Excited England fans will flock to pubs across the country and in Qatar to sink millions of pints in what is set to be the biggest booze-up since Covid as they roar on Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions in the World Cup blockbuster quarter-final ‘le crunch’ against France.
Some 28million pints will be sunk in drinking holes across Britain today – with another 50million to be supped at home – as millions watch the battle with the French side at the biggest gatherings since before the coronavirus lockdowns.
And in Qatar, hundreds of fans were dashing for last-minute tickets for ‘le crunch’ match – as some tried to cash in by demanding £9,000 for seats.
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Some 23million people are set to watch the prime-time 7pm game on ITV, the biggest TV sport audience since the Euro 2020 final last year. Retailer John Lewis said sales of large 60 to 69-inch TVs more than doubled last Monday, compared with the same day a week before. Giant screens showing the big match have been set up at warehouse-size venues in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle, but many are already fully booked.
Extra police are being deployed in London as supporters descend on bars and pubs across the capital, with Metropolitan Police saying it expects venues to be ‘extremely busy’ tonight.
England fans in Souq Waqif before the FIFA World Cup Quarter-Final match at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar
In Qatar, hundreds of fans were dashing for last-minute tickets for ‘le crunch’ match – as some tried to cash in by demanding £9,000 for seats
Last night England manager Gareth Southgate said his squad have ‘the qualities needed to win’ and said all they needed to thwart the reigning world champions was ‘belief’.
He praised supporters and promised ‘to give them another night to be proud of’.
Pub bosses are praying for England to beat Les Bleus to reach the semi-finals and keep the World Cup dream alive.
Emma McClarkin, British Beer and Pub Association chief executive, estimated six million more pints would be sold today than usual, totally 28million and translating to a £26million boost to the industry.
She said: ‘Pubs need this, as they continue to weather what was already set to be a difficult winter. We’re hoping it will at least provide some short-term uplift to the industry and continue to lift the spirits of the nation..’
Meanwhile those watching from home are expected to sink a further 50million pints, according to analysts.
One England fan – John Dawes an Amazon driver from Teesside – showed his support for the Three Lions by taking on the ultimate football-related food challenge – consuming 8,000 calories in 15 minutes by stuffing his face with meat-filled pies outside Wembley.
The two giants of the European game meet at the Al Bayt Stadium, 40 miles north of capital Doha, with Morocco or Portugal awaiting the winner in the semi-finals on December 14.
As anticipation levels reached fever pitch, English and French fans both said they were feeling confident of glory.
They included I’m A Celebrity winner Jill Scott, one of the team of Lionesses who won Euro 2022, who said she was convinced Southgate’s stars would beat the reigning world champions because ‘player for player I think that we’re better than them…100%’.
Miss Scott, 35, told England star Bukayo Saka in a video chat she was ‘so excited’ to be flying out to watch the match.
She will be among what the Football Supporters’ Association estimates to be more than 7,000 England fans, half travelling from Britain and the remaining supporters living locally in the Gulf region.
France’s ambassador to Doha said about 10,000 fans had registered for visas ahead of the tournament.
England captain Harry Kane during the England Training Session at Al Wakrah Stadium
England fans Joseph Murray and Ken Milton getting excited for the blockbuster match
England fans in Souq Waqif market ahead of the England v France quarter final match
An England supporter interacts with France fans in Souq Waqif before the FIFA World Cup match at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar
England fans playing Sweet Caroline in Souq Waqif
England fans in Souq Waqif market ahead of the England v France quarter final
But there was a scramble for tickets which were sold out at the main salespoint in central Doha. Touts outside were asking for around £1,000 for a ticket originally costing £200. An online resale website, Ticombo, claimed to have 679 tickets available, with some being sold for £2,500 and each came with a hefty booking fee of £750, making the full price for these tickets £3,250 each. The original price was £350.
Another website called Live Football Tickets claimed to have 622 tickets available for the game, with hospitality packages being offered for £7,000 per person plus a £2,000 booking fee.
Among the lucky ones with tickets were England’s supporters Neal Weekes, 57, and Fil Sollof, 57, flying in from London before getting a taxi straight to the game.
Mr Weekes, an auctioneer, from Greenwich, south east London, said: ‘We wouldn’t miss this quarter final match against France for the world. I really think it could now be coming home.’
His friend, a property services owner from Loughton, Essex, added: ‘It’s been pretty tiring but worth it. Let’s hope Harry Kane and the team can play well tomorrow and reach the World Cup final just like they did in Russia back in 2018.’
Andrew Whittaker, 30, who lives in Doha by way of Liverpool, said he had a ‘funny feeling’ of an England win.
The consultant said: ‘I think they will do well against France. It’s the first test. They’ve always played lesser teams and done well and when it’s come to the big game they’ve always fallen a bit short. So hopefully this time around it’s third time lucky.’
Thousands of England fans began pouring into Doha today for the World Cup match that will bring the country they left behind to a standstill.
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 England squad after missing last Sunday’s last-16 win against Senegal due to concerns over his family’s wellbeing following an incident at his home in Surrey.
Mr Johnson, who works in shipping, 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, who works in sports analytics, predicted a 2-1 England win 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.’
Fellow England fan Tom Waddington, 27, from Nottingham, was more cautious about taking up England’s chances.
Fans from various nations in a restaurant in the Souq Waqif
England fans Simon and Kevin on the Metro to the ground before the FIFA World Cup match at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar
England fans in Souq Waqif before the FIFA World Cup match
Tom, a revenue manager for a health care company, said: ‘As much as I want England to win tonight, my head says it will be France. It would be amazing to see England go all the way and we’ll have a good chance if we can keep a clean sheet and get a goal early. ‘
The Manchester United fan added: ‘But no knock-out game at the World Cup has a certain winner or loser because all the teams are good. We have a chance but I think France will be stronger.’
Joseph Murray, 75, revealed that he attended the 1966 World Cup final and that the omens appeared positive for this year’s tournament.
He said: ‘Like ’66, this year also ends with the same double digits. This could definitely be England’s year.
‘My memory of 1966 was the nerves in the ground during the last 10 minutes. It feels very special being in Qatar as one of the few England fans who’ve seen them win the World Cup.’
Mr Murray, from Aberdeen revealed that he is half-Scottish and half-English but that he has always followed the England football.
He added: ‘I’ve gave up on Scottish football a long time ago. In 1966 I was a Scotts Guard and somebody gave me a ticket for free. In Doha, my trip has been paid for by my son-in-law who’s a millionaire, which is lucky for me.’
Mr Murray estimated that his visit to Qatar, where he has attended all of England’s matches has cost around £7,000.
He predicted that England would win 2-1.
Ken Milton, 64 from Sussex who has attended all of England’s games, said: ‘ It’s been a fantastic tournament and I’ve tried to do it as cheaply as possible.
‘There are ten of us staying in a villa and it’s costing us £65 each per night, which isn’t bad.’
He beamed: ‘England will 5-0 and although it’s not cheap being here it will be worth it if that’s the final score. I’m convinced that Saka will score a hatrick.’
David Waddington, 56, who lives in Doha but is originally from Bolton said: ‘I’m very confident about tonight’s game but it’s going to be close with one goal in it. England will win 2-1.
‘Qatar has done a great job organising this tournament and Doha is beautifully dressed up. I’m very excited about playing France and then see England get to a World Cup final.’
In Doha, the seven-a-side supporters’ game was feisty at times and offered a glimpse of the passion and desire expected when the real thing starts.
France took the lead three times in the 60-minute clash but were pegged back to 3-3 on the stroke of half-time and were overrun in the second half.
England supporters’ team boss Garford Beck said: ‘It’s a great way of bringing fans together and the game had a little bit of an edge to it.’
David Mundo, of the French team, said it was a ‘tough game’ and predicted a France win later.
Mr Beck replied: ‘I wish you a safe journey to Paris on Monday.’
France fans in Souq Waqif before the FIFA World Cup match
Mr Mundo said Kylian Mbappe is ‘most likely’ to make the difference for France, telling the PA news agency: ‘Most likely we’ll have to concede a goal or two from you as you’ve been scoring many goals and we’ve been conceding, so my concern is how many goals you’ll score.
‘But I give you one if you want, you be happy, and then we come back and we win.’
Claims and cost consultant Andrew Whittaker, 30, who lives in Doha by way of Liverpool, said: ‘I’m hoping it should be 1-0 England – as long as we keep Mbappe quiet we’ll be all right.
‘I’ve got a feeling Harry Kane is going to score.
‘If we win tonight – which is probably the biggest challenge – it’ll probably be an England-Argentina final, and hopefully we’ll go that one step further this time and bring it home.’
Chef Mark Trigg, 48, from Derby, said he had the ‘typical match day nerves’ but fancied England to win.
He said: ‘I think we can get a 2-1 tonight. It’ll be a bit tighter, we have scored a good few goals on the way through, I don’t see so many goals tonight.’
Mr Trigg added he will be wearing his lucky England suit which his mother helped make, explaining: ‘It’s a red hat, matching shirt, matching shorts, and it’s been getting noticed all over Qatar.’
Asked if he believes the winner of the tie will win the competition, Mr Trigg said: ‘Yeah, I’ve been saying that – I think there’s two good sides out there. Brazil are out which opens it a little more.’
James Swann, 28, from Barnsley, said France are a ‘good side’ and have a front four ‘as good as anybody in world football’.
But Mr Swann, who works in property and construction, said: ‘I don’t think they’re that much better than us, they must be scared of our front three as well.’
Brothers Josh and Matty Smith said they have enjoyed the ‘buzz’ during their trip to Qatar and hoped England boss Gareth Southgate opts for a positive approach.
Welder Matty, 24, who lives in Peterborough, said: ‘Hopefully we can get a good win – only trouble is they’ve got Mbappe, I think Kyle Walker will do a good job on him, but they’ve also got (Antoine) Griezmann.
‘If we worry too much about Mbappe, you miss half the other team and they’ve got some good players.’
Josh, 26, from Chester, who works in finance, said: ‘Hopefully he goes 4-3-3 and keeps it attacking, keeps the formation, doesn’t worry too much about defending.
‘If we start worrying about defending that’s when we’ll see cracks.
‘I do think the winner of tonight will win the tournament… and I do believe it’s coming home. I think we’ll win 2-1 in 90 minutes.’
France fan Babacar Sall, from Massy, in France, said he expects a ‘tough game as England are a really great team’ but insisted France also have a ‘great, great team’ despite injuries.
He said the key to the game might be the midfield, adding: ‘In the end there is Mbappe, Griezmann, who can do the job any time, and there’s (Olivier) Giroud.’
On his prediction, he said: ‘It’s a tough one but I say 3-1 France.
‘The winner of tonight might be the favourite to win the World Cup even if Argentina are on the other side against Croatia.’
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