This is it. It’s the business end of the tournament. We’d booked free FIFA trains and accommodation for both of the potential routes for England, depending on where they’d finish in their group. Thankfully, England finished 2nd in their group which gave them - and us - a much easier knockout stage. After a few hotel cancellations on booking.com, we were set for a short trip from Saint Petersburg to Moscow to photograph two Round of 16 matches: Spain v Russia and England v Colombia.
At the start of the tournament I’d hoped to blog every day but between shooting photos, editing, travelling, admin and the occasional bit of sleeping and eating, I’ve just not had the time. So here’s a selection of my favourite photos up to the end of the group stages. I’ll try to blog more going forward!
England v Panama For the second England match, I opted to shoot from the tribune, i.
Flights back from Volgograd to Saint Petersburg were expensive on the day after the England match so we opted to stay in the city for an extra day before flying back to Saint Petersburg via Moscow on Wednesday.
We’d timed our schedule so we’d leave Volgograd around 9:30am and arrive in Moscow at 11:30am, with enough time to get across the city to photograph Portugal v Morocco at the Luzhniki Stadium, then back to the airport to catch a comfortable 10:40pm flight to Saint Petersburg.
Next up was England’s opening match against Tunisia in Volgograd, or Stalingrad, as it was known until 1961. As they are in Group G, England’s first match was one of the last to be played and I’ve been getting slowly more excited as the tournament has progressed. Although we’re out here working, I’m still a massive football fan and one of my earliest football memories was being at Wembley in 1996 watching England beat Spain on penalties.
Day 6 saw us photograph Argentina against Iceland at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow. When applying for matches we had the option of going pitchside, or shooting from the tribune. I really enjoyed shooting from the tribune at Euro 2016 so I chose to shoot this match, and England v Panama from there. The tribune seats are located near the written journalist’s seats, up in the stand, giving a nice clear shot looking down onto the pitch.
Yesterday saw us wake up at 4.30am to catch a train from St Petersburg – where we were based for the previous 3 days – to Moscow, for the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Stereotypical visions of a wooden cart on wheels were vanquished when we turned up to see a very nice looking bullet train. A smooth journey with plenty of room, the train was far better than anything I’ve been on in the UK.
I left the last blog post with us waiting to head out to greet the England player’s arrival in Repino. We weren’t sure exactly what time they were going to arrive so we headed to the team hotel about 5.30pm. The players didn’t end up arriving until 7pm but the 90 minute wait allowed us to secure our position – there were probably 50 media people there including photographers, TV crews and reporters – and shoot some pictures of the Russian security that’s in place.
After many months of planning, I finally arrived in St Petersburg yesterday, ready to cover my very first FIFA World Cup. As a sports photographer, attending a World Cup is the pinnacle - much as it is for a player - so it’s a huge achievement to be here covering my first World Cup, and also the first for the agency I run with my Dad, PHC Images.
He will be covering the tournament for Focus Images and we will be travelling around Russia together.
I took a bit of a step back from shooting weekly football this year to concentrate on growing the agency I co-run and another business I run. Nonetheless, I’ve put together a set of my favourite photos of the year.
Eric Dier scores England’s winner in Berlin. It’s a fairly standard goal picture but it’s the moment England came from behind to win away in Germany — always a big moment, even if it was 'just' a friendly.
After the England v Wales match we headed back to our accommodation from the first night. For all the apparently brilliant French cuisine we ended up eating at McDonald’s, again. Nothing out here seems to be open after 7pm! We got back to the house and managed to watch a rare bit of the tournament as Poland and Germany drew 0-0.
The next day we had a day off so we headed into Dieppe on the northern coast to get a decent meal and find a French data sim card.