Russian fans in spotlight as team prepares for Slovakia

LILLE, France (AP) — Russia will be looking to build on its stoppage-time equalizer against England when it meets Slovakia on Wednesday in the European Championship.

However, Vasily Berezutsky’s headed goal, which salvaged a 1-1 draw on Saturday, has been overshadowed by the behavior of its fans, notably when they stormed a section of England supporters inside the stadium.

UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings over the violence that surrounded the match and has threatened both Russia and England with expulsion from the tournament if there is further violence by their fans.

Russia’s football’s governing body has called on fans to “obey the law” and “respect the opponents and their fans.”.

An additional security concern surrounding Wednesday’s Group B in the northern city of Lille is that England fans aren’t going to be too far away. England plays its second Euro 2016 match against Wales the following day in Lens, which is just 30 kilometers (around 19 miles) away. Many British fans are expected to travel through much-larger Lille, or even stay there, on route to Lens.

French authorities are stepping up their security efforts and sending an extra company of at least 80 riot police officers to the city, on top of the 480 police officers and eight companies of riot police already planned for matches in Lille.

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A victory over Slovakia, which lost its first game to Wales 2-1, would go a long way to securing Russia’s place in the round of 16.

As the Soviet Union, the team won the first European Championship in 1960 though that was a very different event involving just four teams in the final stage. Its best recent performance as Russia came in 2008 when it made the semifinals.

Competing at its first European Championship as an independent nation, Slovakia is in need of a win after its defeat to Wales if it’s going to have a realistic chance of getting out of the group stage.

Russia and Slovakia have a history of close matches. The two qualifying matches for the 2006 World Cup were drawn, while both teams won their respective away games 1-0 when their paths crossed again six years later in qualifying for Euro 2012.

Most recently, however, Russia won a friendly match 1-0 in St. Petersburg two years ago.

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