Chaos in the AO Arena as boos turn to cheers and England fans start to believe (2024)

It's like the last week never existed. Whatever negativity there may have been towards the Three Lions' Euro 2024 performances seemed almost forgotten.

As the England team flashed up on the big screen at Manchester's AO Arena, cheers erupted across the 21,000-seater venue. The loudest, in what has been billed as the UK's biggest fan park, were reserved for Greater Manchester's greatest sons - Tripper, Foden, Mainoo, Palmer.

Even the old rivals, in the form of Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold, we're given a rapturous reception. Yet an olive branch, offered in hope of a Euro 2024 semi final spot, extended only so far for some.

England manager Gareth Southgate's name was greeted by a smattering of boos - some fans showing their frustration following a string of laboured wins. They had seen the Three Lions barely limp to a quarter final tie with Switzerland in Düsseldorf.

By 75 minutes, the mood had soured further. Switzerland forward Breel Embolo converted a deflected cross to put the land of chocolate, cuckoo clocks and army knives a goal ahead with 15 minutes remaining.

But football is a fickle game. And what looked like a great night for the neutrals was anything but.

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By full time, the AO Arena was a scene of chaos. Chants of 'it's coming home' echoed around the arena. Manchester's fans had started to dream again - and faith in Southgate, for many, had been restored.

It took penalties for England to see off Switzerland, despite a significantly improved performance. Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold left fans delirious after he remained composed enough to smash a textbook penalty kick into the top corner as England's fifth penalty taker.

With tops well off and beer in the air, the chaotic mood was a stark difference from the one that filled the arena just minutes before kick off. Mixed was the term to describe supporters after the comedown of England's heroics against Slovakia in the round of 16 brought had fans back to reality about just how far England could go in the competition.

One of the fans who was hesitant to back England all the way was Lewis. Despite using his face as a canvas for the England flag, he was unable to muster a positive score prediction prior to kick-off.

"I'm not too sure. We should have enough to beat these but we haven't been playing great. Ask my mates, they'll know better than me." He said.

After long deliberation, Lewis along with his friends settled on a nervy 2-1, but were confident in proclaiming that Real Madrid galactico and England golden child Jude Bellingham would "definitely score" such was his form.

While fans were in great voice and spirits in the AO Arena, the trepidation regarding the team's chances came from the less than stellar performances the team had been putting out. As the game drew on, faces grew longer, nails were bitten ever-shorter.

England had relied on some of their more gifted players to pull them from the jaws of defeat and a flight home.

Chaos in the AO Arena as boos turn to cheers and England fans start to believe (3)

The nerves were personified by three friends Fran, Kim and Darren who couldn’t quite agree on how England would perform, 3-0, 2-1, and a tense 1-0 prediction from them before kick-off. The players were well supported however, as the members of the full squad was streamed on the screen.

Any optimism soon disappeared after the first half as England failed to make any notable inroads while looking susceptible to Switzerland on the counter. Despite the flat showing, England fan Josh remained hopeful, describing the first half as "progress".

"It was better than Slovakia." He said. However, he might have been the only fan who was content with what they saw.

Another fan was a little more blunt and described England's play as “sh**e”, another supporter sarcastically quipped "It's been f***ing magical."

Chaos in the AO Arena as boos turn to cheers and England fans start to believe (4)

Louis and his mates, all from Manchester called on Southgate to make a change.

"Get Palmer on,” they all agreed.

Switzerland's lead didn't last long after the former Manchester City forward made an appearance. Arsenal's Bukayo Saka sent fans into a craze with his fantastic outside the box curler that levelled things for England and forced the game into extra time.

The match eventually went to penalties after 30 minutes of extra time.

England were given two lifelines when two Switzerland players missed their penalties including Manchester City's Manuel Akanji. Finally, the energy in the AO Arena reached fever pitch when Alexander-Arnold rifled his spot kick.

As confetti fell, one England fans summed up the mood of the arena by simply belting "It's coming home!"

Chaos in the AO Arena as boos turn to cheers and England fans start to believe (2024)
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