KIEV (Reuters) - Poland’s sports minister called on Thursday for tougher sentences for hooligans who attacked Russian fans at Euro 2012 and Russia said it would appeal against the threat of sanctions following earlier crowd trouble.
Champions Spain were back in action and looking for a big improvement against Ireland (1845) on a pitch in Gdansk which they criticised as too wet after their 1-1 draw with Italy, a match they began without a striker.
Italy faced an intriguing battle against Croatia in the other Group C match in Poznan (1600) following the Croats’ 3-1 demolition of Ireland.
A Warsaw court on Wednesday handed out the first six sentences following the clashes in which 184 people were detained, most of them Poles, before the co-hosts’ 1-1 draw with Russia in the Polish capital on Tuesday.
The toughest was a five-month jail term and four of the six received a suspended sentence.
“We cannot influence the justice system. But in my opinion the punishment should be more severe,” Sports Minister Joanna Mucha said. “It’s important to create an atmosphere where there’s no permission for these kinds of situations.”
Relations between Russia and Poland have long been difficult and President Vladimir Putin told Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Wednesday that Warsaw bore full responsibility for the safety of fans.
Poland, which is co-hosting the tournament with Ukraine, expects 20,000 Russian fans to arrive in Warsaw with tickets for their team’s final Group A match against Greece on Saturday, twice the number that came to the game with Poland.
“The security arrangements (at the Saturday match) will be adequate for the risks,” Interior Minister Jacek Cichocki said.
Russia’s soccer federation said it would appeal against the decision by UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, to dock the team six points in qualifying for the next European Championship if their fans misbehave again.
UEFA acted after disturbances at Russia’s opening Euro 2012 game against the Czech Republic last Friday where Russian fans set off and threw fireworks and displayed illicit banners at the Group A match in Wroclaw which Dick Advocaat’s team won 4-1.
“The federation will do all it can to ensure the national team avoids such a severe punishment,” it said in a statement on its website.
UEFA also fined the German and Portuguese football associations over incidents during a Group B match on Saturday.
The German federation was fined 10,000 euros ($12,600) after Germany fans threw what appeared to be rolled up pieces of paper at Portugal players on several occasions during the first half.
The Portuguese association was fined 5,000 euros for delaying the kickoff of the second half in Lviv.
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho said Spain, the European and world champions, remained the team to beat at Euro 2012 despite their sluggish start in which they came from a goal down to draw with Italy.
“Spain is the world champion and no doubts about that,” Mourinho, who is Portuguese, said in Singapore.
He said they would face tough competition from Germany, who are on the verge of qualifying for the quarter-finals after winning their first two matches.
Irish defender John O‘Shea said Ireland were up for the battle against the champions and Spain coach Vicente del Bosque was again expected not to field a recognised striker.
Croatia named an unchanged team to play Italy who kept the unpredictable Mario Balotelli in their starting lineup, leaving out Antonio Di Natale who scored against Spain.
Editing by Ed Osmond