IT’S HERE! After months of frenzied talk about who will be in the England starting line-up, the wait is nearly over as Roy Hodgson’s men kick off their World Cup campaign tonight.
Football fans are daring to believe once again of what might be if England can go all the way in Brazil, starting with tonight’s game against Italy in the Amazonian city of Manaus.
Tonight will is a mixture of dread and excitement filling the air across the country as the Three Lions play the very team that knocked them out of Euro 2012.
Favourites Saints fans will be eager to see if their favourites Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw, as well as recently departed hero Rickie Lambert, make their World Cup debuts.
It all feels a far cry away from four years ago, when England limped out of the World Cup in South Africa with a 4-2 defeat against fierce rivals Germany.
Now there’s a renewed sense of hope across the country that a new generation will at last perform on the biggest stage of all.
It is clear to see the sense of pride is growing with bunting and flags on display across the county. One proud fan, Anthony Baddams, has even gone as far covering his home in Northbrook Road, Southampton, from top to bottom with England flags.
Many fans are sporting flags, shirts and other colourful items of in the next four weeks but will they be brave enough to wear their team's colours in spandex?
Well one company – Morphsuits – has been offering fans the chance to cheer on their team in shining spandex.
Mean-while, pubs across Hamp-shire have been busy stocking up with beer and adorning their interiors with England flags as well as extending their licenses.
One pub that is going all out for the World Cup is the Lord Nelson in Hythe.
To mark the start of England's campaign, they have put astroturf in the hallway and even gone as far as putting a goal in one of the pub's four bars.
They are expecting to be packed to the rafters when England kick-off against Italy.
Landlady Bubsy O'Hara said: “We love the World Cup, it really unites the country and brings people of all ages together.”
In South-ampton, up to 420 licensed premises could serve alcohol up until 1am, provided they are showing England fixtures, as part of relaxed licensing laws – they will come into play today, with the match not kicking off until 11pm. Drinkers at The Alex, in Bellevue Road in the city, have been building up to the match with English and Italian musicians stoking the flames of footballing rivalry.
Soul and Fire band mates Dave Mitchell and Paulo Pecoraro will be putting their friendship to one side when tonight's game kicks-off.
Cheering Dave will be cheering on the Three Lions, while Paulo will be hoping the Azzurri replicate their result from two years ago to shatter English hearts.
All this comes after the Daily Echo revealed that the World Cup could bring a £38m increase in trade to Hampshire, which could rise to £57m should England make it all the way to the final.
To help control the flow of fans flocking to the city’s pubs, Hampshire police have launched a campaign called ‘Watch your Game’ to remind fans to drink sensibly and stay within the law.
They will be carrying out extra patrols around pubs and bars in Southampton city centre to keep disorder to a minimum.
It comes as police are expecting a rise in domestic abuse, drink driving and alcohol related violence while the World Cup runs throughout June and July.
The force’s community safety and licensing inspector, Justin Roberts, said: “The World Cup is a fantastic event and we want everyone to be able to go out and enjoy it and not have their evening ruined by drunken violence.
“Plans are in place to conduct additional high-visibility patrols in the night time economy areas during the World Cup matches. “We are working closely with our partner agencies, the licensing trade members and other stakeholders to minimise the impact of alcohol related harm, crime, and disorder during the 2014 World Cup.”