England fans swept up by World Cup fever as 5,000 expected at Belgium match

England fans are being swept along in a World Cup frenzy with 5,000 of them now expected at Thursday’s game against Belgium.

It is twice the number that attended either of the team’s matches so far.

Demand for tickets soared after England beat Panama 6-1 on Sunday.

Gullivers Sports Travel, which runs England Supporters Club trips, said today it was “extremely busy”.

It added: “We’ve sold out packages for the Belgium game.”

Roughly 3,000 England supporters are expected to jet in on charter flight trips for the match in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.

Hundreds will fly on low-cost airlines into the Polish port city of Gdansk.

They plan to drive the 105 miles to the game or go by bus, with officials warning that border checks can take up to five hours.

England fans have been outnumbered in the stadiums at the first two games but it is expected there will be an equal number of supporters for the clash with Belgium.

There are already dozens of Three Lions followers in Kaliningrad.

The travelling English contingent has been dubbed Dad’s Army due to their age. Many younger fans decided not to go to Russia because of fears of violence.

Kevin Gibson, 54, from Ealing, West London, who is already in the city, said: “There is a real buzz among the fans.

“I don’t think we can win it but we can definitely reach the quarter-finals or possibly the semi-finals.” Chris Thomas, 57, from Basingstoke, Hants, said: “This team are playing without fear. Who knows what we can achieve?”

England and Belgium have already qualified for the knockout stages. Thursday’s sell-out match will decide which of the two nations tops Group G.

Hundreds of England fans have hurriedly been reserving spaces on trips for the second round game next week against Japan, Senegal or Colombia.

One noticeable element among the English support is the number of expats. Frank Attwood, 61, and wife Marlene, 57, have travelled from Cambodia. It is Frank’s fifth tournament, criss-crossing the globe with his four children.

He said: “The hotels in Russia are not cheap. By the time you pay for tickets and travel it is £10,000 to see the group games.”

Richard Bell, 50, from Warrington, Cheshire, but now based in Bangkok, also shelled out £10,000 to see the group games. He said: “You just hope it is worth it.”

Ian Wisbey, 50, who is based in Boston in the US state of Massachusetts, is in Russia with his son Max, 17, and said the performance of Gareth Southgate’s team had made the trip worthwhile this time.

He added it is in stark contrast to the “misery” of not winning a game at the tournament in Brazil four years ago.

Ian said: “This is just fantastic by comparison. They have been phenomenal, and with teams like Argentina, Spain and Germany stumbling, you never know. Maybe we have a chance.”

He added: “We’ve got tickets for the next two games – and then I will have to talk to my wife.”

Marketing specialists Simon-Kucher and Partners found tickets in Russia will typically be 24% more expensive across different seat categories than in Brazil, and 15% higher than in the previously most expensive tournament – in South Africa in 2010.

If England reach the final, a fan would have spent at least £967 on tickets alone to attend all the nation’s games.

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World Cup 2018

  • Fixtures and schedule in full
  • Stadiums
  • Squads
  • How to get tickets
  • Betting odds
  • Kit power rankings
  • TV Schedule
  • England’s World Cup WAGs

Yesterday at the team’s HQ in Repino most England players enjoyed a day off as they basked in the glory of their biggest ever World Cup finals win.

They arrived back at the team hotel late on Sunday night in jubilant mood following the thrashing of Panama.

The 14 squad members who played were given the option of resting and meeting up with family and friends.

Many enjoyed a lie-in before leaving the ForRestMix hotel later in the day.

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