England stars relax in pool before Ukraine clash – but fans will be outnumbered

England are getting ready to take the plunge in Rome as the nation wills the team on in their bid to make history.

Goal-scoring heroes Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling were among the players looking relaxed as they took to the water yesterday.

But they will have to play the quarter-final against Ukraine without waves of England fans roaring them on at the stadium in Italy’s capital.

There will only be a small Three Lions army at the ground for the match on Saturday. They are set to be outnumbered by Ukraine supporters.

England fan Neal Weekes, 56, said: “It’s a real shame we can’t be there.”

The auctioneer, from Greenwich, South London, who was at the match as England beat Germany on Tuesday at Wembley, added: “But whether it’s 3,000 Lions fans or 300 roaring in Rome, I’m sure they will push the team to victory.”

Raheem Sterling of England in action during a game of volley ball in the swimming pool at St George's Park
Raheem Sterling prepares to strike the volleyball during a game with teammates

Fans living in England have not been able to travel to Italy for the match due to strict quarantine rules.

Supporters in Ukraine do not face the same problems.

Ukraine MP Oleksiy Honcharenko told the Mirror: “We have a visa-free regime with the EU, so I am sure many Ukrainian fans will travel there.

England players during a training session the morning after progressing to the quarter finals
England players during a training session the morning after progressing to the quarter finals

“And there are many Ukrainians living in Italy, who I think will come to support their team.”

He added: “For us, it’s a historic event we are witnessing. We’ve never qualified this far at the Euros.”

Millions of people in England have made their plans for the biggest Saturday night in years.

Many pubs from Cornwall to Carlisle are already fully booked.

Seymour’s bar in Derby has no room left for Saturday and is even sold out for Wednesday next week – when England will play in the semi-final if they beat Ukraine.

Owner Steve Gough said: “It’s been amazing. The demand has been incredible. Football fans just want to be part of something special.

“It’s going to be a special night – especially if we win.”

Gareth Southgate masterminded England's first major tournament win over Germany since 1966
Gareth Southgate masterminded England’s first major tournament win over Germany since 1966

The game kicks off at 8pm and TV bosses expect the biggest viewing figures since England played in the World Cup semi-final in 2018.

One of the England fans with tickets for the match on Saturday has voiced his frustration that he cannot attend due to Covid travel restrictions.

Warrick Howard, 37, from Leicestershire, bought the tickets in 2019 for £120 each.

Harry Kane of England reacts during a game of volley ball in the swimming pool at St George's Park
Kane opened his Euro 2020 goalscoring account against Germany

His plans for the match have been ruined by Italy’s five-day quarantine requirement for UK arrivals.

Warrick said: “Given the huge push to have everyone vaccinated, there were ways of making this work for fans, but Uefa and the EU have made no effort to do so.

“I guess they were too busy organising thousands of ‘no quarantine required’ exemptions for their couple of thousand VIPs.”

England fans celebrate following victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium
England will have to do without thousands of fans in Rome

Bosses at the FA are today trying to work out how to get tickets to England supporters living in Italy. Chiefs recognise the support may help Gareth Southgate’s team to victory.

They are entitled to 2,560 tickets. English footie fans who reside in Italy are angry over the ticketing.

Neil Marsland, who lives in Rome, said: “It’s a disgrace – all this mixed messaging. There is no clear guidance. Are there any tickets available and, if so, how do we get them?”

Harry Kane of England (2L) reacts with Raheem Sterling (L) and Jack Grealish after winning the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 soccer match
England overcame their old foes in a hard fought victory

His friend Nick Norvell said: “We’ve been trying to find tickets via Uefa, but the site is super-slow and cumbersome.” Mary Handley, 68, who is originally from Halifax but has lived in Italy for 40 years, said she was “desperate” for a ticket.

She added: “I’m constantly hassling everywhere to get one, but there’s a lot of confusion here.

“I’ve been trying all morning to navigate the systems and not got anywhere. There’s a big network of English residents in Italy and you can travel pretty easily…

Fans celebrating as they left Wembley following England's win on Tuesday
Fans celebrating as they left Wembley following England’s win on Tuesday

“We probably all have our Italian vaccinations and we can get into the stadium without jumping through any more hoops… I do think there’s quite an army out there that might show up.”

A letter sent by the FA to the England Supporters Travel Club said: “Please be aware that, unfortunately, the FA will not be selling any tickets via the England Supporters Travel Club for this fixture given the travel restrictions in place across both countries.”

The match will be played at the Olympic Stadium, which holds 75,000 people but only 18,000 will be allowed in on Saturday.

Footie fan Pope Francis might well follow the game near his home
Footie fan Pope Francis might well follow the game near his home

Footie fan Pope Francis might well follow the game near his home – and England will pray they don’t suffer the same kind of “divine intervention” as when the Pontiff’s compatriot Diego Maradona knocked the Three Lions out of the 1986 World Cup with his notorious Hand of God goal.

Meanwhile, US reality TV star Kim Kardashian, 40, has seemingly been getting into the spirit in Rome – she was wearing what looked liked football shorts near the Colosseum.

England’s players trained yesterday at their base in Burton, Staffs, as they prepare for their first Euro 2020 game away from Wembley.

Harry Kane looks on as he is interviewed in the Lion's Den at St George's Park today
Harry Kane looks on as he is interviewed in the Lion’s Den at St George’s Park today

The squad fly to Italy on a charter flight from Birmingham tomorrow.

They will stay in a UEFA allocated hotel in Rome on Friday night and fly back after the game.

Southgate said yesterday: “These players keep writing history and they’ve got the chance again.

“We’ve only been to one European Championship semi-final so they’ve got the chance to do something really special.”


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