THE Sun helped to rev up England’s bid for Euro glory in Rome yesterday — with a dramatic Italian Job dash across Europe.
Harry Kane’s lionhearts take on Ukraine tonight in a do-or-die quarter-final clash after toppling Germany.
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Captain Harry Kane will be England’s Roman gladiator
And lion mascot Harry Mane plus a posse of Sun men charged to the Eternal City to rally them — in red, white and blue Minis.
Italian jobsworths thwarted an English invasion by slapping a five-day Covid quarantine order on fans arriving by air from the UK.
But double-jabbed, Covid-secure arrivals via France were allowed a 36-hour window without having to self-isolate.
The safe legal loophole kicked off an epic Sun road trip worthy of Michael Caine’s famous heist movie.
Sun England mascot Harry Mane was a lion outside Rome’s ColosseumCredit: The Sun
An epic Sun road trip completed the Italian Job ahead of Saturday’s big game
We flew from London to Nice in France’s Cote d’Azur then slipped across the border near Monte Carlo, crossing the Italian border at dawn in French hire cars.
Then we switched vehicles — leaping into race-tuned red, white and blue Mini Cooper S sports cars in true Italian Job-style to vroom from Florence to Rome.
Mascot Harry and the Sun team were all treble-checked for Covid with swab tests before the final assault on the Italian capital.
And England fans and locals were thrilled as the trio of Minis completed their mission — with a St George’s flag-waving lap of honour around the Colosseum.
The Sun’s mini convoy brightened up Rome’s streetsCredit: The Sun
Our mascot Harry roared: “I must be the first lion to be glad to see the Colosseum — what a journey. We’re all double-jabbed and have had tests galore plus more paperwork than Brexit.
“But we’ve made it to show support for England when and where it matters and can’t wait to get our claws into Ukraine. Football’s coming Rome!”
England fans in the city saluted our epic 1,100-mile mission last night.
Arabella Vickers, 21, a West London student, said: “It’s great fun and just the sort of crazy stuff we need to fire up our team to win.
“It helps make up for having so few travelling fans here. It’s wonderful seeing the Minis roaring through Rome like the famous movie — and your lion’s a hoot!”
Mascot Harry Mane was treble checked for CovidCredit: The Sun
Communications manager Sam Eversden, 42, from Uxbridge, North West London, was reminded of The Italian Job’s famous punchline.
He quipped: “Now Kane’s got a goal he’s going to blow the bloody doors off Ukraine’s defence. Having The Sun’s Minis and a lion in Rome is going to help our heroes roar. Trust The Sun to bring some fun and lift the nation. Brilliant teamwork!”
Civil servant Chris Dandy, 44, from Surrey, even evoked one of our famous headlines, saying: The England team will be smiling when they see this — and when they win it’ll be ‘The Sun wot won it’ for England.”
Our convoy also went down a storm among scooter-riding locals, with Italian interior designer Massimo Riva, 36, stopping us by the gladiatorial amphitheatre for a selfie.
The Sun hopes to whip up enthusiasm among Brit expat locals in ItalyCredit: The Sun
He laughed: “I did a double take when I saw three Italian Job Minis fly by — and nearly fell off my scooter when I saw there was a lion in one of the cars.
“It’s a long time since we’ve had lions in the Colosseum but yours is more than welcome — he’s hilarious.”
Travelling Three Lions fans have been banned from Rome’s 73,000- capacity Stadio Olimpico.
But more than 2,000 English expats, made up of pensioners, teachers, financers, families and charity workers, will be in the 16,000-strong crowd.
Harry Mane gets a Covid test from Sun man Nick ParkerCredit: The Sun
Steph MacGillivray, 28, who works for a humanitarian organisation in Rome but is originally from Watford, Herts, said: “It won’t be the usual raucous crowd. I should imagine it’ll be very Wimbledon meets Wembley.
“I can’t see any of the expat fans booing the Ukraine national anthem but we will be singing God Save The Queen as loudly as possible.”
Also there will be Chelsea fan Max Heinemann, 29, originally from Clapham, South West London, and now living in Rome.
He said: “I’ve got friends coming in from Bilbao and Poland — he’s got a broken leg as well. We are going to have a fantastic time and cheer on the lads.”
Meanwhile, back home, experts estimate 42 million pints will be downed today as England fans get supercharged for the 8pm kick-off.
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