Tuesday, May 24

‘This is a new England’: rain doesn’t dampen fan optimism in London | Euro 2020

TThey say that anything can happen in football. But England’s repeated defeats against the well-oiled German machine over the years contradicted that particular adage. For England, however, this was the day: a 2-0 result sent Gareth Southgate’s team to the quarter-finals.

The prevailing mood among fans who gathered to watch the round of 16 match in the Trafalgar Square fan zone on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon had ranged from quiet confidence to bold optimism, with a consensus that even with their poor record against Germany, the stars were lining up. and this was the time to shine in England.

Supporters in the controlled fan zone in Trafalgar Square.
Supporters in the controlled fan zone in Trafalgar Square. Photograph: Sarah Lee / The Guardian

“Germany is not very good at the moment, and the English team is fit and young,” said an excited Jamie Booth an hour before kick-off. England hadn’t beaten their rivals in the knockout stages of a major tournament since 1966, but for Booth, 28, sporting a blue and white hat emblazoned with the iconic Three Lions mantra, “He’s coming home,” that was then and this is now.

As the crowd began to filter in, intermittently shielding themselves and their pints from the rain with flimsy plastic ponchos turned into headbands, the atmosphere was clearly and overwhelmingly positive, in part due to a determination to manifest a victory. from England, but most were. spurred on by a sheer force of faith in Gareth Southgate’s team. Most predicted an England win, either in 90 minutes or an extra 30.

Despite their concerns about adjustments in the English line-up and nervousness over England’s long history of losing to Germany, students Alex Cowling and Devan Wasam, both 19 years old and dressed in the St George flag, still had confidence in That would be a clean sweep for the Southgate side. . “I’m nervous, I can’t lie, it’s risky. But I think the winger is balanced and they will achieve it with a masterstroke. I see us going to the quarterfinals, ”Wasam assured.

Alex cowling [with flag] and Devan Wasam.
Alex cowling [with flag] and Devan Wasam. Photograph: Sarah Lee / The Guardian

Even the prospect of such a dreaded penalty shootout could not discourage Harry Barlow and Omar Ali; in fact, quite the opposite. “This is a new England. The team has good penalty shooters, they are young, fit, confident. I think we could win this, ”Ali said as the couple leaped toward Mas Que Nada, paint in hand, unfazed by the brief downpour that soaked the plaza. and determined to bring their own sunshine to the event.

“It is meant to be, we have perfect English weather and the German defense is not great,” added Barlow, draped in the English flag and confident that the day had come when England would avenge their painful knockout loss to Germany in 2010. . “It has to be destiny.” Brothers David and Rob Compton were equally jubilant. “The draw is so easy. Coming home, buddy! “

But not everyone had set their hopes so high. Friends Dan and Harry raised their eyebrows, ready to bring a characteristic dose of healthy British cynicism to the whole thing.

“Based on last night’s game, I don’t think it’s such a good game for England,” said a nervous 25-year-old Dan. “We had our amazing soccer day yesterday,” he said, referring to an epic match between France and Switzerland, which saw six goals and a surprising French exit from the championship, and Spain’s 5-3 victory in overtime over finalist Croatia. of the World Cup. He did not expect anything so exciting from this game, although he also predicted an England win on penalties. “I think we will survive.”

Omar Ali and Harry Barlow.
Omar Ali and Harry Barlow. Photograph: Sarah Lee / The Guardian

But in fact it was optimism and self-confidence that won the day, with goals from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane late in the second half sending beer into the air and flags flying against the gray skies of central London as the crowd roared with joy. When they broke into Three Lions, standing and swinging arm in arm on the tables and chanting the lyrics from the heart, the organizers tried unsuccessfully to remind people to maintain social distancing and to stay on their bubbles.

In a championship that has seen the backs of so many favorites, including France and now Germany, there is a feeling that this time it could be different. “It just shows that anything can happen,” said Sarah Asher, 26, on her way to the pub to celebrate England’s first knockout win against Germany in 55 years.

“This could be the team that finally gets rid of all that history that we carry as a nation. That justifies having tomorrow morning off from work too, if you ask me. “


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