SOUTH Lakeland is set to be gripped by World Cup fever as the tournament kicks off today.
As England prepare to tackle the mighty Italians in their opening match on Saturday the Gazette spoke to fanatical fans from both nations.
Craig Routledge, 50, who owns the Churchill Inn, Ambleside, has transformed the hostelry into an England World Cup grotto.
Every inch of the pub’s walls and ceiling are covered with more than 120 England flags – but Craig did not stop there.
He has painted three lions on to the pillars outside, spent £40 on a replica World Cup and bought custom made banners from Newcastle.
“I’m passionate about my country,” said Craig, who has vowed to support England by banging a bass drum he keeps behind the bar throughout every game and by lifting his World Cup at every opportunity.
He has followed England all over the world and is in no doubt as to who the winners will be.
“I go into every tournament believing England can win it,” he said.
“It’ll be 2-1 to England. Italy don’t know what to expect from our young team and their best player, Pirlo, is all Pirloed out!”
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But the Gazette tracked down one Italian who has his own ideas about the match. Angelo Ambrosio, 25, a chef at the Wild Boar Hotel, Crook, near Windermere, will be in a very difficult position when the teams kick off.
He arrived from Napoli two years ago and sees Italy as firm favourites. The only problem is his English fiancee Mickaela might disagree.
“I think it will be 2-1 to Italy,” said Angelo. “The older players, Pirlo and Buffon, are very tactical and will keep everyone calm.
“The whole country celebrates if Italy win because we are going through a very difficult time. There’s political and economic problems – the best thing we have is football!”
And inspired by the World Cup, Storth youngsters have created a quirky cast of international scarecrows, from a Brazilian dancer to a French onion seller.
All 41 pupils at Storth CE Primary School helped build the straw-filled figures, which are displayed on the school front lawn.
“The children all entered a lucky dip for countries and then looked up characteristics for each of them: onions for France, sombrero for Mexico, bull fighters for Spain, etc,” explained head teacher Simon Brabant.
Pupils gathered materials during half-term and then spent an afternoon with staff and parents making their scarecrows and stuffing them with straw.