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England's first World Cup semi-final since 1990 attracts few fans
Reuters 600px 600px
  • 11 Jul 18
  • Soccer
  • 4
England football fans prepare to depart to Moscow for England's semi-final at the World Cup at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls 691px 444px England football fans prepare to depart to Moscow for England's semi-final at the World Cup at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

MOSCOW (Reuters) - England have not been in the semi-finals of the World Cup since 1990 when they lost on penalties to then West Germany. But when England face Croatia in Russia on Wednesday, there may only be only a few thousand England supporters present.

MOSCOW's Luzhniki Stadium, where the match is being played, has a capacity of 80,000, so a few thousand England supporters will find themselves heavily outnumbered by Croatian fans as well as Russians who are expected to be in the majority.

With their own bitter memories of past semi-final defeats in the soccer tournament, England and Croatia will be competing for a spot in Sunday's final against France.

But the dearth of England supporters means chants of soccer anthem "Three Lions" and its catchy chorus "it's coming home" may be hard to discern in MOSCOW despite a last-minute dash to the Russian capital by some supporters.

"It's a bit slow at the moment," said Paul Turner from Manchester, sporting a red England jersey in central MOSCOW.

"We had expected more fans around and a few more bars open, but it's a bit quiet still," he added, speaking on the morning of the game.

Fears of violence and racism ahead of the World Cup, bolstered by memories of clashes between England and Russia fans Marseille during the European Championship in France in 2016, may have put supporters off travel to Russia for the tournament.

Numbers have also seemingly been kept down by diplomatic tensions over the poisoning of a Russian former double-agent and his daughter in Salisbury in March, and now the death of a woman who police say was poisoned with the same nerve agent.

"We've been having a really good time so far... You feel really safe and secure, as opposed to before we came out, nobody knew what to expect. That's why there haven't been many England fans here," said Mark Jowsey, 46, a butcher from Newcastle.

"MOSCOW is one of the best places I have ever been," he added.

UNEXPECTED PROGRESS

Reassured by positive reports from the tournament and inspired by the unexpected progress of their team, some England fans have raced to Russia in recent days, with extra match tickets released by organisers FIFA and additional seats provided on MOSCOW-bound flights from Britain.

But initial signs suggest it hasn't been enough to make a big difference to the game's attendance.

"(It's) because of the cost I think, the costs of flights and things like that. It's hard on the FIFA website to get tickets. It kept crashing. I was trying and trying for hours. It was a nightmare," Turner, the fan from Manchester, said.

Victoria Lopyreva, an official ambassador for the World Cup and a former Miss Russia, called on Britons on Monday to come to MOSCOW for the match.

"I want to say to English fans: 'Guys, get it together, come to Russia and support your national team because they have got into the semi-final'," Lopyreva said.

England's last, and only, World Cup victory was in 1966.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Christian Radnedge)

2018 English PL Fixtures & Results

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2018/2019 UEFA Champions League
2018/2019 UEFA Europa League
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  • Group
  • e
Pts P W D L GF GA +/- Pts
1 Manchester City MAC 65 27 21 2 4 74 20 +54 65
2 Liverpool LIV 65 26 20 5 1 59 15 +44 65
3 Tottenham Hotspur TOT 60 26 20 0 6 54 25 +29 60
4 Manchester United MUN 51 26 15 6 5 52 35 +17 51
5 Arsenal ARS 50 26 15 5 6 53 37 +16 50
6 Chelsea CHE 50 26 15 5 6 45 29 +16 50
7 Wolverhampton Wanderers WOL 39 26 11 6 9 34 33 +1 39
8 Watford WAT 37 26 10 7 9 34 34 0 37
9 Everton EVE 33 27 9 6 12 36 39 -3 33
10 West Ham United WES 33 26 9 6 11 32 39 -7 33
11 AFC Bournemouth BOU 33 26 10 3 13 37 47 -10 33
12 Leicester City LEI 32 26 9 5 12 31 34 -3 32
13 Crystal Palace CRY 27 26 7 6 13 27 34 -7 27
14 Brighton & Hove Albion BRI 27 26 7 6 13 28 39 -11 27
15 Burnley BUR 27 26 7 6 13 29 47 -18 27
16 Newcastle United NEW 25 26 6 7 13 22 34 -12 25
17 Cardiff City CAR 25 26 7 4 15 24 47 -23 25
18 Southampton SOU 24 26 5 9 12 28 44 -16 24
19 Fulham FUL 17 26 4 5 17 25 58 -33 17
20 Huddersfield Town HUD 11 26 2 5 19 14 48 -34 11
*e1 & e2 advances to R16, e3 possible R16
2018/2019 Premier League
2018/2019 UEFA Champions League
2018/2019 UEFA Europa League
2018/2019 A-League
2018/2019 Ligue 1
2018/2019 Bundesliga
2018/2019 La Liga
2018/2019 Primeira Liga
2017/2018 Serie A
2018 World Cup