In Trafalgar Square, Liam James finds a nervous crowd losing its inhibitions and its doubts
Ten minutes on from England’s first goal and the brave people from Showsec Crowd Management are up against it.
The yellow-jacketed security team is employing a seemingly well-rehearsed set-piece in which they move into the middle of the crowd of roaring fans, pushing them outwards and back to their allotted Covid-compliant tables of up to six.
But a few miles away at Wembley, the ball goes from Jack Grealish on to Harry Kane who puts it past the German keeper — and there is no chance the fans will listen now.
On they roar, hair wet from an eruption of beer, many now shirtless.
“It’s coming home” is sung with greater conviction than ever by this largely young crowd at the designated Euro 2020 ‘fan zone’ in Trafalgar Square.
It’s a belief that was less in evidence before the match.
Most are nervous, many excited, but the word “confident” is never uttered.
Will Ducker and his friend Alex describe themselves “quietly optimistic” as they gather in front of the big screens.
“Not everyone is optimistic,” says Will. “Lot of doubters out there.”
Alex adds: “I think the Germans are feeling quite confident, they’ve had some good success against England.”
Alex says he would feel more confident if Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy was playing, but in that much he has already been disappointed.
The pair smile when asked about the longstanding rivalry between England and Germany.
“I think there’s probably more of a rivalry in the England side than there is on the German side,” says Will.
Kevin, who always puts a bet on against England, says he would rather lose his £50 this time.
“England and Germany are both big sides … we both think we deserve to be where we are, but neither of us have been very good for a while now.”
Haydn Brennan butts in, with a chuckle: “Germany have.”
Their friend Mark, who has returned to the table to find two pints have arrived for him, says he wishes it could just be about the football, and there is agreement about “idiot England fans” who ruin it for the rest.
Inside the fanzone tent, the atmosphere is near-enough family-friendly for those seated away from the bubbling centre.
Near the back, a family of four are in high spirits.
Krista, sitting next to mother Laura, beams when asked if England could win. A keen Man United fan, she wants to see her hero Marcus Rashford take to the pitch.
Laura says she and her husband would have loved to take Krista and her younger brother Kristof to Wembley, “but its so hard to find tickets.”
A few tables away, Omar Mohammed and his friend Haytham are enthused by England’s first half performance.
“I thought it was going to be equal, but England were looking better towards the end of that half,” says Haytham.
“I think it’s coming home,” Omar says — twice.
As the full-time whistle seals England’s victory, Will Ducker sprins from his table to join the jubilant crowd in the centre.
“We matched them player for player, absolutely brilliant,” he says.
The huddled mass moves on from ‘Three Lions’ and pieces together, to the best of its memory, Atomic Kitten’s Whole Again.
“Football’s coming home … you still turn me on … football’s coming home again.”