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England and Slovakia fans sing, play together before Euro clash

Football Soccer -EURO 2016 - Saint Etienne, France -20/6/16 -England fans in Saint Etienne, France. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
Football Soccer -EURO 2016 - Saint Etienne, France -20/6/16 -England fans in Saint Etienne, France. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

By Bate Felix

SAINT-ETIENNE, France (Reuters) - England and Slovakia soccer fans mingled peacefully in the French city of Saint-Etienne on Monday, easing fears of more violence as they sang their national anthems and played soccer together before their teams' Euro 2016 match in the evening.

Local authorities have restricted alcohol sales, banned glasses and locked away outdoor cafe chairs to try to prevent a repeat of the brawls between rival groups of fans and police at England's opening game in Marseille on June 11.

Outside the railway station in the southern industrial town, groups of soldiers and police carried out patrols and police vans brought more police in riot gear to the plaze.

By midday, several dozens English fans in white and red England jerseys had gathered at a few bars across from the station, drinking and breaking into chants from time to time.

Some rival fans took part in a friendly penalty shoot-out competition.

"I came with my wife and my son, I hope that those who are here to cause trouble like some did in Marseille, have been sent away," said Michael Porubain, 36, a Slovak fan.

The match and another on Monday between Russia and Wales in Toulouse roughly mark the half-way point in the month-long Euro 2016 tournament, whose early stages have been marred by violence, arrests and deportations.

British police said on Monday an investigation team was working to identify those who were involved in disorder and those who were seen to have attacked English fans.

"We will pass this information onto the French police to assist in their ongoing investigations and to help prevent any further disruption," Assistant Chief Constable Mark Roberts said.

In Paris, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said French police had arrested 557 people to date for violence or other unlawful behaviour. Several were handed immediate jail sentences and 21 others were expelled from French territory.

The prospect of a militant Islamist attack remained the main preoccupation, he said.

France is on high alert for such an assault since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris claimed by Islamic State. A state of emergency remains in place for the duration of the tournament.

(Reporting by Bate Felix in Saint Etienne and Brian Love and Leigh Thomas in Paris, Editing by Andrew Callus)

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