England’s resurrected Euro ’96 campaign song by the Lightning Seeds was even performed by the band ahead of the game to a rapturous reception from the largely youthful crowd decked out in England shirts and flags.
England’s only goal in the game sparked scenes of pandemonium, only to be replaced with eerie silence as Croatia equalised early in the second half and then snatched victory in extra time.
As the game dragged on, the crowd tried to rally the team from afar, launching into several renditions of the national anthem “God Save the Queen”.
“The atmosphere’s been absolutely electric,” said Michael Grant, 36, a London property developer.
“A lot of people haven’t experienced anything like this in a long time.”
Up and down the country, an estimated 30 million people watched the game on television, packing anywhere with a screen, from pubs, bars and restaurants to rooftop screenings, outdoor spaces and cinemas.
– ‘Brought everyone together’ –
For some, England’s success in reaching the last four has brought a much-needed sense of unity in a country still wracked by divisions over Brexit.
“It’s brought everyone together at a time when they needed it,” said teacher Louise Smith, 34, as she celebrated the game in Hyde Park with friends.
“It’s been really nice to see that.”
The team’s unexpected advance through the competition has coincided with weeks of uninterrupted sunshine across the country — equally rare in rain-sodden England.
It had left some wondering if this is the new normal.
“You don’t get success in football and good weather in England,” said Nikki Langley-Essen, 38, a London events manager enjoying the novelty of both.
“What’s going on?”
As fans left Hyde Park — now a sea of rubbish — 27-year-old Henry Ludlam was optimistic for what lies ahead for England.
“It#s such a young team and there’s so much chemistry for the future, he said.
“In four years, we’re going to be unstoppable.”