Declan Rice has said he hopes England can deliver the “best Christmas present” to fans back home by winning the World Cup.
Millions of supporters are gearing up to watch the Three Lions play Senegal in the second round of the tournament against the backdrop of cost-of-living pressures, strike action and the start of winter.
But midfielder Rice said he was left feeling happy by seeing videos of supporters in fan parks and pubs celebrating England’s goals, with Gareth Southgate’s squad hoping to unite the country again on Sunday.
His remarks came as England fans in Qatar hoping to secure last-minute tickets for the game were advised to remain “vigilant” and avoid using touts.
The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) said people should use official routes where possible in order to protect themselves from losing out and being denied entry to the Al Bayt Stadium, in Al Khor.
West Ham’s Rice, asked if the Three Lions’ World Cup adventures were a pick-me-up for fans, recalled memories of the team giving the nation a lift during their run to the Euros final last year.
Rice told reporters: “It was Covid back then so we couldn’t see families or friends or anyone but we were seeing videos of the fans back home and I feel like that’s what we’ve done as a team, we’ve really brought the country together when England have played football.”
He said the England women’s team winning the Euros this year did the same, adding on the fans: “You see the support we’ve got, you see them at the fan parks, you see them in the pubs, it makes me happy seeing the videos of them celebrating us scoring.
“So look, we’re going to try to keep going, we’re going to try to keep pushing, keep trying to lift everyone, it’s really close to Christmas now so hopefully we can deliver them the best Christmas present, let’s see.”
Tickets for the round of 16 knockout games have been on sale through the official Fifa site for up to 1,000 Qatari riyal, which is around £225.
They have been listed as “currently unavailable” for the England game although fans have been seeking to pick them up via the official resale process.
Thomas Concannon, from the FSA England fans’ embassy in Doha, told the PA news agency: “The advice is be vigilant. We are aware that touts are out there.
“I wouldn’t say it’s in great numbers because it’s a little bit more difficult now with mobile ticketing but be vigilant and try and use official routes if possible.
“There’s the Fifa ticketing resale site, which gets busy but hopefully as we get into the latter stages of the tournament there will be less people looking for tickets as a lot more people will be going home now.”
On using secondary ticketing sites, Mr Concannon said: “I think there’s always dangers if you’re not going through official channels.
“There’s always that risk and I think anyone that does go through any secondary sources that are available knows the risks they are taking by doing so.
“So, it’s trying to keep it as official as you possibly can because then at least you guarantee your access to the stadium.”
Mr Concannon said it had been a “positive” experience for England fans in Qatar, adding: “The price of beer is one thing for England fans – that’s one of the most common questions we get at the fans’ embassy, is ‘where’s there a cheaper beer than £14 or £15 a pint?’.
“Unfortunately that’s not available, there are a couple of options but you probably have to book into these places and it’s one thing you’ve got to bite the bullet on.
“One thing I would say is the taxis and access around the city is really, really cheap so you’re kind of saving a little bit of money on that front.”
The England Supporters’ Travel Club received 2,273 applications for tickets out of an allocation of 3,009 ahead of the tournament, according to the FA.
Supporter numbers have been bolstered by people already living in the region while others have used shuttle flights from Dubai.
England fan Phil Hall, 46, who lives in Al Khor by way of Altrincham, has secured tickets for Sunday’s game and believes the Three Lions can “go deep” in the tournament.
Mr Hall, who has been attending World Cup games with his two sons, said many supporters have been “blown away” by the welcome they have received from the Qatari people as he praised the transport and organisation of the tournament.
On Sunday’s game, he said: “When I was booking my tickets in March I was selecting random games because I didn’t know which teams would be in the round of 16 game at the Al Bayt.
“When England won the group that was fantastic and hopefully it erases the memories of the 0-0 with the USA at the same stadium.”
Manchester City fan Mr Hall wants England boss Gareth Southgate to stick with Phil Foden, adding: “I think the squad have got a very good chance to go deep into this tournament – and anything can happen.”
A Fifa spokesperson said: “Fifa reminds all fans that Fifa.com/tickets is the only official and legitimate website on which to buy Fifa World Cup 2022 tickets.
“Tickets purchased via unauthorised distribution channels may be cancelled once identified.
“Fifa reserves the right to refuse entry to the stadium to any holder of such tickets. During the Fifa World Cup 2022, Fifa and local authorities are conducting admission checks.”