Croatians likely to outnumber England fans in historic World Cup semi-final

first_imgEngland’s first World Cup semi-final since 1990 has failed to attract Englishmen in the stadium as only a few thousand Three Lions supporters are expected to be at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Wednesday.The Luzhniki Stadium has a capacity of 80,000 fans and if ticket sales are anything to go by, the Englishmen will find themselves heavily outnumbered by Croatian and Russian fans Wednesday evening.Croatia, who are playing a World Cup semi-final after 20 years, have been one of the most heavily supported teams and their good run at the World Cup has only convinced their fans to come out and cheer them more.Both the sides have plenty to play for and history to overwrite when they take the field in Moscow. England and Croatia have their own sad memories of being knocked out in the semi-finals of major tournaments. The winner of the match will meet France in the final on July 15 at the same venue.2018 FIFA WORLD CUP: FULL COVERAGEBut 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 also have put supporters off travel to Russia for the tournament.advertisementNumbers 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 Pundits and fans didn’t predict England to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup (Reuters Photo)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.ENGLAND HAS SERBIA’s SUPPORT Serbia were knocked out of the World Cup in the group stages (Reuters Photo)However, England will find some support from the Serbians, who are rooting for the Englishmen to move into the final.”England have no choice but to win. Serbia is with them and once they reach the Final, they got to win. Everything just feels so right. I cannot wait,” Daniel Kostic posted on Twitter.”I’ll never cheer on a team more than that game,” he added.”With Serbia out of the World Cup, my adopted country has my support. Sorry Croatia, love you too but England is my home,” Deanna Duda, a Serbian living in England, tweeted.The reason behind the Serbians supporting England is the history between Serbia and Croatia, which dates back to 1991 when more than 20,000 Serbians were killed in the war Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia. The war ended in 1995 but even though the relations between the two countries has improved, the tensions remain.(With inputs from Reuters)last_img

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