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German and British police working together for ‘safe and trouble-free Euro 2024’ amid hooliganism fears

<i>Alex Grimm/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Can Southgate finally bring England silverware?
Alex Grimm/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Can Southgate finally bring England silverware?

By Matias Grez, CNN

(CNN) — British police say they are working with their German counterparts to ensure a “safe and trouble-free” Euro 2024 – European soccer’s international tournament which runs from June 14 to July 14 – for England fans amid fears that Serbian hooligans are targeting the countries’ opening Group C match on Sunday.

First reported in the Guardian on Tuesday, the chief of police in Gelsenkirchen, the city where England plays Serbia, said they are expecting up to 500 hooligans to try and cause violence.

“Officers from the UK have a good working relationship with the German Police, developed from working together on a number of previous high-profile football tournaments and matches in the past,” the UK’s Football Policing Unit told CNN in a statement.

“We are continuing to work closely with German police to support a safe and trouble-free Euro 2024 tournament for travelling England fans.”

Up 40,000 England fans and 8,000 Serbia fans are expected to travel to Gelsenkirchen for a game UEFA, European football’s governing body, and German police have designated as “high-risk.”

In total, some 300,000 England fans are expected to travel to Germany during the tournament. CNN understands the British police have around 2,000 banning orders currently in place for fans.

German police told CNN in a statement that they are “preparing for the possibility of violent hooligans being present in the city area” but added they “currently have no information that would confirm this.”

“The upcoming football match between Serbia and England is defined as a high-risk match. Accordingly, we will be deploying more personnel than for less critical matches. The Gelsenkirchen police will be supported by police forces from the entire state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

“The Gelsenkirchen police are in close contact with the English and Serbian authorities as part of their preparations. Communication with the English police in particular is excellent, with a constant exchange of information regarding disruptive events.”

The Serbian Football Federation and the Serbian Ministry of Interior did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

At Euro 2016 in France, England’s opening match against Russia in Marseille was marred by violence between both sets of fans, leading to multiple injuries and arrests.

An estimated 2.7 million people are expected to visit Germany for Euro 2024, according to Reuters, with large fan zones set up across all major cities.

Euro 2024 gets underway on Friday when host Germany faces Scotland.

The host

It’s fair to say expectations for the German national team are not high within the host country.

Poor form and performances led to the federation sacking head coach Hansi Flick in September 2023 and bringing in Julian Nagelsmann.

Even now, it continues to be a bumpy ride for the former Bayern Munich coach Nagelsmann; recent impressive wins away to France and at home to the Netherlands were preceded by defeats in Austria and at home to Turkey.

But some German fans are now dreaming of a second ‘Sommermärchen,’ or ‘summer fairytale,’ a term given to the summer of 2006 when Germany unexpectedly reached the semifinals for the World Cup on home soil when expectations were similarly low.

However, a recent poll conducted by national broadcaster ARD found that 27% of Germans had no interest in Euro 2024. Only 43% said they are very interested.

Germany has a rich history in major tournaments, winning four World Cups and three European Championships, but success recently has been harder to come by.

The national team hasn’t won a knockout match at a major tournament in almost eight years, getting knocked out at the group stages of the two previous World Cups and losing in the round of 16 at Euro 2020.

With the weight of expectation lifted, however, perhaps another ‘Sommermärchen’ is a distinct possibility.

The favorites

France and England go into the tournament as the two favorites to lift the ‘Henri Delaunay Cup.’

Les Bleus have been one of the dominant forces in world football in recent years, winning the World Cup in 2018 and reaching the final in 2022. The last time out in the Euros, however, France was stunned on penalties by Switzerland in the round of 16.

Didier Deschamps has been in charge of the national team since 2012 and last January extended his contract until 2026. Deschamps, who captained France to glory at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, also guided the team to victory in the 2020-21 Nations League and the final of Euro 2016.

The current squad boasts an absurd amount of talent, with the experience of Kylian Mbappé, Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann supported by the newest crop of stars. Bradley Barcola, Warren Zaïre-Emery and Eduardo Camavinga are just some of the gifted youngsters produced by France’s seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of talent.

“I want to win the Euros. I have to be honest. I won the World Cup. I won the Nations League. That’s the only one that missed me with the national team after I did everything with the national team,” Mbappé told CNN recently.

“I really want to win this. My first competition as captain, so it’s really important for me and it’s always important for the country and we want them to be proud of us. [It’s] another opportunity to write the history of my country.”

England’s current national team is similarly awash with talent – if not more so – and will rightly feel confident of ending 58 years of heartbreak since it last won a major trophy at the 1966 World Cup.

Harry Kane remains one of the world’s best strikers and he will be supported by an all-star cast that features Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Declan Rice, while Jude Bellingham’s emergence as one of the world’s best young players adds an extra dimension to England’s midfield.

Manager Gareth Southgate has now been in charge for eight years and has enjoyed more success than any of his predecessors since that sole World Cup win. During his tenure, England has reached the World Cup semifinals and Euro 2020 final but has so far been unable to end the national team’s barren run.

Southgate’s contract runs out in December and the English Football Association is reportedly keen to extend it, but the Englishman told CNN last month the decision “will be mine.”

“Of course, we got so close in the last Euros,” Southgate said. “We were one penalty away, one goal not conceded away from being European champions anyway. So, the players know how close we are.

“When you’ve been that close … in the end, you need to take that final step.”

The dark horses

Hungary has been tipped by many as the dark horse of the tournament after qualifying for its third consecutive European Championship.

Led by Liverpool midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai, who will become the youngest captain in Euros history in Germany, this impressive Hungary side went through qualifying unbeaten and conceded just seven goals in eight matches.

The team also came second in its Nations League group that also featured Italy, Germany and England, conceding just five goals in six games. Defence, clearly, will be the key to any Hungarian success at Euro 2024.

“I don’t have expectations of anyone or the team,” Szoboszlai told UEFA. “We know exactly what we are capable of; we know what we have achieved so far against other national teams.

“I don’t want to burden the team, and I don’t want the outside world to burden us. But if we feel pressure, we can help each other enjoy the EURO.

“It’s not a small thing to be there. However, we do have a very good team. It’s like a big family, and together we can do anything.”

Ukraine, appearing in the country’s fourth straight Euros, also has the chance to make waves in Germany after a solid qualifying campaign.

The team narrowly missed out on automatic qualification after losing out on head-to-head with Italy, but battled through tough playoff games against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iceland, winning both matches 2-1 to reach the finals.

Each victory is especially significant against the backdrop of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine; this is the first major tournament Ukraine has qualified for since the invasion began.

With players such as Oleksandr Zinchenko, Andriy Lunin and Mykhailo Mudryk playing for some of Europe’s biggest clubs, plus the emergence of Artem Dovbyk as the most prolific striker in Spain, Ukraine should feel confident of at least progressing from a forgiving group that features Belgium, Slovakia and Romania.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Nadine Schmidt contributed to reporting.

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