England’s progress to the quarter-finals sees Gareth Southgate’s men return to the Volga river for a third time, this time in Samara.
The 44,918-seater Cosmos Arena is set back from the banks of the river, but the warm summer sun means the temperature is set to be around 25 degrees when England kick off against Sweden at 6pm local time.
Aside from the stadium, visiting fans can enjoy the sandy beaches of the Volga, the city’s ubiquitous Zhiguli beer and Samara’s inescapable link to outer space.
Back at the height of the Cold War, Samara, then a closed city to foreigners, was home to the Soviet space race and all over the city, monuments and museums point to Samara’s place in history.
In both name and design, the new Cosmos Arena is a tribute to the city’s achievements in space, rising out of the trees in the forest near Samara like an enormous UFO.
It was the final World Cup stadium to be finished, but it has been well worth the wait.
The city centre also underwent a makeover ahead of the tournament, particularly Samara’s Fan Zone in Kubysheva Square, the largest in Russia, which holds 35,000 spectators.
It was an ambitious World Cup project, but having enabled the Soviet Union to put the first man in space, this city is no stranger to realising ambitious dreams.
Just as in the rest of the country, targets have been reached, infrastructure has flourished and fans have been happy.
Construction and traffic problems that might have derailed Samara’s hosting have not materialised.
On the field, England versus Sweden is the city’s sixth match of this World Cup, and local fans also have top-flight football to look forward to next season, FC Krylia Sovetov returning after one season away.
Samara’s team and city is on the up, and this England team will be hoping to tap into Samara’s inextricable link to outer space and reach new heights at the World Cup.