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Come, support your team, FIFA’s envoy tells English fans


England fans react as they watch the Russia 2018 World Cup quarter-final football match between Sweden and England on a big screen in Millennium Sqaure in Leeds, northern England on July 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Lindsey PARNABY

• As Vardy’s return from injury boosts team’s spirit

FIFA Ambassador for the soccer World Cup in Russia and a former Miss Russia, Victoria Lopyreva, yesterday urged the English fans to ignore politics and come to Moscow to give support to their team in tomorrow’s semi-final epic clash against Croatia.

The number of England fans in Russia has been low amid diplomatic tension over the poisoning of a Russian former double-agent and his daughter, and now the death of a woman who police say was poisoned with the same nerve agent.

There were also fears before the tournament that there could be violence or racism, although no major incident has been recorded.“Soccer is separate from politics because people who work in politics should concentrate on politics, and people who work in soccer should concentrate on soccer,” Lopyreva, briefly married to Russia striker Fyodor Smolov, said in an interview.


“And now I want to say to English fans: ‘Guys, get it together, come to Russia and support your national team because they have gotten into the semi-final’,” she said.The match will be England’s first World Cup semi-final since 1990.Meanwhile, the Three Lions’ boss Gareth Southgate received a World Cup boost ahead of tomorrow’s semi-final game against Croatia with Jamie Vardy back in training yesterday.

Vardy was an unused substitute in England’s quarter-final win over Sweden on Saturday after picking up a groin injury last week.And there were growing concerns about whether or not he would be fit enough to be ready in time for tomorrow’s game.

But the Leicester striker has eased those fears after he took part in England training earlier today.It is extremely unlikely Vardy will be able to force his way into the starting line-up, but Gareth Southgate has used him on a number of occasions in the 2018 World Cup so far so his availability could prove crucial.

There were also some concerns over Jordan Henderson’s fitness after it was reported he had been struggling with a tight hamstring.But the Liverpool midfielder was also present at training, meaning Southgate could have a fully fit squad to choose from for the semi-final against Croatia.England are on the verge of reaching their first World Cup final since 1966 and Three Lions fans are dreaming of their team lifting the famous trophy come Sunday.

And Southgate believes winning the World Cup this year would be even bigger than Sir Alf Ramsey’s side doing so 52 years ago.“I’ve met quite a few of those players and we know exactly how they’re held and perhaps in the modern era that would be even crazier, social media and everything else, the global thing is so much bigger,” Southgate said.

“We’ve talked about the team which won. How they’re still held and revered.“At the beginning of working together with the lads and trying to sell them the vision of what’s possible, what we’re looking to achieve in the long-term.“We also feel we’ve had events on when we’ve been in camp when some of those guys have been in, when the road was named at St George’s after Sir Alf.”

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