, but they can lift that trophy!’
Another said: ‘Today is the day! The sun’s out, enjoy it, embrace it, soak up the atmosphere!! The excitement, the nerves, the butterflies in the stomach. Go mad!! Who knows when or if this day will come again! #ItsComingHome’.
One tweeted: ‘Been up since 5am cos of today. Couldn’t sleep at all! C’mon @England #ItsComingHome #ENG’ – with another writing on Twitter: ‘Morning everyone, anybody got any sleep last night or feeling nervous ahead of #ITAENG #ItsComingHome Come on #ENG @England’.
Across England, fans have been savouring the run-up to a game that could see the country crowned champions of Europe. Houses have been bedecked with flags amid a surge in demand for England-themed paraphernalia and the Shard in London was lit up in the team colours.
Residents on Wales Street, in Oldham, Greater Manchester have even patriotically renamed their road in honour of the Three Lions – England Street, with a new red-and-white sign erected above the original.
A good luck message from David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and the Lightning Seeds – who are behind the anthemic Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) – has been projected onto the white cliffs of Dover ahead of the match.
London’s transport network will display digital well wishes across the capital, visible at Tube stations, the DLR and London Overground as well as at bus stops and on road traffic alert signs.
England captain Harry Kane said his team hopes to do the nation proud in their bid for Euro 2020 glory. He told reporters at a press conference last night: ‘We want to go and bring the trophy home’ – adding: ‘We know how much it means to the English fans all over the country so we’re proud to be representing them and hopefully we can do them proud again.’
The Queen paid tribute to the ‘spirit, commitment and pride’ of the squad in a good luck message ahead of tonight’s final, while her grandson the Duke of Cambridge said it is ‘so exciting’ to get to this point.
In a video message to be posted later on Sunday, Football Association president William said: ‘I can’t really believe this is happening. So exciting and I just wish you the very best of luck. You bring out the very best of England and we are all behind you. The whole country is behind you. So, bring it home.’
The Prime Minister told Southgate and the players they had ‘already made history’ by reaching the final, writing: ‘You have lifted the spirits of the whole country, and tomorrow we know you can lift that trophy too. We are not just hoping or praying.
‘We believe in you, Gareth, and your incredible squad.’
As the nation rallies behind the England football squad, it emerged:
- Gareth Southgate will receive a knighthood if England win but will be awarded a CBE regardless of the result;
- David Baddiel and Frank Skinner are banned by UEFA from performing Three Lions at the start of the match because it would be ‘unfair’ to Italy;
- Southgate reveals he ‘couldn’t stand’ the It’s Coming Home refrain for 15 years after his penalty miss in 1996 ;
- The England manager urged fans not to boo the Italian national anthem, saying it could inspire them;
- Harry Kane revealed Tom Cruise FaceTimed the England team on Friday night to wish the players luck;
- UEFA fined England £26,000 after a fan shone a laser into the eye of Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel before Harry Kane’s penalty in the semi final;
- Euros fever has delivered a £3.4billion spending spree on partying, drinking, souvenir merchandise and supersize TVs, analysts said;
- The NHS is braced for a surge in heart attacks as the stress of watching football takes its toll on the nation’s health;
- Ministers have been told to stop using the phrase ‘It’s coming home’ – a reference to the England football anthem Three Lions – because it annoys other countries.
Pictured: England fans at Wembley, where England will play Italy in the Euro 2020 final
Exterior of Wembley in London this morning as the first England fans arrive at the stadium ahead of tonight’s match
Aerial view of children at Ernesettle Community School, Plymouth, standing to spell out ENGLAND ahead of the final
The official England Twitter account posted this morning: ‘A matchday like no other’
Thousands of supporters urging the side to ‘bring it home’ on Twitter, with some revealing they’re so excited they didn’t sleep last night
England’s Harry Kane, center, celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the Euro 2020 soccer semifinal match between England and Denmark
Gareth Southgate (pictured) has urged the nation to ‘stop looking at the negatives of our own country’ because ‘England has so much to be proud of’ ahead of the Euro 2020 final
As many as 35million people are set to cheer on the Three Lions against Italy in the final of Euro 2020 in the fervent hope that Harry Kane will follow in the golden footsteps of Bobby Moore and lead England to glory. Pictured: The team celebrating their semi final win on Wednesday
England fans partied in Leicester Square on the eve of the final as they settled any pre-match nerves with a drink in the centre of London
The Queen (left) congratulated Gareth Southgate and the England players for reaching the Euro 2020 final and praised their ‘spirit, commitment and pride’, while Boris Johnson praised the ‘band of brothers’ (right)
Gareth Southgate’s quotes in full
We have so many things here that we should be proud of that we probably underestimate that.
We are always looking at the negatives of our own country and yet we have got so much to be proud of and so much talent coming through in all industries really.
For an island our size we’ve got an incredible influence on the world and we’ve got to keep that in a positive way.
There are historic things that we should be proud of. We’ve had unbelievable inventions in this country.
People have tried to invade us and we’ve had the courage to hold that back.
You can’t hide that some of the energy in the stadium against Germany was because of that. I never mentioned that to the players, but I know that’s part of what that story was.
At heart I go back to the values that my parents gave me and treating people as you would want to be treated. Just respectful, really.
There are positive things that we could help to change or influence in society.
The longer I’ve been in the role the more I’ve understood the importance for our fans of that connection with the team.
They felt part of it and that inclusivity is really important to us because I think that’s what modern England is.
We know it hasn’t always been the case and there’s historic reasons for that, but that level of tolerance and inclusion is what we have to be about moving forward.
In her written message, the Queen recalled presenting the Jules Rimet trophy to Bobby Moore after England beat then West Germany in the World Cup – almost six decades ago.
She said: ‘Fifty-five years ago I was fortunate to present the World Cup to Bobby Moore and saw what it meant to the players, management and support staff to reach and win the final of a major international football tournament.
‘I want to send my congratulations and that of my family to you all on reaching the final of the European Championships, and send my good wishes for tomorrow with the hope that history will record not only your success but also the spirit, commitment and pride with which you have conducted yourselves.’
The squad are thought to have watched the as-yet unreleased sequel to Top Gun as they spent Friday night together. Before the screening, they were called by its star Tom Cruise, who delivered a good luck message.
Southgate last night said he was focused on ‘bringing the trophy home’, adding: ‘It has been fantastic to have the letter from the Queen and the Prime Minister to all of the team and the recognition that the players have gone about this in the right way, but we’re in a final and we’re here to win.’
As many as 35 million people are expected to watch the match on BBC and ITV, potentially eclipsing the previous TV viewing record of 32.3 million for the 1966 final. If England triumph, Mr Johnson is expected to announce an extra Bank Holiday on Friday August 27, and Southgate is likely to receive a knighthood.
Analysts estimate that victory tonight could deliver a £10billion boost to the economy. England’s success in the tournament has already seen £3.4billion splurged on partying, drinking, souvenir merchandise and supersize TVs, according to retail experts.
Tickets for the game – the most eagerly anticipated for more than half a century – were last night changing hands for up to £15,000. Wembley will welcome a crowd of 65,000, of whom just 6,000 will be cheering on Italy.
Some fans decided to settle any pre-match nerves by hitting the pubs and bars last night, and the English nation will be hoping to continue the party atmosphere long into the night with a famous win over Roberto Mancini’s Italy, who trounced Spain in their semi-final at Wembley.
The Metropolitan Police has urged fans not to come to London unless they have match tickets or somewhere booked to watch the game. The force said it will be deploying ‘a great many officers and specialist units to prevent crime and disorder and respond to any incidents right across London’.
Earlier, hundreds of fans lined the roads near the team’s St George’s Park training base in Staffordshire to send their England heroes off to the final in style.
They spent last night at The Grove hotel near Watford, a few miles from Wembley, where they waved at more crowds of cheering supporters. Kane said: ‘We have been knocking down barriers on the way but we have to go out there and win it.
Supporters packed into the pubs and sang many of the now well-known England chants s they made the most of the first men’s final since 1966
Supporters gathered to celebrate England men’s first major final in more than half a century as they relished the occasion
England fans show their support as the England Team arrive in London ahead of the Euro 2020 Final against Italy on Sunday
Southgate spoke out about the huge wave of patriotic support offered up to the Three Lions (players Jordan Pickford and Raheem Sterling, pictured) throughout the tournament
Many supporters gathered outside the Grove Hotel as they awaited the arrival of Gareth Southgate and the England squad on Saturday
Harry Maguire steps off the bus in a face mask as a huge crowd of England fans cheer on the team after their journey to the hotel
The nation will come to a standstill, united in the fervent hope that Harry Kane will follow in the golden footsteps of Bobby Moore and lead England to glory
Gareth Southgate is set to receive a KNIGHTHOOD if England win… and a CBE even if they lose
Gareth Southgate is set to receive further honours recognising his achievement in uniting the country and restoring pride in the national team, even if England lose Sunday’s final.
The 50-year-old was awarded an OBE in the 2019 New Year Honours after his side reached the World Cup semi-finals the previous year and Sportsmail has been told that is likely to be upgraded to a CBE regardless of the result.
A knighthood is seen as inevitable if England beat Italy to lift their first major trophy for 55 years.
Alf Ramsey was knighted in 1967 following England’s World Cup win and Southgate would not have to wait long to achieve the same status.
It is unclear whether all England’s players would be similarly honoured, because in recent years the Cabinet Office have shied away from rewarding entire teams.
That follows mockery over the MBEs given to all the 2005 Ashes winners, including Paul Collingwood, who only played one Test in that series.
After England’s Cricket World Cup win in 2019, captain Eoin Morgan received a CBE, Ben Stokes an OBE and Joe Root and Jos Buttler MBEs. Coach Trevor Bayliss was also given an OBE, but the rest of the players missed out.
Harry Kane received an MBE after winning the Golden Boot as top scorer at the 2018 World Cup, and Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling were given MBEs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for their campaigning charity work and promotion of racial equality.
All three could have their honours upgraded, and other key members of the England squad may also be recognised.
‘To see the fans on the street and see the reception we have had, it has just shown us how big an occasion it is.’
The Italian team, who are on a 33-game unbeaten run, were greeted by fans as they flew in from their training base in Florence to Luton Airport yesterday afternoon before boarding a coach to Tottenham Hotspurs’ training ground in Enfield, North London. They will prepare for the match at the nearby £400-a-night Birch Hotel.
In a touching tribute, Harry Kane’s wife Kate, who met her husband while they were at school together and now has three children with the Spurs striker, penned an emotional message to her husband telling him ‘you’re making us all proud’.
She said: ‘You know I’m not one to cry too easily but I found myself in tears when I started writing down how proud you’re making us all and what you’re doing for the country… You’re just such an amazing husband and dad, and the children can’t wait to have you home.
‘Imagine telling them all about this summer one day when they’re a bit older.’
Covid-19 restrictions have separated the team from their families for the last four weeks.
Asked about his wife’s letter, Kane said: ‘My oldest, she is four and six months, she is still a little bit young, I don’t think she understands the magnitude of tomorrow night. Of course she wants first and foremost me to come home, but if football comes home as well we’ll all be delighted.’
Last night, relatives of some of the players were enjoying the build-up. The mothers of defenders Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw posted pictures from Central London, where the two families enjoyed champagne and cocktails.
The Three Lions squad are in line for a £9 million bonus if they lift the trophy, but have indicated that they will donate it to NHS Charities Together.
Last night, Southgate joined calls from No 10 not to boo the Italian national anthem. ‘We know that when we play abroad and fans boo our anthem it inspires them more,’ said the England manager. ‘I don’t think it will help the team.’
The call came after Uefa slapped the English FA with a near £26,000 fine for fans jeering the Danish anthem before the semi-final, setting off fireworks and shining a laser pen at goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Earlier, Southgate urged the nation to ‘stop looking at the negatives of our own country’ because ‘England has so much to be proud of’ as he rallied millions of patriotic fans.
Invoking the courage of a Second World War generation, England’s manager said Britain should not be ashamed of its history – as he praised his squad’s role in driving ‘tolerance and inclusion’.
Southgate acknowledged that Britain’s history likely contributed to the support from the 40,000 fans inside Wembley when England beat Germany last week.
He said: ‘People have tried to invade us and we’ve had the courage to hold that back. You can’t hide that some of the energy in the stadium against Germany was because of that. I never mentioned that to the players, but I know that’s part of what that story was.
‘At heart I go back to the values that my parents gave me and treating people as you would want to be treated. Just respectful, really.’
Marco Verratti, Lorenzo Insigne and Salvatore Sirigu of Italy’s Euro 2020 team are seen departing for London ahead of the match
Alessandro Florenzi of Italy greets his teammate Leonardo Spinazzola on the plane during their journey to London
Insigne is seen arriving in Luton Airport on July 10. He waves at fans as he steps off the plane
Meanwhile, Harry Kane is seen passing the ball during the England training session at St George’s Park on Saturday
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday evening, Southgate urged fans not to boo the Italian anthem while also playing down claims abroad that ‘It’s Coming Home’ is fuelled by English arrogance
Luke Shaw, one of England’s star players this tournament, steps off the bus to huge cheers from the number of fans gathered outside
Southgate added that ‘there are positive things that we could help to change or influence in society’.
‘The longer I’ve been in the role the more I’ve understood the importance for our fans of that connection with the team. They felt part of it and that inclusivity is really important to us because I think that’s what modern England is,’ he said.
‘We know it hasn’t always been the case and there’s historic reasons for that, but that level of tolerance and inclusion is what we have to be about moving forward.’
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday evening, Southgate urged fans not to boo the Italian anthem while also playing down claims abroad that ‘It’s Coming Home’ is fuelled by English arrogance.
He said: ‘It’s important that our fans always respect the opposition and we know that in actual fact when we play abroad and fans boo our anthem it probably inspires us even more. I don’t think it helps the team. We can intimidate the team with booing during the game, but it’s different with the anthem, I think we should be respectful.’
On the popular Three Lions song, first released in 1996 when the Euros were last held in Wembley, Southgate added: ‘I didn’t want to listen to it for 15 years because it was too painful for me. You have to know the English to understand our humour. Our humour is quite unique but it’s certainly not arrogant.
‘The lyrics are making fun of ourselves and the things that have gone wrong.’