Wild celebrations across East Anglia as England storm into the World Cup semi finals
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
We're starting to get the feeling that football really may be coming home!
Tens of thousands of people across East Anglia are joyously celebrating after England reached the World Cup semi finals with a comfortable 2-0 win over Sweden.
Gareth Southgate's men will play hosts Russia or Croatia on Wednesday night.
Pubs and clubs around the region were packed for the match and euphoria spilled on to the streets after the final whistle.
Earlier, Bar & Beyond in Norwich's Prince of Wales Road was evacuated when smoke was reported a few minutes before half-time.
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It is thought a smoke bomb was let off.
Police were called to deal with crowds spilling out and a fire crew was sen to the scene as a precaution.
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Fans were allowed back into the bar about half an hour later.
Owen Taylor, 20, said: 'We scored and then five minutes later the place started smoking up.
'It went all cloudy and at first we thought it was a smoke machine in there.
'The next thing we knew the fire alarm was going off and we were all going out.
'One of the bar staff told us it isn't a drill. We didn't even hear the fire alarm at first.
'It's one of those things which is alright in open air but setting off a flare in that closed environment is a bit stupid really.'
Virtually every city centre pub and club was full with queues outside.
There were wild scenes at places from Cromer Pier to Thetford Green to the Railway Tavern in Dereham, which has hit headlines in the last few weeks for its hugely popular £5,000 World Cup grandstand, which has been full to the brim in previous matches.
Fans hailed the quality of Gareth Southgate's side, with some now truly starting to believe 2018 is the year football is coming home.
Richard Sewell, 57, watched the match in Norwich.
'I thought it was brilliant and they were fantastic,' he said. 'Today I was worried - because it is England. It is a bit like watching Norwich, an England game is similar, but this was fantastic.
'Southgate got it smack on. He gives everyone the freedom to do what they want and go out there and enjoy it. England teams before had to stick to a plan which didn't work. This team has a plan but they enjoy what they are doing.'
He added: 'I hope it's coming home.
'We will have to get past the likes of Croatia, France and Belgium, but if we get to the final we have got a good chance. 'They have the right attitude to do it.'
Peter Morrant, 53, said he was one and a half when England last won the World Cup, but he believes this is the year that changes.
'That match was very good indeed,' he said. 'It was a very nervy start and we were all nervous until we got the first goal, when everyone calmed down.'
He said what he liked about the 2018 squad is they are 'young, and seem to be very focused and up for it'.
'I think they are very different to previous England teams,' he said. 'It is all about the game with this team, and Southgate is keeping them very focused with each game. I think that will carry them forward.
'It is all about psychology. From that point of view I think we are going to win it. I have believed that since we played this game.'
In Thetford, Bend it Like Beckham director Gurinda Chadah was watching the match.
She said: 'It's so exciting. It was so emotional. It's the mix of nationalism, the hope and the pride. Forget Bend it Like Beckham it's Kick it Like Kane now. It's the sequel finally!'
In Cromer, scores of fans watched on in venues including the Wellington pub and the Pavilion Theatre on the town's pier, which installed a TV screen specifically for the game.
Among those celebrating after the victory was Alistair Scott, of Costessey, who said: 'It's an awesome feeling. I knew we could beat Sweden after we made it through the previous two games. It's going to get harder now but there's no pressure on our boys.'
The pier's general manager, Francis Guildea, correctly predicted the 2:0 score line before the game. He said: 'We didn't even have a TV licence before, but it's become such a big event for communities all over the country and the pier is very much at the heart of the community here in Cromer, so we thought it was time to get involved.
'We've had a great crowd here today.'
The Kings Arms in Great Yarmouth was full to bursting at kick off, with fans overflowing into the beer garden, where there was a large projector.
Unlike prior to the Colombia game, the atmosphere was buoyant from the off. Indeed, the most common prediction was a 2-0 victory for England - and so it proved to be.
Vera Waynes, 75, was watching the game with her son Ian, 49, and her granddaughter Poppy, 15.
She said she could remember England's World Cup triumph of 1966 and said she could see similarities with today's victorious team.
'Southgate has done the right thing, he has done a marvellous job. He's got something about him.
'They seem to be a terrific bunch of young lads and they have made the whole country happy. I think it certainly is coming home.'
It has been a busy day in the town, with the Great Yarmouth Wheels Festival opening day also taking place on the seafront, but Superintendent Roger Wiltshere was pleased to report that the celebrations had gone smoothly.
He said: 'I'm pleased to say that has actually been a good day. We haven't had any major reports of football related disorder. Obviously we have had thousands of motorbike enthusiasts but it all seems to have gone well.
'We have got extra people on for this evening and then we have our normal public order people come on at about 9pm, so we have got a few extra.'
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