The beers are on ice, the barbecues are getting fired up and the expectations of a nation now rest on a handful of men in matching shorts. More than 30 million people are expected to tune into today's match across the UK, and the team were last night trying to cope under the weight of a nation's hopes.
As the England team prepared yesterday for this afternoon's World Cup showdown against Germany in Bloemfontein, disappointed fans were turned away at the ticket booths.
The team tried to take the pressure off its star striker, Wayne Rooney, last night, who has so far failed to score in the two World Cup tournaments. The captain, Steven Gerrard, expressed his confidence in the 24-year-old, saying: "The pressure is not just on Wayne but on the whole team. Top players put pressure on themselves and I'm sure Wayne is doing this."
The team's manager, Fabio Capello, added: "Always Rooney is a really good player and is important."
Fans who had queued for hours to get a chance to see the team in action were told they had been "misinformed" over a supposed plan to release 1,000 extra tickets – and all had sold out. The only tickets available in the 40,911-seater stadium were the minimal number that might be returned.
As England concentrated on match preparation, it emerged that security officials at the World Cup were put on alert after a terror suspect linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks reportedly tried to get into South Africa using a false passport. Police in Zimbabwe said that a man was arrested at the border on an international terrorism warrant last Sunday and has been held in custody all week. He was identified by the state-run Herald newspaper as Imran Muhammad, 33, who, the paper suggested, "is wanted in Pakistan [as he] was allegedly involved in the terror attacks that rocked Mumbai."
Extra security was already planned for today's second-round match between England and Germany as both countries are classed a "high priority" by South African security staff.
Up to 15,000 England supporters are expected to attend today's match, leaving those turned away at the queues to choose between buying from touts and paying at least £175, or missing the game.
Kevin Miles, a "fan ambassador" in South Africa for the Football Supporters' Federation, told The Independent on Sunday: "There have been a lot of rumours, but there never were 1,000 tickets for England. Up to now the games haven't been sold out... but people will be disappointed this time."
Most fans had already been forced to make a last-ditch change of plans, as it had been expected that England would finish at the top of their group, meaning the match would have been some 400km away at Rustenberg. With many of Bloemfontein's hotels and hostels full, ardent supporters were planning to camp out in their cars. "There's very little accommodation and what there is is hugely overpriced. It's a bit of a dump really. Most fans will just go down on the day", said Mr Miles.
British Airways reported a rush of bookings to South Africa after the team qualified on Wednesday.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, is hoping to catch some of the match with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, at the G20 summit in Canada. "Let's hope it doesn't go to penalties," Mr Cameron said. "I'm not sure the collective hearts of the nations can stand it."Reuse content