Football fans descended on central London in the pouring rain just hours before England and Scotland meet at Wembley in the latest Euros match.
Thousands of Scottish fans headed to Leicester Square, where they wore their country’s shirts, kilts, waved flags and set off blue smoke bombs while chanting, singing and playing the bagpipes.
Some England fans were also seen in the square wearing team shirts and draped in England’s flag.
Others were seen climbing into the fountain of William Shakespeare in the square and splashing around in the water while others climbed on top of the statue and put a cone on the playwright’s head.
Others rolled around in the mud and threw paper cups up into the air.
Dozens of police were seen lining the outside of the crowds and keeping an eye on the fans.
Shortly before 6.30pm, they disappeared from the centre to find a spot to watch their team.
Some supporters began gathering at the ticketed fan zone in Trafalgar Square.
The area has been set up in a socially-distanced way for 750 key workers, with two large screens either side of Nelson’s Column.
People draped in their country’s flags outside the fan zone sang and chanted in what one fan described as an “electric” atmosphere.
Inside, England supporter Jamie Powell predicted a one nil win for the Three Lions but said whatever the result it will be an “enjoyable night”.
The 24-year-old sales representative from London said: “The atmosphere on the way here was electric. Everyone was singing.
“It was really positive vibes. You see both sets of fans singing. It’ll just be quite an enjoyable night for everyone.
“Even though it’s a big game I don’t think it matters with the England/Scotland rivalry, it’s going be a good one.”
Police officer and fellow England fan Marni Oldfield, 23 and from London, said: “It’s nice to be out and to be able to watch it here (in the fan zone) like this.”
In Wembley, fans painted their faces and cheered loudly ahead of the match.
The venue in north-west London will host 22,500 people for the game at 8pm.
One England fan, Itai Lichtenstein, showed off his skills to the other fans by doing keepy-uppies outside the stadium.
The much-anticipated 115th game in international football’s oldest rivalry is the first time the two sides have met in a major tournament since Euro 96, when Paul Gascoigne’s famous goal sealed a 2-0 win.
The Metropolitan Police and London mayor Sadiq Khan had urged Scottish fans to stay away from the capital due to a rising number of coronavirus cases.
But thousands arrived at London’s King’s Cross station on Thursday and Friday.
The arrival of crowds of fans from Scotland in London was “inevitable” due to the “once-in-a-generation” nature of the event, said one supporter.
Gary, a Glaswegian who did not want to give his surname, said people have made an “educated assessment of the risk”.
The 30-year-old consultant, who lives in London, said: “It was inevitable, regardless of restrictions in place. You can’t stop the masses coming down to celebrate a once-in-a -generation event.
“We’re in a situation where we’ve had enough vaccinations so we have some protection. Obviously there’s the risk with the Delta variant, but I think there’s been an educated assessment of the risk.
“Of course you want everybody to go and enjoy themselves.”
Predicting a 2-1 win for Scotland, he added that “99% of the rivalry will be friendly. It’ll be a laugh”.
Shortly before the match, Mr Khan tweeted: “Together with @metpoliceuk our message is clear: if you want to watch the #ENGSCO match but you don’t have a ticket to the fanzone or aren’t booked into a pub, bar or venue, please do not congregate in central London tonight.”
Chief Inspector Joe Stokoe, spokesman for the Met’s policing operation during Euro 2020, said people should aim to socially distance and keep to the coronavirus restrictions before, during and after the game.
He said officers have been reminding fans that some Londoners are “still living under the fear of the pandemic”, adding that spreading the Met’s resources between fighting crime and policing the football is “a balancing act”.
Current coronavirus restrictions say no more than 30 people can meet outdoors, while groups of no more than six or groups of any size of no more than two households can meet indoors.
Together with @metpoliceuk our message is clear: if you want to watch the #ENGSCO match but you don’t have a ticket to the fanzone or aren't booked into a pub, bar or venue, please do not congregate in central London tonight. https://t.co/hNPNATzEVI
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) June 18, 2021
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has echoed the warning for Scottish fans to stay away from London, adding that coronavirus is not a fan of Scotland or England’s men’s football team.
She said: “I know these precautions are tiresome for everybody in every context and they’re particularly tiresome when people are trying to enjoy the normal pleasures of a football match.
“But this virus, it doesn’t care about football – it’s not a Scotland fan or an England fan, it only cares about spreading from one person to another.”
We wish to re-assure you that a full policing plan is in place to cover the football fixture between England and Scotland today. The plan draws on the experience and skills of local officers together with specialist trained public order and football trained officers
— MPS Westminster (@MPSWestminster) June 18, 2021
So far, two men have been arrested during early celebrations on Thursday.
A 25-year-old man was arrested for indecent exposure in Hyde Park. He was taken into police custody before being cautioned and released.
Another man was arrested for the attempted theft of a police officer’s hat, assault with intent to avoid arrest and assault of an emergency worker.
He was taken to a south London police station where he currently remains.