Rows of empty seats in Samara Arena as England reach semi-finals

Rows of seats were left empty in the stadium where England blasted into their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years.

Rows of seats were left empty in the stadium where England blasted into their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years.

But there appeared to have been an influx of Three Lions supporters compared with the uncharacteristically low turnouts of previous games against Tunisia and Colombia.

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And the travelling support roared with delight as the Three Lions won their most significant tournament match since Italia 90 2-0.

They were relentless in bringing the noise as they outshouted the Swedish contingent, who appeared relatively few.

Peter John-Baptiste, 48, from Harrow, north west London, was at Italia 90 that last time England made a semi-final.

He said: “How does it feel - fantastic, we’re in World Cup semi-final for the first time in 28 years.

“It’s my seventh World Cup and I’ll be honest I can’t believe this. I never expected this at the start of the tournament.

“To be honest for a quarter final we were quite comfortable and I wasn’t expecting that because Sweden area always tough.

“Hopefully one more game and we’re in the final. I never thought I’d see my team walk out in the World Cup final but who knows, we could do it.”

Terry Shepherd, 65, from Stockton-on-Tees, in Durham, was in the stadium with his son Lee, 33.

He was 13 when England last won the World Cup and said he believed this team could achieve the same.

He said: “We’ve had so many disappointment over the years, especially in big tournaments.

“This is absolutely fantastic - I think they can actually go all they way.

“They’ve got a blend of youth, experience, technical ability, very good.

“I think I’d rather play Russia to be honest. Croatia are very technically gifted and could be a very difficult opponent on the day.”

After Harry Maguire powered England into the lead, supporters were bouncing in the stands as Baddiel and Skinner and the Lightning Seeds’ Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) pounded over the stadium sound system.

And the replica shirts came off to be twirled joyously around heads when Dele Alli sent fans stratospheric in the spaceship-inspired Samara Arena.

As of Friday, official Fifa ticket sales for the game stood at 32,000, meaning it was feared there could be as many as 10,000 empty seats at the 42,000-seater stadium.

Officially, England fans made up 2,836 in sales and Sweden fans numbered 3,078 - but actual numbers appeared higher and fans were seen buying tickets outside the ground and city centre beforehand.

The official attendance was read out over the PA system as 39,991 - just a couple of thousands short of capacity.

The gaps in support for the two teams was filled by Russian fans, which was made plain when huge cries of “Russiya, Russiya” rang out during slow periods of play.

Those England fans who did make the journey were grateful temperatures had cooled from the stifling 30C what predicted, although humidity was high.