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Sports

Football fever grips England ahead of possible final with France

media Gareth Southgate England manager prepares for world cup semi-final Reuters/Carl Recine

A history of cross-channel rivalry with France would make for a mouth-watering encounter should England make the World Cup final, but the ‘Three Lions’ must first overcome Croatia.

England face Croatia on Wednesday as the country attempts to reach just their second ever World Cup final, with the winner set to take on France on Sunday's final.France, the competitions 1998 winners, secured a final berth following 1-0 victory against Belgium in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.

Across the UK excitement has been building for a football-loving public, as they play in their first football semi-final since 1990. Around 32 million people in Britain are expected to view the crunch match.

England’s quarter-final victory over Colombia last Tuesday was met with wild celebrations, and the announcement of 30,000 free tickets by London Mayor Sadiq Khan to allow the public to watch the match in Hyde Park via a ballot forced the ticketing system to crash.

Along with mass screenings, three thousand fans in Nottingham will be able to watch the match in Nottingham Castle.

England’s manager Gareth Southgate has been elevated to national hero status, with the managers waistcoat also gaining a ‘cult status’ of its own.Waistcoats have been flying out of the shop and Doncaster Council, in the north of England, even hoisted a waistcoat its flagpole. Marks and Spencer, official tailors to the England team, have declared Saturday #NationalWaistcoatDay in honour of Southgate and the team.

Keeping their cool ahead of expectations will be seen as key for a largely young and inexperienced English side, with Southgate keen to stress the importance of keeping things as ‘‘normal as possible’’.

"We've been tucked away in our base camp preparing the same way," he said. "Our preparation for the game has been identical. I think it's important there's consistency leading into matches like this.

"You don't have to change things, you don't have to do things differently. You don't have to find another level, generally speaking.

"As a player if you can perform at your regular level in these games then very often that's more than enough because people can be inhibited in big matches."

Croatia meanwhile, are in their first semi-final since 1998, after securing victory over Russia in a penalty shootout at the weekend. Last time out, they lost to France, before going to beat the Netherlands in the third-place play-off.

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