England vs Italy: Fans reaction as supporters pack out Preston's Flag Market

It would take being under a very, very large rock to not know the events of the past week or so.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 12:18 am
Updated Monday, 12th July 2021, 12:20 am

It only took 55 years, but England won a semi final - taking 120 minutes to get the better of Denmark having even gone a goal behind, winning 2-1.

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Fans in Preston left devastated after cruel penalty shoot-out ends in Euros agon...

The country almost coming to a stand still not just on the Sunday but also Monday too as bosses allowed time off for staff - or children in schools - to enjoy the occasion in its entirety.

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Glum England fans at Preston's Flag Market

In the end, a wise call.

For those under an even larger rock than previously mentioned, England and Italy had to go to penalties to decide who would be European champions.

A perfect start for England which saw Luke Shaw put them into an early need almost seemed too good to be true.

It gave way for a bit of tension and, in the end, momentum for the Italians as a second half goal from Leonardo Bonucci levelled things up and they took the initiative largely until the end of the 120 minutes.

The agony continues

No matter what the result, Gareth Southgate's England side are special.

Regardless of footballing talent, of which there is plenty, they have united a nation and their behaviour has been exemplary as more and more social situations call for those in the spotlight to step forward.

Whether it be the eloquent letter that Southgate wrote to England fans explaining their need to take the knee to support social change, or Raheem Sterling MBE and Marcus Rashford MBE who are amongst the Three Lions contingent - they are a group of representatives of this nation that we can all be proud of.

Never before has a group of footballers just seemed so genuine, so likeable so much like the rest of us.

More years of hurt

That unity has also benefited from the lifting of lockdown restrictions, allowing more people to be together to enjoy the games as a group.

I was with a rather large group in the centre of Preston for the final, at the fan zone.

I'd actually gone into town earlier in the day to do some shopping and there were already people arriving, and plenty of England shirts.

As they began to set up the big screen ready for the evening it was very much the old cliche of the calm before the storm.

When I arrived you could feel the excitement in the fenced off area for those with tickets.

Smiles were everywhere, friends that were able to do something very normal once again, even if it was just six to a table.

The roar as Shaw opened the scoring was sensational, pure pandemonium at the heart of the city.

Beer was flying everywhere, most people got soaked but there was not a care in the world.

England were on their way to winning the Euros.

It was replaced by desolation at the end of the night, but again, Jordan Pickford's save from Jorginho's potentially decisive penalty was something - as a football fan - that has only been a dream for well over a year.

It was a moment were the city truly had a beating heart in its centre, an occasion where so many came together for history - despite the disappointing end.

It's also a tantalising reminder of what is to come as more restrictions ease, as larger events get the chance to take place and we continue to creep towards normality.

It didn't quite come home this time, but Qatar 2022 is just around the corner and it will do then, surely.