POZNAN — Croatian fans threw chairs, bottles and flares at Polish riot police in the city of Poznan as they clashed ahead of Sunday’s Euro 2012 football game between Croatia and Ireland.
A police spokesman said three people were arrested after the incident in Poznan’s old town square, where thousands of Irish and Croatian fans, many clad in the national red-and-white checkerboard shirts, gathered ahead of the match.
The spokesman said it began after a clash in one of the bars between intoxicated fans of two rival Croatian teams from Zagreb and Split shortly after 5:00pm.
The police said it would examine closed circuit video from the centre square to identify additional culprits.
Croatia beat Ireland 3-1 in the Group C match.
Earlier on Sunday, Poland’s Interior minister Jacek Cichocki said police had arrested nine foreign fans since the start on Friday of the tournament being co-hosted with Ukraine.
A website for one of the Polish newspapers said the police had also identified 12 Russian fans suspected of violence during their team’s opening 4-1 victory over the Czech Republic.
The Russian soccer federation and the national team on Sunday urged their fans in Poland to behave after some supporters threw fireworks, displayed illicit banners and beat up one of the volunteers at the stadium.
Meanwhile, Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni rued some poor defending and what he regarded as a refereeing error after his Republic of Ireland team lost for the first time in 15 games.
A Mario Mandzukic brace and one from Nikica Jelavic handed the Croatians a winning start with Sean St Ledger scoring for Ireland.
Trapattoni felt the Irish had been hard done by, as he believed that the Jelavic goal was “clearly offside” and changed the course of the game coming as it did just moments before the break — however, TV images clearly showed the ball came off Stephen Ward which played Jelavic onside.
“The first goal was our mistake,” said Trapattoni.
But “the second goal was clearly offside,” the Italian insisted — though he admitted that a major post mortem was needed after the first Irish loss in 15 outings.
“Tomorrow (Monday) we’ll take the time to clarify what happened in the first half, because yesterday (Saturday) I said we were ready.”
The Irish were facing an uphill battle after conceding the first goal inside the opening three minutes, Mandzukic doing well as he regained his footing to head in a cross from captain Darijo Srna, his effort appearing to catch veteran Irish goalkeeper Shay Given in no man’s land as he scrambled back in vain.
“Maybe Shay didn’t see the ball, because he had three or four players in front of him,” Trapattoni ventured.—Reuters