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World Cup 2018: Early rush hour ahead of England v Croatia

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Fans who can take the time off work have been heading to Russia for the semi-final

Rush hour is expected to hit earlier than usual today as England fans race to get home in time for the World Cup semi-final.

The RAC predicted that roads would be extra busy at 17:00 BST, and that they would be “dead” by kick-off.

Meanwhile, train firms Southern and Great Northern expect afternoon services to be extremely busy.

England will play Croatia at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium at 19:00. It is their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years.

The AA predicts that millions of people will be going home early this evening and, by 19:00, roads will be “much quieter than on Christmas Day”.

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “Historically, the biggest TV events and quietest roads in the UK were during the World Cup final in 1966 followed by the funeral of Diana, Apollo 13, royal weddings and Muhammad Ali’s ‘Rumble in the Jungle’. This game will join the list.

“Rail commuters may also take earlier trains, perhaps worried about delays or staff shortages due to the match.”

Highways England said traffic dropped by about a third when England played Colombia earlier in the tournament.

People will either travel home earlier on Wednesday to make it home in time for kick-off – or choose not to travel at all by working from home or watching the match at or near work.

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Media captionWorld Cup 2018: How England v Sweden interrupted a nation

Rail operators Southern, Great Northern and Thameslink urged people to allow plenty of time to travel.

On Wednesday morning, some commuters said the roads were already busy – “almost like everyone is getting in early so they can leave early,” said one woman in Torbay, Devon, on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the union for shopworkers, Usdaw, has urged employers to be “as flexible as possible” with staff wanting to support England and watch tonight’s game.

“World Cup success is such a big matter for England fans, it would a real shame if any were to miss it coming home,” the union said.

About 1,000 workers at BMW Mini in Oxford will finish three hours early today, with the firm’s press officer Steve Wrelton saying it “felt like the right thing to do”.

And the Asian Catering Federation, which represents the Asian takeaway and restaurant industry, urged any fans wanting a curry to “order your takeaway early”.

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Media captionHow Gareth Southgate inspired some waistcoat imitators

The British Beer and Pub Association predicts that the number of pints bought will soar by 10 million during tonight’s semi-final, and it could bring a boost to the economy of up to £30m.

Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said it was “fantastic news” for the “great British pub”.

Many people – including staff at Nunnery Wood High School in Worcester – are embracing so-called “waistcoat Wednesday” in honour of manager Gareth Southgate.

Others noticed the difference on their morning commute.

Anticipation is reaching fever pitch, with the possibility that England could reach their first World Cup final since 1966 if they defeat Croatia.

Nearly 20 million television viewers watched England beat Sweden in the quarter-finals on Saturday.

The winners of tonight’s game will face France in the final at 16:00 on Sunday.

Hundreds of England supporters have been arranging last-minute trips to Russia after the side booked their semi-final place with a 2-0 win over Sweden on Saturday.

England catches World Cup fever

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  • Supermarket chains Aldi and Lidl promised to close stores early on Sunday should England make the World Cup final so staff can watch the match
  • Wiltshire landmark the White Horse was briefly made into an England flag when fans rolled out red plastic
  • According to parenting website, two-thirds of parents say the name Gareth could make a comeback for babies
  • Confident fans have been getting England football-themed tattoos, with one Doncaster man getting a tattoo of Harry Maguire’s face on his chest
  • Concerts and comedy gigs have been axed or altered because of the clash with Wednesday’s semi-final. Justin Timberlake will screen the game before his concert while All Saints will wait for the game to finish before beginning theirs
  • The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, has shown his support for the England squad, professing that football is “most definitely” coming home, when asked by a reporter during the royal visit to Dublin
  • The song “Three Lions” looks set to go to number one after a massive spike in streams and downloads

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