England soccer fans party in Lille after winning 'Battle of Britain'

Thu Jun 16, 2016 4:45pm EDT
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By Philip O'Connor and Philip Blenkinsop

LILLE, France (Reuters) - Beer-swilling English soccer fans bathed in public fountains on Thursday evening in the northern France town on Lille to celebrate their team's victory over Wales in nearby Lens, with little sign of the tensions seen there in previous nights.

Police were braced for the kind of violence that threatened England and Russia with expulsion from the tournament and led to the use of tear gas on Wednesday to disperse rowdy English fans in Lille.

But on Thursday, fans flooded back from Lens singing and playfully kicking a soccer around as they exited Lille's rail station. Occasional showers of rain also helped keep the atmosphere calmer.

A Reuters photographer saw police detain one of a group of fans who were fighting in Lille. In general, though, police kept a low profile while monitoring what had in recent days been a meeting point, and an occasional flashpoint, for fans.

"It's OK. They're just in high spirits. As long as it stays that way, no problem," one police officer said.

Thursday afternoon's Group B match between England and Wales in the Euro 2016 group has been dubbed "The Battle of Britain".

After violence in the Mediterranean port of Marseille before and after England's 1-1 draw with Russia on Saturday, UEFA had warned England that a repetition of fans' violent behavior could see the team expelled.

UEFA has also told Russia that it would be disqualified if there was a repeat of its fans' violent behavior, which included attacks on England supporters in the stadium as the match ended.   Continued...

Football Soccer  EURO 2016  Lille, France - 16/6/16 - A garbage bag, thrown amongst fans, flies over a cutout of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II as fans celebrates their team's win in Lille   REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay