World Cup 2022: Fans say winners of England’s quarter-final with France have ‘one hand on trophy’

If England are victorious, then they will face the winners of tonight's other quarter-final - Morocco or Portugal - in the semis next week. Alex Iszatt reports.

England fans believe the winners of their crunch quarter-final clash with France have “one hand on the trophy”.

Supporters in Qatar and back at home have spoken of their nerves as they geared up for Saturday’s crucial knockout tie, with police forces across the nation urging fans to “drink responsibly” ahead of the game.

The RAC suggested football fans should leave their cars at home and go on foot to watch the match due to the “big freeze” across the country.

Thousands of fans will cheer on the Three Lions in Al Khor and millions more back home are expected to watch on TV, with pubs and bars readying themselves for another bumper evening.

England boss Southgate insisted the squad must produce the “very best version” of themselves if they are to keep their dreams alive by overcoming the reigning World Cup champions.

The two giants of European football will meet at the Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday evening, with the winner facing Morocco or Portugal in the semis on December 14.

Ahead of the 7pm kick-off, ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott said that if last night's quarter finals are anything to go by - tonight's clash looks set to be close and "very tense indeed"

The British Beer and Pub Association hopes the 7pm kick-off time in the UK will encourage punters to visit their local early.

It predicts six million more pints could be sold during the quarter-final game – providing a £26 million boost to the industry.

Extra police officers will be deployed in London given large swathes of English and French football fans are expected to flock to the city.

Downing Street said Rishi Sunak wishes England the “best of luck” and he will watch the game with friends and colleagues at the prime minister’s countryside retreat, Chequers.

'We're not going home until next Monday', one hopeful England fan told ITV News Correspondent Chloe Keedy

Friends James Bayley and Charles Johnson, both 28 and from London, arrived in Qatar on Friday morning and said they were on the same flight as Raheem Sterling. Chelsea forward Sterling returned to the squad after missing last Sunday’s last-16 win against Senegal due to concerns over his family’s wellbeing following the incident at his home in Surrey. Mr Johnson predicted a 3-1 England win and said: “I think if England start how they did against Senegal, after 30 minutes when Jude (Bellingham) and Hendo (Jordan Henderson) took it on, I think we’ll be all right.” He added: “I think whoever wins it today has got their hand on the trophy, but we’ll see what happens.” Mr Johnson said it had been a “World Cup of upsets”, adding: “For once I’m actually confident about England’s chances. We were in Russia last time around and there’s a good feeling about the team. “On our plane out here Sterling was on it too with his family so I think that’ll be a big boost to the team.” Mr Bayley predicted 2-1 to England and said: “I’m nervous, look at the two games that went to penalties yesterday. It’s going to be tight.” He added: “I’m confident, but I think whoever wins it today you think they’re probably favourites after that.”

England fans pictured ahead of the match. Credit: PA

Elsewhere, the build-up saw singer Chesney Hawkes join forces with members of the England band to perform in the Souq Waqif market place in Doha.

Hawkes was dubbed a “lucky charm” by the England players after he performed his chart hit The One and Only on the pitch during the interval of their 3-0 group stage win over Wales.

Southgate told ITV Sport that his side "could have talked a good game" in previous years, but now have the "experience of big nights as a group" to believe a win is within reach

Ahead of the match, England manager Gareth Southgate said: “The biggest thing for me in the game is going to be our mentality.

“We’ll of course be tactically prepared.

“But on these nights you’ve got to have men that stand up and take on the challenge. That’s the bit that we’ve got to prove to people.

“We’ve had some outstanding nights and the next game is always the most important. It’s against a good level of opponent, one we’re ready for. One, if you’d asked me four years ago were we quite ready, I’m not sure.

“Now I feel differently about that, and that’s because we’ve got evidence over a long period of results.

“Historically we have always talked well, but the evidence wasn’t there. Now we’ve got more evidence and we’ve got to go and nail this type of game now.”

France fans in Souq Waqif on Saturday. Credit: PA

The England Supporters’ Travel Club received 2,005 applications for quarter-final tickets out of an allocation of 3,509 ahead of the tournament, according to the FA.

Supporter numbers have been bolstered by people already living in the region while others have stayed in Dubai and used shuttle flights on match days.

There were reports of France supporters boycotting the World Cup due to concerns over Qatar’s record on human rights, although the country’s ambassador to Doha insisted 10,000 fans registered for visas ahead of the tournament.

Tune into ITV1 or ITVX to watch England v France at 6pm on Saturday

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...