England fans were stunned when Spain struck first in the Lionesses’ hunt for their maiden World Cup final victory.
A single Spanish fan jumped to his feet and danced for hundreds of England fans in Victoria Park, while supporters from across the country groaned as Olga Carmona slid past Mary Earps midway through the first half.
At the screening of the McDonald’s Women’s World Cup at London’s Olympic Park, Love Island host Maya Jama and former soccer player Rio Ferdinand watched among the shocked fans as a hush fell over the crowd.
Although the government has ruled out a public holiday if the Lionesses win, millions of supporters across the country are on hand for huge celebrations when a senior England team win their first World Cup since 1966.
Supporters flock to pubs and bars for kick-off at 11am (BST), tipping to give the UK economy a £185m boost.
The Lionesses booked their place in the final against Spain after a big 3-1 victory over hosts Australia.
Before the match, the King let out a rallying cry of “roar to victory” and the Prime Minister urged the players to take home the trophy, though neither attend the match Down Under.
In the Norfolk home town of goalscorer Lauren Hemp, goalscorer Lauren Hemp, fans said they were supporting “our girl” and said they were “football mad” ahead of the crucial game against Spain.
Young fans put their heads in their hands as Spain took the lead, but fans in the North Walsham Town FC clubhouse began chanting “come on England”.
During the game, young people chanted “Hempo! Hemp oil!” when their local hero came into view.
England men’s manager Gareth Southgate also wished the team success, but admitted he had “no advice” to offer a team that has achieved what his own has not.
The Prince of Wales is facing continued backlash over his decision not to attend the Women’s World Cup final in Australia.
Former England goalkeeper Pauline Cope labeled it a “disgrace” and said: “I won’t have any bad words against the Royal Family.
“However, this should have been on his agenda from day one, after we won the European Championship and qualified for the World Cup.”
No senior member of the British royal family will be attending the match, but Queen Letizia of Spain will be on hand with her 16-year-old daughter Ifanta Sofia to demonstrate her country’s commitment to national football.
Heir to the throne William apologized to the Lionesses for not being present in a video message on Saturday.
Culture secretary Lucy Frazer said the Prince of Wales is “disappointed” not to attend the Women’s World Cup final, while defending William and the prime minister against criticism that they have not travelled.
Pre-match commentary blared as young girls in England shirts took their seats before kick-off at North Walsham Town FC in Hemp’s home town.
Angela Fitter, 71, from Norwich, said: “I’m excited, really excited. I have a feeling they’re going to win.”
She then started singing, “It’s coming home!”
Mrs Fitter said she had four girls and “they are all football crazy”.
Kelly Hearne, 50, from North Walsham, said: “I can’t wait, I’m really excited.
“It’s such an inspiration to all the girls.”
England’s 3-1 win over co-host Australia on Wednesday was the most watched match of the tournament, but the final is expected to be watched by millions more.
A peak of 11.5 million people watched the semi-final in Australia, while in England a staggering 7.3 million fans watched the match on BBC One on a working day.
Public screenings will take place in venues such as Victoria Park in Tower Hamlets, East London, which could seat around 12,500 supporters for the match.
MPs called on authorities to ignore cases of tax collectors serving outside their usual Sunday hours after warnings that licensing rules could prevent some venues from serving pints or opening early for excited fans on the day.
Michael Gove, secretary of Leveling Up, said on Thursday: “I have asked councils to do all they can to allow pubs to open earlier on Sundays so that people can come together and enjoy a drink before kicking off this special occasion. “
In Cornwall, the council and police announced they would not be taking any enforcement action for early opening during the big game.
In pubs, bars and fan parks across the country, many supporters donned England flag face paint and wore England shirts to show their support for the team.
At Victoria Park in London’s Tower Hamlets area, 45-year-old Rakhi Pandya brought her three West Highland Terriers to the public display and told the PA news agency: “To be fair.”
Elliot Wing also follows the England men’s matches and tries to go to their matches, but he believes the atmosphere is “much better” at Lionesses matches.
The 27-year-old also said at Victoria Park: “I think they have a better chance than the men.”