Nice (France) (AFP) – England fans drank together with Iceland supporters in a good-natured atmosphere in Nice on Monday as they returned to France’s south coast for the first time since the mayhem of the Euro 2016 match with Russia.
Thirty-five people were injured in Marseille when well-prepared Russian hooligans clashed with English fans on June 11.
In Nice’s old town, the English fans’ main concern was the potential humiliation of a defeat to rank outsiders Iceland in the last 16 match later Monday.
“We’ll score early, then it will be an open game and the goals will come,” said Ron Farmer, an England fan, enjoying the pre-match atmosphere outside an Irish pub.
“As long as they don’t park the bus, it’ll be 3-0, or maybe 3-1,” said the 35-year-old plumber from Grimsby, worried that Iceland will pack their defence.
The British vote to leave the European Union was referred to in a few foul-mouthed chants from England fans, but the ambiance was relaxed, with hundreds of followers of both teams mingling together and posing for photographs.
“You’re just a shit shop in England!” went one chant from the England fans, a reference to the British frozen food chain, prompting laughter from both sets of fans.
“I’ll never shop in Iceland if we lose, in fact I won’t go home,” said Gary Wilkinson.
“There’s no chance of that though, this is the best chance of winning the tournament we have had in years. We beat Germany recently in a friendly, we just need to start scoring,” he said.
Shaun Parker, 27, had driven all night after arriving at the French ferry port of Calais, 1,230 kilometres (760 miles) further north.
“But you’ve got to do it for your country haven’t you,” he said.
Iceland’s blue-clad supporters, who have delighted locals wherever they go in France, said they hoped the match would end in a penalty shootout — England’s traditional Achilles heel.
“There is no pressure on us, England has a habit of losing their heads, panicking, we’re going to win,” said Einar Ornagustakson, 37, an engineer from Reykjavik.
He was pinning his hopes on goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson to supply the heroics.
“We’ll definitely win if it goes to penalties, Halldorsson saves one in every three penalties,” Ornagustakson said.
“It’s going to be Blues against Les Bleus in the quarter-final in Paris!”
A fan from already-eliminated Sweden joined the group to hand over two plastic helmets with Viking horns.
“I’m going home today, they’re all yours my Nordic brothers, good luck, we are all behind you!” he said.
“Thank you, but we don’t need it” laughed Ornagustakson.
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