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England come home as players and fans prepare for return to Wembley


Football has landed on home soil. After Saturday night’s emphatic 4-0 win over Ukraine in Rome, the England team flew back to their base at St George’s Park in Staffordshire for a day of rest, table tennis and Love Island on catchup. The rest of their Euro 2020 will be played at Wembley. The only question now is whether that will be one more game or two: a semi-final against Denmark awaits on Wednesday. Win that and they will play next Sunday against the either Italy or Spain in their first European Championship final, and their first major final since the 1966 World Cup.

The 60,000 fans able to go to cheer on Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and an increasingly buoyant England squad will represent the biggest crowd to have gathered in the UK since the pandemic began. Gareth Southgate, the England manager, has been clear about the value of playing on home turf in front of fans unable to attend any sort of match for so long. And if the mood against Germany last week was anything to go by – thanks to a 41,000 crowd – the fans will not let the opportunity pass without making themselves heard.

Only a handful of tickets remain for England v Denmark. Those on general sale were snapped up as soon as they were available last week and on Monday, a few hundred will be sold to members of the England Travel Supporters Club. England currently have an allocation of about 8,500 tickets for the match, but most of those are already reserved by ETSA members. It is understood that there are likely to be a further 3,000 tickets made available, after Denmark reduced their allocation to 5,000. These tickets could be made available to the ETSA and the FA say they are working with Uefa to “finalise the total allocation and secure more tickets”. All ticket-holders will be required to show a negative coronavirus test in order to enter Wembley or provide proof of two doses of a vaccine 14 days before a game.

Southgate and his increasingly upbeat team know that support from across the country on Wednesday will number in the tens of millions. The BBC said the Ukraine match had been the most-watched live TV event of the year, surpassing the audience for the 2–0 victory over Germany, with a peak TV audience of 20.9 million viewers – 81.8% of available viewers tuning in – and an average of 19.8 million viewers. There were also 5.2m streams recorded across iPlayer and BBC Sport online.

The biggest audience ever recorded for an England match was 25.2m shared between ITV and BBC during the England v West Germany semi-final at the 1990 World Cup. Due to agreement between the two broadcasters, ITV will show the semi-final exclusively. Just like the team itself, the commercial station has a chance to break a hoodoo: of all the tournament matches shown by ITV since 1998, the Three Lions have won only four times.

Saturday night’s rout served up the now familiar scenes of fan zones across the country covering themselves in beer, with an estimated 6m pints sold by pubs on the night. While arrests were made in central London after England fans began impromptu celebrations around Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, Met police said the gatherings were “largely good natured”.

There were also further inspiring tales of new fans being able to enjoy the game. One Twitter thread by Shaista Aziz, who works with the FA’s Refugees and Asylum Seekers Football Network, celebrated the inclusive ethos of the team and how it made it easier for all fans to support England. Aziz posted a picture of her and her friends watching the match with the caption: “Three Hijabis walk into a bar to watch the Three Lions thrash Ukraine.”

Government sources say there are no plans to add to the number of fan parks available to socially-distanced crowds before the semi-final.

While England’s are rallying a nation behind them, Denmark have seized the tag of “everyone’s second team”. After the cardiac arrest of their most accomplished player, Christian Eriksen in their first match against Finland, the Danes have shown incredible collective strength, culminating in a 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic in their quarter-final.

#LondonCalling is now the preferred hashtag for the Danes who will be playing in their first international semi-final since they won the European Championship as last minute replacements in 1992. They have a strong record against their next opponents, having lost just once against England in their past six competitive fixtures, a second round match at the 2002 World Cup in Japan.

With Denmark on the UK government’s amber list for travel, and Danes required to quarantine for 10 days on arrival in the country, fans will not be able to travel to attend the game. Instead, there is a concerted attempt to rally British-based Danes to make it to Wembley.

One tweet by Ronnie Hansen, the Danish FA’s head of commercial activities, said it was the patriotic duty of all ex-pats to be there. “Now ALL Danes living in England must enter the fight!”, he wrote. “Do you know a Dane in England or Scotland? They must carry the torch on from the world’s best supporters. There are many tickets for Danes in the UK and they have to go AMOK!!”





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