Bukayo Saka said he has dared to dream of World Cup glory, as buoyant England fans in Qatar predicted the Three Lions will overcome France.
The Arsenal forward said he has “always allowed myself to dream” when asked if he had ever imagined himself playing in a World Cup final and lifting the trophy.
Downing Street added its voice to the chorus of praise for Gareth Southgate’s men following a “massive” 3-0 second-round win against Senegal, which set up the quarter-final clash with the reigning World Cup champions.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman added: “He wishes the best of luck for the rest of the tournament.”
Three Lions supporters in Doha were optimistic of further success against France on Saturday at the Al Bayt Stadium, with one insisting he will continue wearing his “lucky” England shirt and shorts.
Saka, when asked if he allows himself to dream or shuts out such thoughts, told reporters: “I always allow myself to dream.”
Referring to Colombian pop star Shakira’s Waka Waka (This Time for Africa), the 21-year-old added: “Having watched the tournament as well growing up, a lot of memories, I remember South Africa 2010, the famous theme song, it’s an amazing song.
“Things like that, it sticks with you forever, and as a kid you just one day wake up after a dream thinking ‘I want to do this, I want to score a goal in the World Cup’ and stuff like that, and I always allowed myself to dream.”
Saka missed the decisive penalty as England lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy in a shoot-out last summer.
With penalties a possibility on Saturday, he said: “I would not have stepped up the times I have stepped up for Arsenal to take a penalty if I wasn’t confident, so if the moment comes and I am selected to take a penalty, I am more than happy to.”
Marketing executive Jordan Fox, 24, from Oxford, landed in Doha on November 20 in time for the first game of the tournament and is staying until England “either win it or get knocked out”, telling the PA news agency: “Hopefully win it.
“I think we’re the best team player-for-player in the tournament, the stats back it up. The game on Saturday – whoever wins that will win the World Cup.
“If we get past France we will beat anyone, but it’s a shame we’ve got France so early.
“We’ve got nothing to be scared of. Everyone talks about (Kylian) Mbappe but they should be more worried about our frontline and midfield.”
James Swann, 28, from Barnsley, has been to 12 games in two weeks and fancies England’s chances.
Mr Swann, who works in property and construction, is staying in a villa with nine others and said he has been “very impressed” by England so far.
On the quarter-final tie, he told PA: “I think we can beat them.”
Mark Trigg, 48, from Derby, said he will keep wearing his “lucky” red England top and shorts, his hat made by his mother and a lucky St George’s Cross ring made by his father.
The chef said he has realised a “childhood dream” by travelling to his first World Cup, something he said he wanted to do since watching the 1982 and 1986 tournaments on television.
Mr Trigg, who has booked to stay for another six days, predicted for the France tie: “I’m still mulling it over, maybe 2-1 (England), it’s not going to be plain sailing.”
He added: “The build-up for me starts as soon as I wake up, I’m antsy, I get the music on, pacing up and down, just like I am back home, it’s no different.”
Asked if he has any lucky routines, Mr Trigg said: “I play the national anthem on a match day, lucky suit every game, I can’t not wear the lucky suit.”
He added he is “still confident” about England’s chances.
Steve Hopper, 36, from Eastbourne and working in media, told PA: “This is the dream match between England and France, this is a World Cup final-quality match-up and to have it in the quarters is almost a shame.”
He added: “I think whoever wins this has the strongest chance of winning the World Cup, between England and France, I think we are on paper the best team in the tournament right now in terms of our level of players.”
Tickets through official outlets for the quarter-final tie range from 450 Qatari riyal, around £100, to 1,550 riyal – which amounts to almost £350.
Fans have been repeatedly advised to avoid using touts or secondary sites if they want to guarantee they will be able to access the stadium.
Elsewhere, police are working to determine when a burglary reported at the home of England forward Raheem Sterling took place.
The 27-year-old Chelsea star was given leave to return to the UK from England’s World Cup camp in Qatar after he learned about the burglary.
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