Football fans all over the country went wild as England reached the World Cup quarter-finals by beating Colombia on penalties.
Midfielder Eric Dier slotted home the winning spot kick to confirm England’s place in the last eight of the tournament, sending the relatively few England fans in the stadium and nearby bar into raptures.
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The national side’s first knockout win in 12 years and only the second shootout win in eight attempts, along with a quarter-final draw against Sweden, had many supporters believing “football’s coming home”.
England are the highest-placed team in the FIFA rankings in their half of the draw at 12th, with Sweden (24th), Croatia (20th) and Russia (70th) standing between them and the final.
The other finalist will be either Brazil (2nd), Belgium (3rd) France (7th) and Uruguay (14th).
The last time England reached the semi-finals they lost to West Germany in 1990 – on penalties.
Kensington Palace tweeted the team congratulations from the Duke of Cambridge, signing the tweet W.
The apparently personal message from the president of the Football Association said: “I couldn’t be prouder of @england – a victory in a penalty shootout! You have well and truly earned your place in the final eight of the #worldcup? ?and you should know the whole country is right behind you for Saturday! Come on England! W.”
Former England striker Gary Lineker tweeted: “Football. There is nothing like it. Nothing.”
Fellow former Three Lions star Alan Shearer simply said: “Yesssssssss boys yeeesss yes yes #RUSSIA_2018 @England.”
It ended England’s 22-year wait for a win on penalties since they beat Spain at Euro 96, having exited against Germany in the same tournament, Argentina in France 98, Portugal at both Euro 2004 and Germany 2006 and Italy at Euro 2012.
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Supporters went wild at the Three Lions’ first-ever World Cup shoot-out success, celebrating en masse while believing football really IS coming home.
Alastair and Gillian Robertson, who moved to Moscow from Sevenoaks, in Kent, for work 18 months ago, spoke of their delight at seeing the hoodoo lifted.
Mr Robertson, 44, said: “If England can win a penalties for the first time in I don’t know how many years – 50 years of hurt, we win on penalties then we can go all the way.
“And the next round Sweden, all respect to Sweden it’s going to be a great game but I think our boys will step up.”
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Barney Corkhill, 26, who is originally from Bath but lives in Peckham, south-east London, agreed.
He said: “At full time I was telling people around me, ‘Yes we are going to win on penalties’ – I didn’t believe it.
“I actually predicted we would get knocked out to Colombia in the last 16 so I was already worried.
“It’s coming home, isn’t it?
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“This round is looking very nice for us – Sweden is the best chance and then hopefully Russia get through and we play them in the semi-final.
“Russia-England semi-final would be brilliant out here. I think people would be worried about coming out because of the trouble, but from what I’ve seen, there won’t be any trouble.
“And then we beat Brazil in the final and it’s home – it is easy.”
Brendan Collins, 30, described the match as an “emotional rollercoaster”.
“We won and to win on penalties was probably a massive boost to the ego,” Mr Collins, who is originally from Manchester but has lived in Stavropol for 18 months and Russia on and off for five years, said.
“When it went to penalties, we had a lot of people around us like, ‘hmmm’.
“But it’s broken the curse now, it’s coming home.
“I think given the penalties have broken the curse, we’re going all the way – 2-1 in the final against France.”
Jay Kumar, 55, from Northolt, west London, and his friend Johnny Rai, 59, from Hayes, west London, had to settle for watching the game in a bar packed with Colombia fans near the Spartak Stadium.
Inside the arena, the lowest number of England fans since the Tunisia game – officially numbering 2,225 – were drowned out by their rivals until after the game, when the players went over to take selfies and share the special moment with them.
England are now joint second favourites alongside France to win the tournament at just 4/1, according to bookmakers Ladbrokes.
Brazil remain favourites at 11/4, while Harry Kane is odds-on at 1/4 to bring home the coveted Golden Boot.
Jessica Bridge, of Ladbrokes, said: “We might as well hand over the keys to the company now.”