- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

LENS, France (AP) - With a return of hooliganism in European soccer, England has to worry about what happens off the field ahead of a British derby against Wales at the European Championship.

After giving up stoppage goal to draw 1-1 with Russia in its opening Euro 2016 game on Saturday, England cannot afford to lose more points in Group B on Thursday, and cannot afford any more troubles caused by their fans.

The match comes just days after clashes between English and Russian fans escalated over three days in Marseille. Vicious fighting spread to the stadium on Saturday, where the Russians attacked England supporters.

The eruption of hooliganism prompted UEFA to threaten to kick both teams out of the tournament.

England coach Roy Hodgson and captain Wayne Rooney felt obliged to appeal to supporters to behave. Still, there’s trepidation in the air as English and Welsh fans come for the encounter in the northern French city of Lens.

Inspired by Gareth Bale, the Real Madrid forward who played a pivotal role as Wales made a triumphant return to a major competition following a 58-year absence with a 2-1 victory over Slovakia, Wales is leading the group with thee points. England and Russia have a point each.

If Wales earns points on Thursday, it would be a major step toward advancing in the tournament.

Wales has managed to beat England 14 times, the last time in 1984, while England has won 68 times and 21 matches between the traditional British opponents have ended in a draw.

To succeed on Thursday, England needs to be more clinical in attack after failing to finish a flurry of chances against Russia.

Hodgson is set to have a fully fit squad to choose from, and may go with the same team that impressed in the first half against Russia. Rooney excelled in central midfield, and should continue there.

In Lens, security is going to be stepped up while a British police presence is to be increased alongside several companies of French riot police.

Alcohol sales will be strictly controlled. Drinking and transporting alcohol will be forbidden in fan zones and on the streets in the Lens town center. Sales of alcohol will be “strictly regulated” and limited to licensed places, and will only be served in paper or plastic cups on the terraces of bars and cafes, regional authorities have said. Sales of bottles of strong alcohol will banned in the town center.

Within easy reach of London by train - Eurostar trains stop at nearby Lille - the city could easily be over-run by rival English and Welsh fans, who have clashed on occasion when with their club sides. In 2010, hooligans from Chelsea’s “Headhunters” and Cardiff’s “Soul Crew” fought on the Kings Road in London before an FA Cup match between the sides.

Another concern in light of the Marseille clashes is that Russian fans will be in Lille on Wednesday for the match against Slovakia. Many British supporters will be in Lille because Lens is too small to accommodate large numbers of fans.

Such a scenario raises the prospect of more clashes, and there’s a precedent. At the 1998 World Cup, police arrested dozens of English hooligans rioting in Lens and Lille ahead of a match between England and Colombia in Lens.

___

AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas in Paris contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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