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England gears up for biggest football match in 28 years as World Cup semi-final against Croatia approaches

England are about to play their biggest football match in 28 years. Credit: PA

Millions of fans are bracing themselves across the country as England prepare for their most important match in 28 years - a shot at reaching the World Cup final.

Wednesday's game against Croatia will be England's first World Cup semi-final since their penalty shoot-out defeat by West Germany in 1990.

A win for Gareth Southgate's side would send the Three Lions to their first final since the 1966 triumph, where they would face France.

No wonder then that excitement has reached fever pitch as the match approaches.

  • Fans rushing to Moscow

Thousands of Three Lions fans have travelled to Moscow for the final-four clash, with many still hoping to bag tickets at the last minute.

Many supporters had opted to stay at home during the earlier stages of the tournament, but now with England progressing many have flocked to Russia to get a piece of the action.

Police have estimated that between 8,000 and 10,000 England fans will arrive in Moscow for Tuesday's match.

Supporters who arrived without tickets faced a day of haggling with touts and private sellers to get into the Luzhniki Stadium for the 9pm local time kick-off.

More England fans travelled to Russia as the tournament progressed. Credit: PA

One fan, Peter Cooper, told ITV News that he had convinced his work to allow him to operate from their Moscow office for the tournament's duration.

Now he has a ticket for the semi-final.

Another pair, mother and son Alison and Peter Rogers, were lucky enough to win tickets for the same match in a ballot.

  • 'It's a massive game for us'
England trained with a rubber chicken ahead of their Croatia clash. Credit: PA

It may be one of the biggest games for England in several generations, but the players themselves appear remarkably calm.

Amid the build-up, the players were pictured training with a rubber chicken at their Repino base.

Meanwhile, defender Kyle Walker took time out to congratulate Thailand on the rescue of 12 boys from a flooded cave complex.

Midfielder Jordan Henderson was barely three weeks old when England last played at a World Cup semi-final in 1990.

"It's a massive game for us, we all know that, but there's no need to make it any bigger than it already is," he said on Tuesday.

"We're just focussed on what the job in hand is, but we're going to take a lot of good things from the past."

  • Whole country gearing up for match

Preparations for the match have been underway in England since the team dispatched Sweden in the quarter-finals on Saturday afternoon.

In Leeds, up to 4,000 fans are expected to pack Millennium Square while around 30,000 people are anticipated to watch at London's Hyde Park, where a special screening has been organised.

Pubs are expecting to be packed, with more than 25 million people having already tuned in to watch England's last 16 match against Colombia.

Some 30,000 fans are expected to watch the match at London's Hyde Park.
St George's flag sales are up by 1,000%. Credit: ITV News

St George's flag production has been stepped up in Chesterfield, where sales are reportedly up by 1,000%.

Meanwhile, supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl have promised to close stores early on Sunday if England reach the final.

  • The song on everybody's lips
'Football's Coming Home' - the words on everybody's lips. Credit: PA

It makes a resurgence every four years, but this time The Lightning Seeds' anthem Three Lions (Football's Coming Home) seems to have been sung with real heart.

The 1996 song has sparked numerous memes and quips in recent weeks, and the tune has been heard ringing out for the duration of the tournament.

Manager Gareth Southgate admitted he had not been able to bring himself to listen to the song since his Euro 96 penalty miss.

But now, the 47-year-old says the tune is slowly growing on him again as the team progresses further.

  • Royal wishes

One household certain to be urging the Three Lions on will be Kensington Palace.

Prince Harry replied "most definitely" when asked by reporters whether or not football was "coming home" during a trip to Dublin.

And his older brother, Prince William, issued his own rallying cry for England.

The Duke of Cambridge said: "A new generation is enjoying the magic of this World Cup run.

"The whole country is right behind you tonight. Come on England - it's coming home!"

  • Newspapers urge England on

Newspapers across the country have been urging England on, with the build-up to the match splashed across front and back pages.

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  • You can watch England v Croatia in the World Cup semi-final on ITV from 6pm and on the ITV Hub
  • Follow the latest from the World Cup on ITV's dedicated World Cup website