London (AFP) – Soaking up the sunshine with a pint in hand, England fan Ife Runtwe reflected on his team’s five-star first half against Panama, calling it the “best England experience I’ve had in my life.”
The 25-year-old IT worker was one of around 50 happy, but slightly bemused fans who had spilled out of the Lord Raglan pub in the City of London following an uncharacteristically dominant display in Russia, leading 5-0 at half-time and ending up 6-1 winners.
He paid tribute to manger Gareth Southgate, saying he had “done wonders, especially with the set-pieces”, and to the sense of togetherness within the squad.
“They feel a bit closer to the fans than previous teams – and that probably comes from the manager,” added Runtwe, who was wearing a vintage 2001 England shirt.
“It’s a good day out, it’s all England fans have wanted from a World Cup, five goals at half-time and showing some heart,” said James Barrie, 25, who works in the City.
The pokey pub exploded into life five times in a breathless first half, with Barrie joking that “it’s a bit rowdy for me!”
Despite the good mood, mercurial winger Raheem Sterling still came in for a ribbing.
“If it’s going to be 10-0 and Raheem Sterling doesn’t score, then he’s got selection issues,” said Barrie.
“He just can’t catch a break at the moment, I think his confidence is down,” added Runtwe.
The 23,500-strong sun-drenched crowd watching the fourth one-day cricket international between England and Australia in Manchester also joined in the fun, cheering loudly as every goal went in.
The only blot on the copybook was a late Panama goal, meaning that England go into their final Group G game deadlocked with Belgium at the top of the table.
However, second place may mean avoiding Brazil or Germany in the quarter finals.
“That’s an interesting one,” said Barrie. “We will play last against Belgium and know whether we want to finish top of the group.”
“But we’ll probably lose to Belgium,” he added, before breaking out into rare display of English World Cup optimism.
“It depends how the stars align, it was looking like the quarters, where will probably meet Brazil or Germany, but those teams aren’t performing too well, so if we get a good run into the semis then anything can happen.”