Buoyant England football fans were in an optimistic mood as their team’s Euro 2020 odyssey reached a last-16 showdown with Germany at Wembley.
Pubs swelled with supporters wearing replica football strips in the hours leading up to the 5pm kick-off, while St George’s flags billowed in the mid-summer breeze as die-hard and fairweather fans alike got into the feel-good spirit.
In designated fan zones across the country, and outside Wembley where 40,000 supporters would later be relied upon to create a partisan atmosphere, people cheered and sang songs in support of England manager Gareth Southgate and his team.
Under grey north London skies, throngs of supporters heading to the match congregated to belt out an acapella rendition of the anthemic Three Lions, with its familiar refrain of “football’s coming home” reverberating around Wembley streets.
And there was support from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, a Southampton supporter, who posted a photo of himself on Twitter pulling on an England shirt, with the caption: “Bring it on.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, not known to have a keen interest in football, would be watching as much of the tie as possible “in between his work commitments”, his spokesman said.
The hopeful disposition among England supporters has been boosted by an unbeaten, if unspectacular, canter through the group stages of the competition without conceding a goal.
And with the likes of France, the Netherlands, and reigning European champions Portugal already eliminated, commentators have suggested England’s path to major tournament success for the first time in 55 years has rarely been easier.
The undisputed high-water mark of the England men’s team’s history – the 1966 World Cup triumph – came against West Germany.
So it is a familiar foe who awaits at Wembley, standing between the likes of current Three Lions’ skipper Harry Kane, defender Harry Maguire and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and a quarter-final tie against either Sweden or the Ukraine.
The late afternoon kick-off time prompted calls for supporters to be granted an early end to their working day, and a 4pm finish to watch the match on television.