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As one of the youngest teams in the tournament and shorn of the bigger-name, underachieving superstars of previous years, few expected Southgate's squad to progress as far as it did.
Hannah Rogerson, a cafe worker, told NBC News that she wasn’t much of a soccer fan before the tournament, but had embraced England’s World Cup journey.
“It’s been great,” she said while preparing coffee for a customer in the Exmouth Market area of central London. “I was born in 1998, so I literally haven’t had a World Cup where we’ve done any good at all. It’s been so good.”
Wednesday's game was English men's first World Cup semifinal appearance since 1990.
Even in defeat, there was still a real sense of national pride, according to Bovington.
“When the game finished, it was nice to see people clapping the team, and saying, 'well done,' and that they’d done amazingly," she added. "Everyone’s just appreciated how hard they’d worked.”
England’s success has also been a boon for the city’s pubs, with fans clamoring to watch the games with pints in hand.
Gareth Kerr owns two soccer-themed bars that have been screening the tournament.
"It's been brilliant," Kerr said over a morning espresso at his Cafe Kick.
He said English fans have "so many songs they just go nuts about," adding: "And they drink like the others don't!"
Kerr recounted how triumphant England fans outside his bar in the Shoreditch area of east London celebrated so much earlier in the tournament that they had to close down the entire street, with the “football’s coming home” refrain from The Lightning Seeds’ 1996 England team song "Three Lions" ringing through the neighborhood.
The song's “it’s coming home” lyric has become the de facto national catchphrase and default greeting for the English in recent weeks.
Its use started almost as a joke earlier in the tournament given the perceived implausibility of England success.
But as the wins kept coming, it increasingly became a sincere expression of hope and belief.
Now that the welcome distraction provided by dreams of World Cup glory is over, England has little choice but to turn its attention to pressing geopolitical issues.
I’m still heartbroken and never felt so gutted. But there’s something I want to say. This past month, I’ve seen videos going around, photos been sent to me. That felt so good for us here in Russia, and united us more and more, just like it did in our country. pic.twitter.com/6pY10XaXZq