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Eager fans got an early start on the beers as revellers gathered at Wembley Stadium, pubs and sun-drenched spots ahead of England's much-anticipated Euro 2020 opener.
Punters began queuing outside pubs from 7am to watch the Three Lions open their Group D campaign against Croatia at Wembley, where 22,500 fans will watch on from the stands.
Pubs and bars were set to be busy on another sweltering day in the UK, with temperatures approaching 29-30C in London and the South East.
Police agencies urged fans to be responsible and not overdo it as they cheer on England, who are playing on home turf at a major football tournament for the first time since the magic and heartbreak of Euro 96.
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England fans and a Scotland supporter get ready to watch the match on a big screen at Trafford Park, Manchester
The Football Association also called on England fans to unite and “respect the wishes” of the decision of the players to take the knee ahead of their matches at the European Championship, after supporters booed at pre-tournament matches.
Meanwhile the football world was still coming to terms with Christian Eriksen's horrific collapse during Denmark's Group B match against Finland on Saturday.
There were queues at pubs and bars up and down the country, as flag-draped fans cracked open beers in the shadow of Wembley's famous arch hours before kick-off on what could be the hottest day of the year so far.
Fans have been urged not to sing or chant inside pubs and bars due to coronavirus fears.
Despite the reduced capacity Wembley Way was very busy and there were choruses of "It's coming home" before the game. Fans with tickets were required to arrive at the stadium within their allocated 30-minute time slot.
England fans at Wembley carry a banner declaring "It's coming home"
(Image: Tim Anderson)
They enjoyed a socially distanced beer on the concourses, though at £6.50 for a can of Heineken many were complaining.
Keith Connor, from Sheffield, said: “What a rip off. But we are just so pleased to be here."
One man was seen carrying a sign declaring "Football is coming home", and a Croatia fan set off a flare as the country's supporters, who had spent two weeks in quarantine so they could attend, arrived.
Supporters carried home made banners one proclaiming "Marcus Marry Me" and another "Kiss me Kane" amid hopes England could reach the final of a major tournament – and win – for the first time since the World Cup in 1966.
In Birmingham, crowds of singing England fans were queuing from 7am to get into The Distillery, which opened early at 10am.
Punter Harry Leach told BirminghamLive: "When I started queuing there was already 120 people in front of me and I would say about 120 behind.
"It's a massive queue. Everyone is excited, they are all singing England chants, it's great."
England fans gather in Jesmond, Newcastle as they wait for pubs to open
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)
In south London, St George's Cross flags are flying from residents' homes at the Kirby Estate in Bermondsey. Resident Chris Dowse wore a t-shirt which read "Get well soon Christian Eriksen" as he and others cooled off in a small pool.
An official fan zone has been set up in central London's Trafalgar Square, where England matches are to be shown on a big screen.
It is open to key workers for the first two matches.
Fans arrived draped in England flags and wearing official England shirts to cheer on Gareth Southgate’s men as they start their campaign.
Rows of benches were set up inside the square, with two large screens either side of Nelson’s Column.
Chris Dowse, a resident of the flag-draped Kirby Estate, wears a t-shirt which reads "Get well soon Christian Eriksen"
(Image: Getty Images)
Announcements reminded supporters to stay hydrated and respect social distancing in the sunshine and high temperatures.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the excitement of the Euros was needed after “the darkness and trauma” of the pandemic as he arrived at the Trafalgar Square fanzone to cheer on England in their first game against Croatia.
Mr Khan praised the “heroic” key workers, hundreds of whom have been invited to watch the game in the specially-created zone on Sunday.
“We’ve invited our amazing key workers to thank them for all they’ve done for our city,” he said.
“They’ve gone above and beyond over the last 18 months … this is our way to thank them.
Despite the reduced capacity Wembley Way was very busy before the game
(Image: Tim Anderson)
“After the darkness and trauma of the last months we need this to uplift our spirits.
“You can tell how excited I am I’m one of the first people here … bring it home. It’ll be nice to see people face to face, facial expressions, body language.
“The best thing about football is that it brings people together.”
Addressing the England team directly, he said: “To Gareth (Southgate) and the entire England squad, London is behind you. Bring it home.”
Fans across the country were reminded that England is still in a coronavirus lockdown, though some restrictions have been eased, and they should continue to follow the rules that are still in place.
An England fan at Vinegar Yard in London shows off a St George's Cross shaved into his chest
Confirmed Covid cases have soared to their highest level since February due to the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, also known as the Indian variant.
Pubs, bars and restaurants still have capacity limits, there is table service only and customers must follow social distancing rules, meaning venues won't be as packed as they were during past European Championships and World Cups.
Outdoor gatherings in private gardens or parks are limited to 30 people, and only six people or two households of any size can meet indoors.
At the stadium, fans have been instructed to social distance, wear a face mask at all times, and not to hug or high five other supporters.
The England team has urged fans to unite, with a video calling on supporters to avoid booing players or sending them abuse online.
A Croatia fan holds a flare as supporters gather outside Wembley
(Image: Getty Images)
It comes after supporters booed players who took the knee to protest against racism during pre-tournament matches.
The message stated: "It doesn't matter if you're black or white, red or blue.
"This isn't politics, this isn't new. This is about humanity, community, equality. This summer, we need you, all of us, all of you.
"Because we are one team, one family, one England."
Police agencies warned fans to follow the rules and be responsible if they planned to drink.
A spokesperson for Wiltshire Police wrote on Twitter: "Are you out watching England vs Croatia? Planned how to get home?
Flag-draped supporters enjoy a few beers in the shadow of Wembley Stadium
"If you are planning to drink, then it's best not to drive at all.
"Drink-driving ruins lives – please don’t take the risk.
"If you believe someone is drink or drug-driving, then please call us on 999."
West Mercia Police warned: "It’s almost kick-off time for the England V Croatia match and it’s already a scorcher today!
"So take care if you’re walking home near open water after the game, particularly if you’ve been cheering the Lions on with a few drinks."
West Yorkshire Police added: "Watching England v Croatia with a few drinks today? A mix of football and alcohol can lead to violence – think about the safety of yourself and those around you."
Fans began queuing outside pubs and bars hours before kick-off
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)
Public Health England offered this advice to beat the heat: "If you’re going to watch the football today, we encourage you to stay safe in the sun – keep cool, drink lots of water and wear sun cream."
England, who have one of the youngest squads in the tournament, will be seeking revenge after losing to Croatia in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
They will also face Scotland and the Czech Republic in Group D, with all of their group matches at Wembley.
The stadium in north-west London will host the semi-finals and final of the 24-nation tournament, which is being held in 11 host cities, including Glasgow.
Fans attending matches face unprecedented rules due to the Covid pandemic.
Everyone aged 11 and older who do present evidence that they are at a low risk of transmitting coronavirus will be turned away.
This could be in the form of proof of a negative lateral flow test or proof of full vaccination.
Fans have been told to stay in their seats at half-time.
The Covid lockdown means the stadium can only host up to 22,500 fans for the first two group matches. The capacity could be increased for the remaining games if restrictions are further eased by the Government.
Fans flock to get 'Foden cut'
England roar into action at Wembley backed by an army of fans sporting blond hair-dos like Phil Foden.
Fellas have swamped hairdressers asking for the Foden cut ahead of the match against Croatia. Man City’s Foden, 21, bleached his thatch after taking inspiration from Paul Gascoigne’s iconic Euro 96 hairstyle.
England fans Adam Home, Otto Millard and Jamie Matley with their Phil Foden haircuts from Mister Barber in Stockport
(Image: Peter Powell)
At the Mister Barber shop in Stockport, Greater Manchester – just a couple of miles from where Foden grew up – salon owner Adam Home and his pals Jamie Matley, 34, and Otto Millard, 23, unveiled their own bleached styles.
Adam, 41, said: “We’ve had a lot of young lads coming in having their hair cut like Foden.
“We thought we’d go the extra step and get ours dyed too. As Phil grew up just down the road we thought it would be great to get his look.”
In Bishop Auckland, Co Durham, Connor Lowes, 25, said plenty of customers had asked for a Foden at his Saint Barber Shop.
England supporters Tom Tayless (left) and Hamish Wigley-Smith both got a 'Foden cut
(Image: Mark Pinder)
He said: “I’ve had multiple people wanting it. It looks wicked and the young ’uns seem to really like it. I’ve had it done as well. Foden’s the man.”
Customer Hamish Wigley-Smith, 19, sported an England shirt and said: “My hair’s jet-black normally so it took two sets of bleach and a silver toner.
"I know a few who’ve had it done. I decided to do it because I’m getting hyped up for the Euros.
"I was a bit on edge about it, but I think I’ve pulled it off!”
Sports journalism student Tom Tayless, 18, from Newton Aycliffe, also had a Foden after being persuaded by Hamish.
And in Yeovil, Somerset, footie nut Sam Howell looked chuffed with his blond crop too.