Fans descend on Volgograd ahead of England's World Cup opener

Annette Crawford
June 19, 2018

England's soccer team face Tunisia in the southern Russian city in their first World Cup match later on Monday.

Despite England usually being one of the best-supported nations at major tournaments, the Football Association are expecting no more than 5,000 supporters to attend the game on Monday.

"We were under the impression we would be constantly under attack".

The trio, however, said locals had even offered them help in buying insect repellent to protect against the swarms of midges that had descended on the city on the banks of the Volga.

Football banning orders are in place on 1,312 fans in Britain, preventing them from traveling overseas for matches over fears they will cause trouble.

Kentsley knows Volgograd well because he was once married to a native of the city which is famous for being the location of the Battle of Stalingrad, the bloodiest encounter of World War Two.

"Volgograd has a really small-town vibe".

That pessimism, however, has not been born out by the evidence of the tournament's opening weekend, with Russia's promise to clamp down on its hooligans appearing to have worked, nice weather, good football and lots of signs that Russians are desperate to be good hosts. "Google Translate has been getting a real workout", she said. "We have dyed-in-the-wool supporters here, and we're looking to perform well for them". "But from the first day I walked out people have just said to me "we are your friend" and 'thank you for coming to Russian Federation'".

The memorial complex to the battle includes the statue The Motherland Calls, an 85-metre sculpture of a woman stepping forward with a raised sword that was once the tallest construction of its kind in the world.

British Embassy officials in Russian Federation have sounded an optimistic note ahead of England's first match at the World Cup, praising Volgograd for the welcome it has given the Three Lions' travelling support.

Playing football in the once war-ravaged city of Volgograd has given England's players perspective, manager Gareth Southgate said.

"But it's partly because the team has been so crap. We kept going. We spoke a lot about togetherness and we've got a great bond together", he said.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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