England and Wales fans have spoken of nerves and tested relationships as they geared up for the “Battle of Britain” World Cup crunch match.
A carnival atmosphere brewed outside the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Qatar ahead of kick-off, with both sides exchanging chants – including England fans with a drum giving a rendition of “You’re going home tonight”.
Some supporters made last-minute decisions to fly to Doha for Tuesday’s game, with many expressing optimism for their team’s chances.
The two home nations meet for their final group B fixture on Tuesday, with hordes of fans having made the trip and millions more watching back home.
Chants between the two sets of fans even extended to the metro, where one Canadian passenger said his country had banter with the US, “but not like this”.
The Prince and Princess of Wales took to Twitter before the game to say “Here we go… may the best team win!” in both English and Welsh.
At an investiture ceremony, the King told former Sunderland star Gary Bennett he “just wanted a good game of football” when asked who he would be supporting.
Downing Street said Rishi Sunak would be supporting England, but hoped both teams could advance “as far as possible” in the competition.
The Three Lions currently top the group and need just a point to guarantee their progress to the knockout stages, while Wales must win and hope for a favourable result between Iran and the USA.
In Doha, the Welsh fans were in fine voice before the game, with some England fans spotted having flags painted on their faces.
Chants of “Wales, Wales” were soon met with the response of “World Cup winners, you’ll never sing that” as fans gradually made their way into the stadium.
As supporters eventually made their way inside, some England fans were pictured in lion onesies and with others wearing wigs displaying the nation’s flag.
Sporting minister Stuart Andrew was pictured inside the stadium wearing the One Love anti-discrimination armband.
The Conservative frontbencher, who is gay, said it was “really unfair” that football’s governing body prevented the captains of England and Wales donning the armband at the 11th hour.
It comes a day after a protester ran on to the pitch during the game between Portugal and Uruguay while carrying a rainbow flag and wearing a blue Superman T-shirt with messages in support of Ukraine and Iranian women.
Wales fan Huw Godfrey, 50, and England supporter Amy Godfrey, who married after meeting in London 25 years ago, joked they will still be on speaking terms whatever the result.
“The children are never quite sure ‘do we support England, do we support Wales’ so we’ll see – they can support whoever wins,” Mrs Godfrey told the PA news agency.
One Wales fan made a last-minute decision to fly to Qatar to watch the game without telling his girlfriend.
David ‘Dai’ Jones from Pontypridd, South Wales, could not resist travelling to the game – despite receiving an ultimatum from his partner of 11 years.
The 33-year-old electrician told PA: “I thought she might get over it in time, but I never would, so I made the decision to come.”
Supporters from both nations began preparation for the game early on Tuesday at the Red Lion pub in Doha, which has become a popular haunt for supporters of both teams.
England fan Mick Martin, 62, from Aylesbury, said Wales are a “wounded animal” but added: “We should be good enough.
“If we’re not good enough to beat Wales or get a good result against Wales we really shouldn’t be here, should we?”
Wales supporter Mike Gristwood, 52, from Swansea, said he and his friends were feeling “slightly nervous” ahead of the match.
“But we’ll be singing our hearts out later and we’ll be that 12th man that gets our boys over the line,” he said.
England fan Ian Carter, 45, who lives in Llanelli, was heading to the game with his Wales-supporting nephew James Millar and father-in-law Paul Jones after the trio flew in from Dubai.
On the decision to travel to Qatar, Mr Carter said: “It was over the breakfast table and we said ‘sod it, shall we just go?’ and it was a case of you’ve got the missus to talk to and stuff, but it was an easy decision – being from a Welsh and English mix, for us it was a perfect storm.”
Elsewhere, Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the UK’s football policing lead, told PA there had been no arrests or incidents in the opening nine days of the tournament and praised England and Wales fans for their “exemplary” behaviour.
He said the lack of trouble at the Qatar World Cup, which he believed was in large part due to alcohol being less available, was a sign that ministers should resist calls to ease restrictions on drinking in UK football grounds.
It comes as police in Tenerife said they would be launching a major security operation to prevent any possible violence during the England and Wales game.
Video footage emerged of a brawl outside bars on the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands on Friday evening, with people wearing England and Wales shirts involved.
UK police fear people prevented from travelling to Qatar for the World Cup may have been involved in the incident in Tenerife but added they have yet to confirm this.