HUNDREDS of hopeful football fans gathered in Colchester’s pubs and bars on Saturday night, only for France to win 2-1 and send England home from the World Cup at the quarter-final stage.

In a stark contrast to the city centre scene last Sunday, when England dispatched Senegal in the Round of 16, many of Colchester’s public houses were full to capacity on Saturday night.

On North Hill, queues to the Centurion stretched back to Yates as excited fans crammed in before kick-off.

By the time the game was underway, security guards were turning fans away after the venue reached its maximum capacity of 270.

England’s progression to the quarter-finals will have been encouraging to the hospitality industry, which had not seen the same bounce that was enjoyed during the Euros in the summer of last year.

Whilst fans did manage to squeeze in to the likes of the Centurion, Playhouse, Walkabout, and the Marquis, the hosting of a World Cup during the winter months has not seen venues packed for every game as they did last year.

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Last Sunday against Senegal, perhaps a few dozen England fans were inside to watch the game – less, it felt, than last year when Covid restrictions were still in place in public venues.

When asked what he thought of the World Cup being held in the winter, one England fan, called George, said: “It’s not great – last year, it was on another level.

“Last year I watched every game in the pub. This year, I watched the USA and the Wales game in a pub, but I watched Iran and Senegal from home.”

Inside, the atmosphere was muted for much of first half after England fell behind, and fans grew frustrated, with chants of ‘England till I die’ and ‘Southgate, you’re the one’ quickly fizzling out.

Towards the end of the match, police officers and the military police were ready in case any trouble broke out, but with some fans consoling one another with hugs or an arm around the shoulder, very few tempers boiled over in a sobering evening for the national team.