Not four minutes into England’s quarter-final clash with Ukraine, and the crowds in Trafalgar Square are out of their seats as Harry Kane had the ball in the back of the net 1,000 miles away in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.
An announcement booms out of the huge speakers at the London fan zone reminding supporters they are at a “socially distanced event” and should return to their tables of six. Those pleas would prove to be somewhat optimistic as a flurry of second-half goals on a sunny Saturday evening whipped the crowd into the kind of party atmosphere rarely seen in the past year and a half of the coronavirus pandemic.
As Harry Maguire heads another one home just after the second half gets underway, fans are out of their seats and into each others arms, knocking drinks onto the ground as they hug in celebration.
Kane follows closely behind with England’s third goal and there is no stopping the jubilant crowd now as they rush out of their chairs to rejoice beneath one of the giant screens.
The sound on the footage being beamed from Rome is suddenly muted and the ecstatic fans are warned the feed will be cut entirely if they don’t return to their tables.
Any lingering nervous excitement long gone and replaced with pure joy as substitute Jordan Henderson makes it 4-0.
Sean Duffy, who has travelled from northwest London to watch the match with his 12-year-old son Liam, describes the atmosphere as “bonkers”.
“My son is just made up because we are in Trafalgar Square watching this,” he tells The Independent. “I don’t know when we are going to ever have this again.”
“I’m nearly 50 so I’ve seen England crash and burn so many times,” he adds. “Liam’s expectations are based on the World Cup in 2018 – but I can remember Italia 90 and Euro 96. I love the fact Liam doesn’t feel that.
“This is wonderful, it’s bonkers. I know how special it is sitting in Trafalgar Square with a big game of football going on.”
Liam, who hopes to play for Real Madrid or Celtic himself one day, told his dad he “wanted to be there when the beer gets thrown”.
“We are going to win,” he says bluntly when asked how before the match how he believes England will perform. His confidence, it proves, was not misplaced.
“They look like they are taking it a bit more like business,” says Frazer Norman, who has travelled up on the Tube from Bermondsey, in southeast London, with older brother Kenny.
“The way it’s gone, the team has grown in confidence … despite the fact there’s so much pressure that comes with being an international player for England.”
The 24-year-old says he would be getting “back on the Northern line then the Jubilee line in a very poor mood and going straight to bed” if England lost, but after Kane puts England ahead within 240 seconds any niggling doubts begin to disappear.
Marc Ghossein, another supporter in the fan zone, said: “It’s an amazing feeling. We have been waiting for this for 25 years now. We're almost at the semi-final, it’s coming home. England is going to win this year.”
His friend Ellie Mhanna added: “England is going to win this year’s Euros for sure. They've been consistent and they deserve it.”
“I think it could well be their time to bring it home,” says Ian Gray, 51, who is watching the match with wife Kat.
“It’s great to be here, I haven’t done anything like this before. It’s quite amazing.
“I think they’ve done so well to get this far in the tournament, I think they deserve to win – the way they’ve been playing is fantastic.”
Kat, 45, originally from Germany, had divided loyalities when they faced the Three Lions and lost on Tuesday
“It was kind of hard but I was so happy for England,” she says. “I think it could just be England’s year.
“I think they’ve got a good chance of making it to the finals but there’s still a long way to go and each match needs to be taken seriously. I think everyone who makes it to this stage has an equal chance of it going their way.”
And what about England winning their semi-final match, and possibly even the whole tournament?
“The fact we beat Germany the other day, we put old wounds to bed,” says Charlotte Adejayan, 55, from Wandsworth, south London. “But I think the media has kept it quite on the down low with the ‘coming home’. Let’s just do the games and then if we get to the final… but for now let’s not.”
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