LONDON – England are braced to play Tuesday night's decisive World Cup qualifier in a hostile atmosphere whipped up by more than 20,000 Poland fans, the largest away following for a competitive game at the revamped Wembley stadium, for a fixture that will determine if Roy Hodgson's side reach the finals in Brazil automatically or must endure a play-off.
The game, which the home side need to win to hold off the threat posed by Ukraine at their back, will be an 85,000 sell-out with the Football Association having effectively increased the area of the ground designated for away supporters for security reasons.
The Polish FA had originally requested 8,000 tickets for the match but, with those quickly sold, the ex-pat community in England as well as some supporters back in Poland moved to buy up seats made available on general sale.
The FA, with segregation in mind, decided last week to replicate their policy from the recent friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and Scotland and offered those purchasing tickets the opportunity to sit in an away section that has been swollen to 18,000 seats.
An FA spokesperson said: "With high demand for tickets from the large Polish community in England the FA took the decision, based on safety grounds, to ensure Polish fans were allocated space in a specific area of the ground, rather than attempting to buy tickets in home areas."
The allocation is much larger than the 10% Fifa require host nations to offer visiting associations, and has necessitated some home fans being moved to accommodate the larger away section, but will still not satisfy the demands of the Polish support despite last Friday's defeat in Ukraine having ensured the visitors retain no hope of qualifying for the finals next summer.
"There will be at least 20,000 Polish fans," said a spokesman for the Polish FA, with a similar number present in a crowd of 65,000 at Dortmund's Westfalen stadium for a group match against Germany at the 2006 World Cup. "Knowing how many Poles live in Great Britain, we know how many will attend this game, even though now we don't have a chance to qualify. For a lot of people it's a very special game. It is England and it's a football story. They live in England but the team from the motherland is their country. It's important for them to be at the game and support the Poland team. It is always better to go to work the next day and say to their English colleagues, 'We beat you.'"
Poland's striker, Robert Lewandowski, said: "We're very aware that we'll have huge support there from a great number of our fans who we hear are going to the game. We might not have any chance of getting through to the World Cup finals now, but we'll be playing for our prideand we feel we owe our fans to give them something to cheer about againat Wembley." – Press Association
Tuesday: Azerbaijan v Russia 7pm, Portugal v Luxembourg 7pm, Turkey v Netherlands 8pm, Sweden v Germany 8:45pm, Italy v Armenia 8:45pm, France v Finland 9pm, Spain v Georgia 9pm, England v Poland 9pm, Belgium v Wales 9pm