London (AFP) – People erupted in celebration and the beer went flying as England reached the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in 28 years on Saturday.
At Flat Iron Square in London, the party began with beer showers and chants of “Football’s coming home” after the 2-0 win over Sweden.
Friends jumped on one another’s shoulders to belt out the song written for the Euro ’96 tournament in England before the throng sang “Oh, Harry Maguire!” in honour of the defender who scored the first goal.
“The atmosphere is amazing. I’m covered in beer, but I’ll take it because it’s coming home,” said public relations worker Tania Burnham, 27.
The last time England reached a World Cup semi-final was at Italy 1990 when 16 of the current squad were not even born.
It was closer in time to England’s 1966 World Cup triumph than today.
Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s prime minister. Phones came in red boxes and people queued to use them.
Non-English players in the first division were almost always Scottish, Welsh or Irish. Twitter was something only birds did.
The match clashed with Pride in London. In 1990, it was still more of a gay rights protest march than a celebration drawing hundreds of thousands.
The squad in 1990 was drawn from clubs such as Rangers, Nottingham Forest and Derby County.
Its star names included Gary Lineker, John Barnes, Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne and Peter Shilton, England’s goalkeeper that day, is now 68.
– ‘England till I die!’ –
In scenes replicated across the country, 650 people paid £10 to pack into Flat Iron Square, a pop-up collection of eateries and watering holes in a patch of empty space beside a railway arch near the River Thames.
Many had England’s Flag of St George — red cross on white flag — painted on their cheeks; many men were bare-chested in the baking 30 degrees Celsius heat; many wore replica shirts, including the number 19 shirt worn by Gascoigne in Italy 1990.
An air horn went off to cheers at the first appearance of the teams in the tunnel.
The Swedish national anthem was greeted with boos and groans. By contrast, “God Save The Queen” was belted out in a full-throated rendition.
Each player’s appearance on the team line-up was cheered.
A tight first 15 minutes quietened the mood but captain Harry Kane’s first shot in the 19th minute fired things up again.
And the place erupted when Maguire headed England into a 1-0 lead, with beer flying everywhere, gallons raining down as people roared in celebration.
Camilla Mosley, 24, from London, added: “After the first beer shower on the first goal, if we win the World Cup, I will shower in beer for the rest of the year.”
She did not have to wait long for the next one when Dele Alli doubled England’s lead and the drinks went flying once again. People clambered on the tables as they bounced around in delight.
The goal triggered chants of “I’m England till I die” as people danced and partied.
As time ticked on, the nervousness dimmed and the party could begin. Couples began to smooch.
A TV shot of a dejected-looking Swedish girl triggered cheers.
And there were further cheers when a 90th-minute Swedish free kick sailed over the bar.
But that was nothing compared to the final whistle, when people bounced around once again, with beer, clothes, barriers and bodies tumbling around to another chorus of “Football’s coming home!”
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