THE hopes and fears of the nation have reached new heights ahead of England’s semi-final clash with Croatia.

Football fans in Bournemouth are putting their faith in Gareth Southgate’s side to take the Three Lions to their first World Cup final since 1966.

England had not reached the final four of the World Cup in 28 years, but are now just two games away from winning only their second major title.

After watching England beat Colombia and Sweden in the knock-out rounds, the nation has been swept up in a newfound football mania.

Most residents are confident that the Three Lions will beat Croatia and move one step closer to a shot at silverware.

Rhys Masters, from Southbourne, said: “This is the best squad we’ve had since I’ve been watching England. There’s a lot of enthusiasm.”

He also said that he would be flying to Russia to watch the final, adding: “I’m just waiting on my visa. I’ll go even if England don’t make it, the atmosphere will be great.”

Paul Sealey, who is visiting the area, said: “The team will do all in their power to win. This is the youngest English side in years and I think they’ll do very well against Croatia.”

But not everyone from Bournemouth will be rooting for Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson.

Mia Šetula, a Croatian student at Bournemouth University, admitted she will be cheering for England’s opponents tonight.

She said: “I’m hoping Croatia can reach the final but I’m expecting a really intense game. All of my friends are England supporters and, seeing as I’m likely the only Croatian they know, they’ve all called me out to wish me good luck for the semi-final!”

She added that she is flying back to Croatia and would be watching the game as part of a joint birthday football celebration.

Stan Chattersley, who has lived in Bournemouth for 15 years, admitted he would not be supporting England.

He said: “I think Croatia have a better side. If I’m honest, I don’t think there are many England players who would get into this Croatian team. It’s a tough one but I’ve got to go with my roots and support the Croatian boys.

“I don’t think England could go on to win the World Cup, I think France and Belgium have got too much. I think France will win the title.”

Another football fan flying to Croatia to watch the game is James Stephenson, from Winton. He said he that England would reach the final and that he expected the atmosphere in Croatia to be electric.

He said: “The momentum is growing and I think our squad has greater depth. I’ve been jokingly saying that football’s coming home, but now there’s no reason why we can’t win it.”

“I’m excited to see if Croatian fans are as excited as we are. They’ll have to be hugely proud of the team and they must think that they can beat us. I think it’s going to be incredibly loud in any bar we end up going to for the match.”

After the win against Sweden, Bournemouth experienced a party atmosphere as thousands flooded into the streets. Similar numbers are expected after tonight’s game and extra police patrols have been organised.

Bournemouth South Police said there will be three main road closures in the town centre at the end of the game.

Old Christchurch Road to Horseshoe Common, Westover Road and Gervis Place will be closed and bus routes will also be affected.