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England have eyes on the prize as they look to continue World Cup journey

The Three Lions will play their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years if they overcome Sweden.

Millions of football fans will be gripped to their televisions on Saturday as England look to secure their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years.

The Three Lions’ biggest football match in decades is set to bring the country to a standstill, with the quarter-final against Sweden kicking off at 3pm UK time.

And in Russia England fans were out and about in the host city of Samara, on the banks of the river Volga, on the day before the game, soaking up the hot sun.

Temperatures in both the UK and Russia are set to soar, with the mercury potentially reaching 33C (91.4F) at home and peaking at 30C (86F) in Samara around kick-off.

The national side will be looking to qualify for their first World Cup semi-final since Italia 90, when they lost on penalties to West Germany, but will have to overcome a record of one win, two defeats and five draws in major tournaments and qualifying campaigns against the Scandinavians.

Handfuls of tickets were available just days before the game and it is unclear if suggestions of a surge in online interest in bookings will result in larger crowd numbers than at previous games such as against Tunisia, when England fans’ attendance was said to be the lowest for 30 years.

Skyscanner has seen an 189% surge in flight searches to Samara this week, while the Foreign Office (FCO) said there had been a 165% increase in views of its “entering and leaving Russia” pages.

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(PA Graphics)

The FCO reminded fans to follow its Be On The Ball advice to prepare well and stay safe during the tournament.

But officials in Russia have apparently not seen increases in arrivals to match the level of online searches.

One fan, Bob Green, 53, from Stamford, in Lincolnshire, said he believed more England fans were making the journey.

“There are more people coming over, I know people that are coming over now,” he said.

“I think there are a real lot of disappointed people who have done England for years and years and their families have, quite rightly, said this is what we’ve been shown on television.

“Now the press are saying it’s the best World Cup ever.

“The allocation is about 2,500 and I think we’ll have 8,000-9,000 in there to be honest.“

As for England’s opponents, he was not full of confidence that England could make it to the next round.

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Sweden players during a training session at the Samara Arena (Aaron Chown/PA)

He said: “I think it’s a bit disrespectful of them to be confident because their record in this tournament is better than ours, they’ve played better teams than us and our record against them is really, really poor.

“We’ve changed things on the penalties now, so it might be time we can change the scores against them.

“I’m not sure we can do it, no.

“It’s a 50-50, 55-45 game either way the Sweden game.”

But his friend Mark Heys was still riding a wave of confidence after Tuesday’s penalty shootout win over Colombia.

The 56-year-old, from Bridgnorth, in Shropshire, said: “It was just amazing, just a great feeling.

“What else can you say – I was elated.

“I’m confident – but then again I always am.

“I’ve always believed and I just generally am wrong.”

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