KIEV (Reuters) - Co-hosts Poland promised tough punishment on Wednesday for Russian and Polish fans detained for fighting at Euro 2012 and UEFA said it was determined the violence would not be repeated.
Soccer’s European governing body hoped Wednesday’s Group B match between Germany and Netherlands would quickly restore the “festive atmosphere” after Tuesday’s clashes in Warsaw, in which police fired rubber bullets and teargas and detained 184 people.
The renewal of the two former champions’ long rivalry in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv (1845 GMT) was one of the more eagerly awaited matches at the month-long tournament.
Denmark, who beat the Dutch 1-0 in their opening match, were playing Portugal in the other Group B game in Lviv (1600), with defeat likely to mean the end of the road for the Portuguese after they lost 1-0 to Germany on Saturday.
Regretting Tuesday’s violence, provincial governor Jacek Kozlowski said: “We are very sorry that our guests were attacked by hooligans and they lost their feeling of security.”
Interior Minister Jacek Cichocki said the detained Russians would probably be expelled from Poland and banned from Europe’s border-free Schengen area for five years.
“When it comes to our hooligans, I hope the prosecutors and especially the courts will be strict,” he said.
Police defended their action, although their heavy presence was unable to prevent the clashes between fans whose relations are poisoned by centuries of conflict and the Soviet domination of Poland for more than four decades after World War Two.
“...this is a not a police state and you cannot arrest someone on their looks,” Warsaw police spokesman Maciej Karczynski said.
UEFA condemned the violence, which began as thousands of Russian fans, flanked by police, crossed the Vistula river on the way to the stadium. But a UEFA statement implied that the police show of strength had been over the top.
“UEFA’s philosophy is to create a welcoming environment coupled with a low-profile approach to policing,” it said.
“UEFA is determined that the overwhelmingly peaceful and festive atmosphere that has so far pervaded UEFA Euro 2012 will be continued right up to and including the final in Kiev on Sunday July 1.”
The on-pitch rivalry between Germany and the Netherlands goes back to the emergence of the Dutch as a global football powerhouse in the 1970s, particularly after Germany’s 2-1 final victory at the 1974 World Cup.
The 1990 World Cup round-of-16 win for the West Germans included an incident where Dutchman Frank Rijkaard spat at German Rudi Voeller and both players were sent off.
Germany coach Joachim Loew said the fractious encounters of the past had been replaced by a rivalry based on respect. But the stakes are high, particularly for the Dutch after their defeat by Denmark. Another loss could seal their exit.
Although Germany are among the tournament favourites, team manager Oliver Bierhoff said they would be wary against the Dutch after being beaten in their second games in Euro 2008 and at the 2010 World Cup.
“I hope that after the second game this time it will be different and that we come out as winners,” the former Germany international told reporters.
In Lviv, all eyes will again be on Cristiano Ronaldo, who often struggles to produce his club form for the Portuguese.
Portugal coach Paolo Bento said he was confident he knew how to how to beat the surprise Group B leaders, despite his team’s failure to score against Germany.
“If we create opportunities of course we will score sooner or later, I‘m absolutely convinced of that,” Bento said.
Editing by Ed Osmond