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England fans feeling confident in Nizhny Novgorod ahead of Panama clash

Opposition fans appeared to outnumber their Group G rivals on Friday but many England fans began to arrive in the city, 250 miles east of Moscow.

An English influx into Nizhny Novgorod made their voices heard in the city on the eve of the World Cup clash with Panama.

Panama fans appeared to outnumber their Group G rivals on Friday but many England fans began to arrive in the city, 250 miles east of Moscow, on Saturday.

Among those who saw Belgium win 5-2 against Tunisia on the big screen in the fan fest in Nizhny was Terry Smith, 62, who had the St George’s Cross sprayed on to his hair.

But he said he did not think England had anything to fear.

He said: “We can beat them – it’s just like a Premier League game.

“The England team play against them every week because they all play in the Premier League.”

As for England’s chances to go all the way, Mr Smith, from the Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire, said: said: “Results are not going to form for others but it’s down to us to keep winning.

“The expectation will ramp up with each game we win and I think before the tournament we would have expected to get through the group.”

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A Panama fan and an England fan at the Fifa Fan Fest in Nizhny Novgorod (Aaron Chown/PA)

Barry Daff, 65, and Phil Mitchell, 62, both from Stamford in Lincolnshire, have tickets all the way up to the quarter final.

Mr Daff, who has travelled to five World Cups said: “I would put this above Brazil in terms of organisation.”

He said he thought England could beat any of the nations they could face in the last 16, including Japan and Senegal, should they get there.

“If you look at Group H, we should not fear any of them,” he said.

Mr Mitchell said he was concerned that England’s players may struggle in the soaring temperatures in Nizhny, with the mercury expected to peak at around 32C during the match on Sunday.

“They’re not used to that,” he said.

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A Northern Ireland fan dances with a Panama fan in Nizhny Novgorod (Aaron Chown/PA)

Of their time in Russia, he added: “Unfortunately the world portrays this place as backwards and poor and it’s not.

“We expected it to be as safe as houses and we’ve found that to be exactly true.”

Elliott Charles, 24, from Vauxhall in London, said he was initially concerned about about wearing England colours.

But he said: “When you see everyone in the street wants to have a photo or a chat with you just because you’re wearing your colours, you think ‘you know what, I’m going to embrace this and come in my England shirt’.

“The number of conversations you have with people just because you’re wearing a football shirt – that’s what the World Cup is all about.”

He travelled to Nizhny with his friend George Hesselgren, 25, from Clapham in London.

The pair were both in Marseille in 2016 and said the violence was “terrifying” and they “ran away”.

Asked about his fears of hooliganism, he added: “I think the England fans haven’t risen to it and they have not been as obnoxious as they were in Marseille.

“In that Harat’s bar in Volgograd apparently there were some Russians outside and apparently there was a group of Spurs fans who went and buttered them up and took selfies with them – there was literally nothing they could do, they are not going to start a fight when you are taking selfies with them.”

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