The hopes of an expectant nation are resting on the shoulders of the England football squad, as fans rise early to begin a day of celebrations ahead of the Three Lions’ historic Euro 2020 final against Italy tonight – their biggest game in almost six decades.
Millions of England fans will be sporting reds and whites in living rooms and in pubs across the country, with 60,000 supporters expected to cheer on Gareth Southgate’s men at Wembley Stadium in the side’s first major final since the 1966 World Cup final.
The Queen, Prince William and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have all showered the Three Lions in praise, while thousands of England supporters urge the side to ‘bring it home’ on Twitter – with some fans revealing they have been so excited that they did not sleep last night.
In a good-luck video message posted on Twitter, the Duke of Cambridge praised manager Southgate, captain Harry Kane and ‘every member of the England team on and off the pitch’ as he said: ‘I can’t really believe this is happening’ and wished the squad ‘the very best of luck’.
He appeared to be crossing his fingers for an England win while at Wimbledon yesterday, where he and his wife Kate Middleton attended the grand slam to watch Australia’s Ashleigh Barty win the tennis Championship in an epic three-set final against Karolina Pliskova.
The duke said: ‘Gareth, Harry and to every member of the England team on and off the pitch, just want to wish you the very best of luck tonight. What a team performance it’s been, everyone in the squad has played their part. All the backroom team as well have been truly essentially.
‘I can’t really believe this is happening. So exciting and I just wish you the very best of luck. You bring out the very best of England and we are all behind you. The whole country is behind you. So, bring it home.’
The British Beer & Pub Association predicts England fans will buy 7.1 million pints on Sunday, while over the weekend an estimated £750million is expected to be withdrawn from cash machines – up 12 per cent on the same period a year earlier, according to ATM network Link.
In a welcome economic boost, by the end of the competition, it is estimated that £815million will have been spent in pubs and hospitality venues, with 32.6 million pints sold, a report by Vouchercodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) said.
A number of schools have already said they will allow pupils to start later on Monday if they wish to and some employers are considering letting staff enjoy a celebratory – or consolatory – lie-in after what could be a very late night.
The final – which is expected to attract a record television audience of 35 million – is due to kick off at 8pm and will finish by 10pm if it ends in normal time, but could end closer to 11pm if there is extra time or a penalty shootout.
The official England Twitter account posted this morning: ‘A matchday like no other’ – sparking a flurry of excited and anxious messages. One expectant fan wrote: ‘Massive day ahead, first final for @England in my lifetime. Wherever you’re watching it, whatever your plans are, enjoy! Proud of the squad and what they’ve done so far, but they can lift that trophy!’
Another said: ‘Today is the day! The sun’s out, enjoy it, embrace it, soak up the atmosphere!! The excitement, the nerves, the butterflies in the stomach. Go mad!! Who knows when or if this day will come again! #ItsComingHome’.
One tweeted: ‘Been up since 5am cos of today. Couldn’t sleep at all! C’mon @England #ItsComingHome #ENG’ – with another writing on Twitter: ‘Morning everyone, anybody got any sleep last night or feeling nervous ahead of #ITAENG #ItsComingHome Come on #ENG @England’.
England captain Harry Kane said his team hopes to do the nation proud in their bid for Euro 2020 glory. He told reporters at a press conference last night: ‘We want to go and bring the trophy home’ – adding: ‘We know how much it means to the English fans all over the country so we’re proud to be representing them and hopefully we can do them proud again.’
The Queen paid tribute to the ‘spirit, commitment and pride’ of the squad in a good luck message ahead of tonight’s final, while her grandson the Duke of Cambridge said it is ‘so exciting’ to get to this point.
The Prime Minister told Southgate and the players they had ‘already made history’ by reaching the final, writing: ‘You have lifted the spirits of the whole country, and tomorrow we know you can lift that trophy too. We are not just hoping or praying.
‘We believe in you, Gareth, and your incredible squad.’
As the nation rallies behind the England football squad, it emerged:
- Gareth Southgate will receive a knighthood if England win but will be awarded a CBE regardless of the result;
- David Baddiel and Frank Skinner are banned by UEFA from performing Three Lions at the start of the match because it would be ‘unfair’ to Italy;
- Southgate reveals he ‘couldn’t stand’ the It’s Coming Home refrain for 15 years after his penalty miss in 1996 ;
- The England manager urged fans not to boo the Italian national anthem, saying it could inspire them;
- Harry Kane revealed Tom Cruise FaceTimed the England team on Friday night to wish the players luck;
- UEFA fined England £26,000 after a fan shone a laser into the eye of Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel before Harry Kane’s penalty in the semi final;
- Euros fever has delivered a £3.4billion spending spree on partying, drinking, souvenir merchandise and supersize TVs, analysts said;
- The NHS is braced for a surge in heart attacks as the stress of watching football takes its toll on the nation’s health;
- Ministers have been told to stop using the phrase ‘It’s coming home’ – a reference to the England football anthem Three Lions – because it annoys other countries.
Pictured: England fans at Wembley, where England will play Italy in the Euro 2020 final
England supporters are pictured queueing for the Box Park bar to open at Wembley Stadium ahead of the Euro 2020 final
The first England supporters head to Wembley sporting red, white and blue ahead of the Euro 2020 final
Prince William appeared to be crossing his fingers for an England win while at Wimbledon yesterday, where he and his wife Kate Middleton attended the grand slam to watch Australia’s Ashleigh Barty win the tennis Championship in an epic three-set final against Karolina Pliskova
The sun rises behind Wembley Stadium as England braces for its Euro 2020 final against Italy
England fans dressed in red and white head down to Wembley Stadium as the match build-up gets underway
Pictured: Michaela, Mark, Arthur and Tracy showing their support (early) for England at Wembley
Pictured: Jack with his twin sons Alfie and Leo at Wembley Stadium ahead of the Euro 2020 final against Italy
Pictured: England fans queue for the Box Park bar to open at Wembley Stadium ahead of the Euro 2020 final
England fans drape themselves in the flag of St George as they head to Wembley ahead of the Euro 2020 final
Exterior of Wembley in London this morning as the first England fans arrive at the stadium ahead of tonight’s match
Aerial view of children at Ernesettle Community School, Plymouth, standing to spell out ENGLAND ahead of the final
The official England Twitter account posted this morning: ‘A matchday like no other’
Thousands of supporters urged the side to ‘bring it home’ on Twitter, with some revealing they’re so excited they didn’t sleep
Pictured: artist Nathan Parker. Local home owners Kate and Paul Williams from Nuneaton have arranged for a local artist to paint a mural called ‘3 Lions on the wall’ to raise money for a Defibrillator
England’s Harry Kane, center, celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the Euro 2020 soccer semifinal match between England and Denmark
Gareth Southgate (pictured) has urged the nation to ‘stop looking at the negatives of our own country’ because ‘England has so much to be proud of’ ahead of the Euro 2020 final
As many as 35million people are set to cheer on the Three Lions against Italy in the final of Euro 2020 in the fervent hope that Harry Kane will follow in the golden footsteps of Bobby Moore and lead England to glory. Pictured: The team celebrating their semi final win on Wednesday
The Queen (left) congratulated Gareth Southgate and the England players for reaching the Euro 2020 final and praised their ‘spirit, commitment and pride’, while Boris Johnson praised the ‘band of brothers’ (right)
‘Four day bank holiday IF England win tonight!’ Friday August 27 ‘is most likely day for extra day off to celebrate Euros win to make long weekend’ – as petition tops 350,000
A four-day bank holiday in August could be declared if England win the European Championships tonight.
Britons could be granted another reason to cheer on the Three Lions as they face off against Italy at Wembley, as reports suggest a victory could mean extra time off in August.
A petition calling for the bank holiday has already topped 350,000 signatures.
Friday August 27 is thought to be the most likely option for the additional day off because it would align with the summer bank holiday on the following Monday, The Telegraph reports.
A source said the potential four-day weekend would spark an economic boost as more Britons would be able to take mini-breaks before schools go back for the next academic year.
Across England, fans have been savouring the run-up to a game that could see the country crowned champions of Europe. Houses have been bedecked with flags amid a surge in demand for England-themed paraphernalia and the Shard in London was lit up in the team colours.
Residents on Wales Street, in Oldham, Greater Manchester have even patriotically renamed their road in honour of the Three Lions – England Street, with a new red-and-white sign erected above the original.
A good luck message from David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and the Lightning Seeds – who are behind the anthemic Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) – has been projected onto the white cliffs of Dover ahead of the match.
Former England right-back Gary Neville, who along with Southgate experienced semi-final heartbreak as a player at Euro 96, stressed that today was ‘not a day to be nervous’.
Discussing how the players would be feeling on Sunday morning compared to his own experiences with the national team, Neville told Sky Sports News: ‘If you think about 1996 and Gareth’s abuse he received after missing that penalty, (David) Beckham in ’98 and then my brother (Phil Neville) in 2000, it was a very pressurised situation with England because you weren’t performing at a level and there was a different way in which they approached it from a media point as well.
‘These lads haven’t got that cynicism, they haven’t got that pain and dismay embedded within themselves, so I suspect that now they must be feeling on top of the world this morning, excited.
‘I know there are a lot of fans nervous up and down the country but this isn’t a day to be nervous. I don’t feel nervous at all. It’s a moment and a day that this country’s been waiting for such a long time. I think the pressure moment was actually against Scotland or against Germany in the second round.
‘We’ve gone past those things with this team, so this team have proven they can jump hurdles that none have done before in the last 55 years, and I suspect that they’ll be feeling really comfortable.’
Former England boss Terry Venables, who led the Three Lions to the last four of the Euros 25 years ago, has written an open letter to Southgate in The Sun.
Venables said: ‘I will be with you in spirit on that touchline. I knew exactly how, and what you were feeling as those incredible days which brought the country together back in ’96 came flooding back to me, feelings which cannot be fully appreciated unless you are standing on that spot.
‘As you know, sport teaches us so many lessons about life and the saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is so true. Having watched all of the games, I have to say that your team are a credit to you as mine were to me, and I know that to achieve a connection like that is a luxury many managers could never accomplish.
‘Enjoy every moment of your day on Sunday, knowing that our wonderful country are all behind you and your team cheering you on, willing you the success which you all deserve.’
In her written message, the Queen recalled presenting the Jules Rimet trophy to Bobby Moore after England beat then West Germany in the World Cup – almost six decades ago.
She said: ‘Fifty-five years ago I was fortunate to present the World Cup to Bobby Moore and saw what it meant to the players, management and support staff to reach and win the final of a major international football tournament.
‘I want to send my congratulations and that of my family to you all on reaching the final of the European Championships, and send my good wishes for tomorrow with the hope that history will record not only your success but also the spirit, commitment and pride with which you have conducted yourselves.’
Supporters packed into the pubs and sang many of the now well-known England chants s they made the most of the first men’s final since 1966
Supporters gathered to celebrate England men’s first major final in more than half a century as they relished the occasion
England fans show their support as the England Team arrive in London ahead of the Euro 2020 Final against Italy on Sunday
Southgate spoke out about the huge wave of patriotic support offered up to the Three Lions (players Jordan Pickford and Raheem Sterling, pictured) throughout the tournament
Many supporters gathered outside the Grove Hotel as they awaited the arrival of Gareth Southgate and the England squad on Saturday
Harry Maguire steps off the bus in a face mask as a huge crowd of England fans cheer on the team after their journey to the hotel
The nation will come to a standstill, united in the fervent hope that Harry Kane will follow in the golden footsteps of Bobby Moore and lead England to glory
Gareth Southgate is set to receive a KNIGHTHOOD if England win… and a CBE even if they lose
Gareth Southgate is set to receive further honours recognising his achievement in uniting the country and restoring pride in the national team, even if England lose Sunday’s final.
The 50-year-old was awarded an OBE in the 2019 New Year Honours after his side reached the World Cup semi-finals the previous year and Sportsmail has been told that is likely to be upgraded to a CBE regardless of the result.
A knighthood is seen as inevitable if England beat Italy to lift their first major trophy for 55 years.
Alf Ramsey was knighted in 1967 following England’s World Cup win and Southgate would not have to wait long to achieve the same status.
It is unclear whether all England’s players would be similarly honoured, because in recent years the Cabinet Office have shied away from rewarding entire teams.
That follows mockery over the MBEs given to all the 2005 Ashes winners, including Paul Collingwood, who only played one Test in that series.
After England’s Cricket World Cup win in 2019, captain Eoin Morgan received a CBE, Ben Stokes an OBE and Joe Root and Jos Buttler MBEs. Coach Trevor Bayliss was also given an OBE, but the rest of the players missed out.
Harry Kane received an MBE after winning the Golden Boot as top scorer at the 2018 World Cup, and Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling were given MBEs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for their campaigning charity work and promotion of racial equality.
All three could have their honours upgraded, and other key members of the England squad may also be recognised.
The squad are thought to have watched the as-yet unreleased sequel to Top Gun as they spent Friday night together. Before the screening, they were called by its star Tom Cruise, who delivered a good luck message.
Southgate last night said he was focused on ‘bringing the trophy home’, adding: ‘It has been fantastic to have the letter from the Queen and the Prime Minister to all of the team and the recognition that the players have gone about this in the right way, but we’re in a final and we’re here to win.’
As many as 35 million people are expected to watch the match on BBC and ITV, potentially eclipsing the previous TV viewing record of 32.3 million for the 1966 final. If England triumph, Mr Johnson is expected to announce an extra Bank Holiday on Friday August 27, and Southgate is likely to receive a knighthood.
Analysts estimate that victory tonight could deliver a £10billion boost to the economy. England’s success in the tournament has already seen £3.4billion splurged on partying, drinking, souvenir merchandise and supersize TVs, according to retail experts.
Tickets for the game – the most eagerly anticipated for more than half a century – were last night changing hands for up to £15,000. Wembley will welcome a crowd of 65,000, of whom just 6,000 will be cheering on Italy.
Some fans decided to settle any pre-match nerves by hitting the pubs and bars last night, and the English nation will be hoping to continue the party atmosphere long into the night with a famous win over Roberto Mancini’s Italy, who trounced Spain in their semi-final at Wembley.
The Metropolitan Police has urged fans not to come to London unless they have match tickets or somewhere booked to watch the game. The force said it will be deploying ‘a great many officers and specialist units to prevent crime and disorder and respond to any incidents right across London’.
London’s transport network will display digital well wishes across the capital, visible at Tube stations, the DLR and London Overground as well as at bus stops and on road traffic alert signs.
Earlier, hundreds of fans lined the roads near the team’s St George’s Park training base in Staffordshire to send their England heroes off to the final in style.
They spent last night at The Grove hotel near Watford, a few miles from Wembley, where they waved at more crowds of cheering supporters. Kane said: ‘We have been knocking down barriers on the way but we have to go out there and win it.
‘To see the fans on the street and see the reception we have had, it has just shown us how big an occasion it is.’
The Italian team, who are on a 33-game unbeaten run, were greeted by fans as they flew in from their training base in Florence to Luton Airport yesterday afternoon before boarding a coach to Tottenham Hotspurs’ training ground in Enfield, North London. They will prepare for the match at the nearby £400-a-night Birch Hotel.
In a touching tribute, Harry Kane’s wife Kate, who met her husband while they were at school together and now has three children with the Spurs striker, penned an emotional message to her husband telling him ‘you’re making us all proud’.
She said: ‘You know I’m not one to cry too easily but I found myself in tears when I started writing down how proud you’re making us all and what you’re doing for the country… You’re just such an amazing husband and dad, and the children can’t wait to have you home.
‘Imagine telling them all about this summer one day when they’re a bit older.’
Covid-19 restrictions have separated the team from their families for the last four weeks.
Asked about his wife’s letter, Kane said: ‘My oldest, she is four and six months, she is still a little bit young, I don’t think she understands the magnitude of tomorrow night. Of course she wants first and foremost me to come home, but if football comes home as well we’ll all be delighted.’
Last night, relatives of some of the players were enjoying the build-up. The mothers of defenders Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw posted pictures from Central London, where the two families enjoyed champagne and cocktails.
The Three Lions squad are in line for a £9 million bonus if they lift the trophy, but have indicated that they will donate it to NHS Charities Together.
Last night, Southgate joined calls from No 10 not to boo the Italian national anthem. ‘We know that when we play abroad and fans boo our anthem it inspires them more,’ said the England manager. ‘I don’t think it will help the team.’
Marco Verratti, Lorenzo Insigne and Salvatore Sirigu of Italy’s Euro 2020 team are seen departing for London ahead of the match
Alessandro Florenzi of Italy greets his teammate Leonardo Spinazzola on the plane during their journey to London
Insigne is seen arriving in Luton Airport on July 10. He waves at fans as he steps off the plane
Meanwhile, Harry Kane is seen passing the ball during the England training session at St George’s Park on Saturday
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday evening, Southgate urged fans not to boo the Italian anthem while also playing down claims abroad that ‘It’s Coming Home’ is fuelled by English arrogance
Luke Shaw, one of England’s star players this tournament, steps off the bus to huge cheers from the number of fans gathered outside
The call came after Uefa slapped the English FA with a near £26,000 fine for fans jeering the Danish anthem before the semi-final, setting off fireworks and shining a laser pen at goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Earlier, Southgate urged the nation to ‘stop looking at the negatives of our own country’ because ‘England has so much to be proud of’ as he rallied millions of patriotic fans.
Invoking the courage of a Second World War generation, England’s manager said Britain should not be ashamed of its history – as he praised his squad’s role in driving ‘tolerance and inclusion’.
Southgate acknowledged that Britain’s history likely contributed to the support from the 40,000 fans inside Wembley when England beat Germany last week.
He said: ‘People have tried to invade us and we’ve had the courage to hold that back. You can’t hide that some of the energy in the stadium against Germany was because of that. I never mentioned that to the players, but I know that’s part of what that story was.
‘At heart I go back to the values that my parents gave me and treating people as you would want to be treated. Just respectful, really.’
Southgate added that ‘there are positive things that we could help to change or influence in society’.
‘The longer I’ve been in the role the more I’ve understood the importance for our fans of that connection with the team. They felt part of it and that inclusivity is really important to us because I think that’s what modern England is,’ he said.
‘We know it hasn’t always been the case and there’s historic reasons for that, but that level of tolerance and inclusion is what we have to be about moving forward.’
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday evening, Southgate urged fans not to boo the Italian anthem while also playing down claims abroad that ‘It’s Coming Home’ is fuelled by English arrogance.
He said: ‘It’s important that our fans always respect the opposition and we know that in actual fact when we play abroad and fans boo our anthem it probably inspires us even more. I don’t think it helps the team. We can intimidate the team with booing during the game, but it’s different with the anthem, I think we should be respectful.’
On the popular Three Lions song, first released in 1996 when the Euros were last held in Wembley, Southgate added: ‘I didn’t want to listen to it for 15 years because it was too painful for me. You have to know the English to understand our humour. Our humour is quite unique but it’s certainly not arrogant.
‘The lyrics are making fun of ourselves and the things that have gone wrong.’