Excitement mounts ahead of England's Euro 2024 semi-final against the Netherlands

Thousands of England fans are descending on Dortmund ahead of tonight's semi-final game against the Netherlands

Words by ITV News Producer Hannah Ward-Glenton

Excitement is mounting ahead of England's semi-final clash with the Netherlands tonight, with tens of thousands of fans from both sides expected to descend on the host city of Dortmund.

England are hoping to beat their performance in Euro 2020, when they just missed out on the final in a dramatic penalty shootout against Italy.

Manager Gareth Southgate has said his players are ready to "make history" tonight.

“[The match is] a chance to get to a first final not held in England – first time England will have ever done that. We’re trying to break new ground. That’s difficult and it’s complicated, but the players have responded brilliantly and resilience has been built,” he said.

Buckingham Palace's military band performed a rendition of Three Lions outside the royal residence this morning ahead of the match

The Netherlands is by far the highest ranking team England has faced in the tournament so far, having made it to the semis after beating Slovakia 2-1 in the last 16 in extra time before their penalties triumph against the Swiss on Sunday.

Some keen fans had already taken their seats more than four hours before kick-off. Credit: AP

The Three Lions have played a full hour more than the Netherlands in the last 10 days, while the Dutch wrapped up their wins over Romania and Turkey without needing extra time.

Dutch fans are reportedly set to majorly outnumber England fans on Wednesday night, with around 30,000 Brits looking to gather in the German city, alongside 80,000 supporters of the Orange Army.

England will win tonight's game, according to predictions by the mystic meerkats at Drusillas Park in East Sussex

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has said he expects a "tough game", with the Dutch team seventh in FIFA's world rankings, just two places below England.

"We can't look past them yet, but we know where we want to be and we know what we want to achieve. But game by game - I've said that from game one in the group stages," Pickford said on Monday.

"We believe in ourselves but we've got to deliver on the night," he added.

Pickford’s save from Manuel Akanji helped England beat Switzerland into the Euro 2024 semi-final as the game went to penalties after a 1-1 draw in extra time.

England fans on a train heading to Dortmund. Credit: PA

The Netherlands hasn't reached a Euros final since the country won the tournament in 1988 and last made the semi-final in 2004.

Prime Minister Keir Starmer also plans to keep an eye on the match from Washington DC, where he is currently attending the Nato summit with other global leaders.

He said that while phones were not allowed during important meetings, he hoped to be kept informed as to the game's developments.

“I’ve no doubt we’ll be passed lots of notes with really important information about the summit, and one or two of those notes hopefully will be an update on the score, because I’m not going to be able to get it otherwise."

“I’ve sent a message to the team, obviously I wish them well, I want them to win, and let’s hope they can do it,” the prime minister added.

England fans out on the streets of Dortmund before tonight's match. Credit: AP

Tickets for tonight's match are "like gold dust", according to the England Football Supporters Association, with many fans flying over to Germany just to soak up the atmosphere rather than see the match in person.

Fans will also be keeping an especially close eye on German referee Felix Zwayer, who has history with England midfielder Jude Bellingham.

The player was fined by the German federation in 2021 after he referenced Zwayer's involvement in a match-fixing scandal back in 2006.

Dutch fans - who are expected to seriously outnumber England supporters tonight - are already out in force in Dortmund ahead of the match this evening

When asked by ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott if having Zwayer referee tonight's match made for an "uncomfortable situation", England left-back Luke Shaw said "no, not at all".

"I think we have to respect UEFA on whoever they decide to pick as the ref," Shaw said at a press conference on Monday.

"That won't change anything about us, I think we still just focus on the game in hand, not too much about what refs we've been given or this and that. So for us, it won't make any difference."

The Lionesses wished the men's team luck ahead of tonight's semi-final match, having won their Euros tournament in 2022 when they beat Germany 2-1 in the final

One man in tonight's crowd will be England mega fan Ian Odgers from Norfolk, who gets a tattoo for every away game he attends. He has attended more than 160 matches around the world and gets a new passport stamp tattooed on his body to commemorate his travels.

Mr Odgers says he will be "belting out the national anthem" at Dortmund tonight, and is predicting a "comfortable" 2-0 win for England.

Ian Odgers gets a new tattoo every time he seems an away game, and he'll be cheering on England in Dortmund. Credit: ITV News Anglia

One half Dutch, half English football fan said she is rooting for England to "go all the way", but that she'll be bringing the Netherlands shirt as "a back up".

“My husband will be watching with his England shirt on... I normally support England and probably, if we win, I’ll find myself cheering along,” Emily Knight from Grantham, Lincolnshire said.

“It’s more that the Dutch supporting element is like a back-up," she added.

Emily Knight, wearing her Netherlands shirt as a "back up", with her sons Edwyn, six and Wilfred, five. Credit: PA

Police presence is expected to be high in Dortmund and at fan screenings across the UK.

A spokesperson for the United Kingdom Football Policing Unit said it was aware of reports and videos of disorder between fans in Dortmund on Wednesday.

“It appears that there have been several instances of Dutch fans attacking England fans in bars and attempting to steal flags. We understand this has resulted in minor injuries to five people.

"We are also aware that in addition to the tens of thousands of Dutch fans there to enjoy the game, there are groups of risk supporters who have travelled to Dortmund from the Netherlands.

“Our officers are at the location supporting German colleagues. We would advise supporters to be aware of their surroundings and seek areas where there is a German Police presence.”

While there is the possibility of violence between some fans tonight, the majority of people watching the game will be there to celebrate.

Pubs across the UK are also expecting enormous turnout tonight, with one chain even offering a free pint if England score.

"If England score, we pour", is the slogan Greene King is using ahead of the match, offering punters a free beer once the game is over if England gets a goal.

A bag drop point at Heathrow Airport reads 'Come On England' ahead of tonight's semi-final. Credit: PA

Tesco meanwhile has already said it will close its Express stores early if England makes it to Sunday's final.

The UK’s biggest grocer said its more than 1,800 Express stores will close at 7.30pm instead of the usual 10pm or 11pm to allow employees to watch the game.

If England win tonight's match they will face Spain after they defeated France 2-1 in their semi-final game on Tuesday.

You can watch coverage of the match on ITV1 and ITVX from 6.30pm, with kick-off at 8pm.

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