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Three Lions: how England's World Cup fever has driven a 20-year-old anthem to the top of the charts

The story behind the "it's coming home, it's coming, football's coming home" chant.

The story behind the "it's coming home, it's coming, football's coming home" chant

England fans often dress up as the Three Lions, which is both the emblem on the team's jersey and the name of a song by the Lightning Seeds. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

If you've been following the World Cup, particularly England's performance in it, perhaps you've heard the chant: "It's coming home, it's coming, football's coming home."

The line is taken from a 1996 song called Three Lions, released by the Lightning Seeds and comedians Baddiel & Skinner for Euro '96, which was held in England. England beat Scotland 2-0 to make it to the quarter finals (Germany ultimately won the tournament) and the song became a national phenomenon, taking on a life of its own. It's since become, for better or worse, intrinsically tied to England's football team. Or, as one of my British colleagues put it, the "absolutely miserable history of being an England supporter."

That hasn't been the case this year, and since England's 2-0 win over Sweden on Saturday, the song has surged in popularity. You may recognize the familiar refrain from the various videos posted to social media of English fans riotously celebrating. Whether they were ravaging an IKEA store or filling the streets of Clapham, in south London, in one case crashing through a glass bus shelter, you can hear it in the background: "it's coming home, it's coming, football's coming home."

Three Lions, which is named for the team's crest, has been streamed and downloaded more than 2.5 millions times, so much that it's hit number one on the U.K.'s Big Top 40 chart this week. It's also expected to top the U.K. Billboard singles chart, a spot currently held my George Ezra's Shotgun.

"Thanks to you lovely people, Shotgun has been number one for two weeks running," Ezra said in a video posted to Twitter. "That is amazing, but I think it's time we knock it off the number one spot with Three Lions. We go out, we download and we stream Three Lions and we get it to number one. And you know why? It's because it's coming home."

England plays Croatia in the semi-finals July 11, and whatever the result, there's a good chance Three Lions will be the soundtrack for England fans. Either football is one step closer to "coming home" for England, or, as the first verse tells it, "Everyone seems to know the score, they've seen it all before/ They just know, they're so sure/ That England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away."

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