Thousands of England and Wales fans will be watching in Qatar as the two nations begin their bids for 2022 World Cup glory.
Millions more fans are expected to tune in at home as England open their Group B campaign against Iran on Monday afternoon before Wales make their first World Cup final appearance since 1958 against United States.
Both teams will be hoping to get off to a winning start and pick up points in their second matches later in the week before facing each other next week in their final group stage game.
Nearly 2,400 Three Lions supporters have applied for tickets for the game against Iran through the England Supporters’ Travel Club and Wales expect more than 2,500 of their supporters to have made the trip.
Their ranks are expected to be swelled by fans in the region, with shuttle flights from Dubai and taxi rides from Saudi Arabia among the options for those traveling to the tournament.
Jafar Said, 27, a consultant from Newport, traveled to Qatar with family members Hamza Ali, 27, from London, and Khalid Ali, 18.
Mr Said, who supports Wales, said they would stay for two weeks but joked he would stay if Wales progressed to the knockout stages.
“Don’t take me home,” he told the PA news agency during the fan festival in Al-Bidda, Doha.
“We are having an incredible time, everyone has been very friendly.
“And I’m very optimistic about our chances, we have a good mix of experienced players.
“Also, a lot of people don’t expect us to win, so we don’t have the pressure from England.
“Plus, we have (Gareth) Bale.”
The trio have tickets to the Wales opener but will travel to a fan zone to watch England’s game against Iran beforehand.
Hamza Ali, who is an England fan, said: “I’m just excited now.
“It’s a good group and I hope we will be at the top of the group.
“And if we succeed, I will definitely stay too, until the end.”
Bryn Barnard, 30, from Portsmouth but who supports Wales, said he was only in Qatar for the first match against the United States.
“I don’t think my girlfriend would let me stay longer, that’s a lot of money,” he told PA.
“I’ve been supporting Wales since I was about eight years old, my mum is Welsh and I love it.
“There is so much culture around it.
“With my accent, other fans might tell me ‘you’re not Welsh’ but they aren’t and to be honest most of the Wales squad are like me.
“I just hope we win, I think we have to start strong.”
On the stadium drinking ban controversy, he said: “I can see where a lot of the fans are coming from, they promised us before we arrived that we could drink here.
“But I haven’t had a drink since I got here and I haven’t missed it. You come here for the experience. I can drink at home.
Darren Walsh of Bridgend and Lee Williams of Rhondda, both 50, said they would attend a tailgating party with Wales supporters detained at a hotel in the city before surrendering at the stadium for the game.
“It would have been nice to have a few beers in the stadium beforehand, I think that would mean better preparation, but now it means the fans will stay where they are a bit longer before going to the game.” said Mr. Walsh said.
Rich Moran, 37, from Sleaford in Lincolnshire, said England should “go far enough” in the tournament if boss Gareth Southgate makes the right decisions on team selection and tactics.
Mr Moran, speaking in Doha, said: “We have the players to definitely win it, 100 per cent.
“A lot of young players got a taste of Euro 2020 so they know what to expect now, they’re not really fresh.”
He added: “They can handle the pressure. In the last World Cup against Croatia we went out for two minutes and conceded two silly goals, as long as they don’t go out again we should go all the way.
England and Wales face off at the Al Rayyan Stadium on November 29.
Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford told reporters in Doha that the country must “dare to dream” and was optimistic about the national team’s chances of making it out of the group stages.
“The beauty of sport is that on the day any team can win any game,” he added.
Controversy has surrounded the run-up to the tournament, with the Gulf state’s record on human rights and the treatment of migrant workers coming under scrutiny.
Several LGBT+ supporters chose not to travel to the Gulf state where homosexuality is still illegal.
England and Wales intend to wear the OneLove rainbow armband against discrimination despite Fifa announcing plans for its own squad on the eve of the tournament.
England players have also been called on to use Monday’s game to raise awareness about anti-government protests in Iran.
These were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by police in the capital, Tehran, for allegedly failing to observe the country’s strict Islamic dress code.
Qatar lost 2-0 to Ecuador on Sunday, becoming the first host nation in the tournament’s 92-year history to lose the opening game.
Empty seats could be seen in the second half during the Group A match at Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor.