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Euro 2012: England fans praise 'warm' Ukraine welcome

England fans are coming - but it's not quite the invasion you might have expected ahead of a crunch quarter-final.

A relatively modest 6,000 England supporters are expected for the clash with Italy - they'll make up less than 10% of the crowd in the Olympic stadium.

Many are flying out on scheduled and chartered flights that arrive just a few hours before the match. Should England progress to the semi-final in Warsaw next Thursday, the expectation is that far more fans will fly out.

Those supporters who are already here in Kiev have been chatting happily to their Italian rivals and enjoying the entertainment laid on at the fan zone in Independence Square.

Some have been singing and dancing in the warm Ukrainian sunshine, in the corner of the zone reserved for them.

There's a big screen for supporters who can't get into the game, but there shouldn't be too many of them - tickets are not hard to come by and touts certainly won't be making their fortune at this game.

The atmosphere is exuberant and there's a clear message from England fans to those back home thinking about making the trip out to Ukraine: "Come and join the party!"

All the hype before the tournament had been about thuggish and racist Ukrainians, but the English say so far they've had warm welcomes wherever they've gone.

"It's brilliant," says Sandra, proudly wearing her England shirt. "The Ukrainian people are absolutely fantastic, we've had a really good time. Everybody loves their football, so it's really, really good."

"It's just a really positive atmosphere," says her friend Allison. "Everyone is in a party mood, really positive, so it's been a good experience so far."

Some supporters have driven hundreds of miles across Ukraine to get from match to match. They admit they didn't know quite what to expect when they came out here, but say they've encountered nothing but friendliness and warmth.

Graham Bleanch of the Football Supporters Federation says it's been a fabulous tournament. "The Ukrainians have really embraced the vibe, they enjoy their football and the fan zones have been spectacular."

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt, who leads the British police operation here in Kiev, says: "'There had been some negative publicity about racism and the reception they might receive, but they're having an enjoyable time and behaving themselves."

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