PARIS (AP) — The Latest from soccer’s European Championship (all times local):
The turf at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome was almost a highway to hell for Didier Deschamps’ France team Wednesday.
Players like Anthony Martial and Olivier Giroud were clearly having problems getting a grip on the grass as France labored to a last-gasp 2-0 victory over Albania on Wednesday night.
Deschamps laid the blame with officials who allowed a rock concert to be staged there last month.
“It’s a disaster, but that’s not surprising,” Deschamps said of the pitch. “If you have an AC/DC concert a month before the European Championships — they’re changing the pitch, re-laying the turf.”
Albania coach Giovanni De Biasi had a simple solution: “When you’ve got some good boots, you can avoid slips,” he said.
French authorities say police have made a total of 36 arrests Wednesday in Lille in a largely peaceful day that’s been interspersed with bursts of crowd trouble and a few fights.
Authorities also say 16 people have been hospitalized but gave no details about their injuries or ailments.
Late in the evening, two groups of about 250 English fans each came together, just as thousands of French fans were streaming out of the fan zone where they had been watching France beat Albania.
Several hundred riot police formed a human barrier between the two groups. Some fireworks were then fired from the French side and a few bottles were thrown from the English side.
The police then charged in the direction of the English, spraying tear gas, and causing a stampede, with people sprinting into side streets.
France became the first team to qualify for the round of 16 at the European Championship after beating Albania 2-0 Wednesday with a pair of late goals.
Second-half substitute Antoine Griezmann headed in a 90th-minute goal and Dimitri Payet added another in stoppage time.
France now has six points in Group A, followed by Switzerland with four and Romania with one. Albania has zero points.
GOAL: Dimitri Payet scores for France in stoppage time. France leads Albania 2-0.
Second-half substitute Antoine Griezmann scored with a header into the corner off a cross from the right by Adil Rami.
GOAL: Antoine Griezmann scores for France in the 90th minute. France leads Albania 1-0.
France midfielder Paul Pogba, dropped from the starting lineup against Albania by coach Didier Deschamps, has been brought on as a second-half substitute for winger Anthony Martial.
Dimitri Payet, France’s most dangerous player before the break at Stade Velodrome, has moved from a roaming playmaker’s role to the left wing and Kingsley Coman has switched to the right flank.
French authorities in Lille say police have made 16 arrests so far Wednesday, including six Russians involved in violence last Saturday in Marseille.
Another five people were arrested for public drunkenness on a train from London that was stopped before it got to Lille and then allowed to continue.
France and Albania are tied at 0-0 at halftime at the European Championship.
France has created more chances at Stade Velodrome in Marseille, with Dimitri Payet in a playmaker’s role at the heart of the best attacks.
Anthony Martial had the best chance of the half when Payet’s clever through ball set him free in the 21st minute, but the young winger took one touch too many and Albania’s defense managed to close him down before he could shoot.
Albania came close to taking a surprise lead in the 39th minute when Ermir Lenjani took a shot from a corner that was blocked by Patrice Evra.
As night begins to fall in Lille, there is still tension and a few fans looking for a fight.
A beefy man, possibly Russian, wearing a Mixed Martial Arts glove on his left hand goaded some English supporters on a side street off the Grand Square, shouting and then running off as a handful of English fans pursued him.
They, in turn, were pursued by about 40 police in full riot gear, who pulled up, stopped and doubled back when their quarry eluded them. Aside from heated moments like these, the center of town remains tensely quiet, with many bars closed.
Although France is favored to beat Albania at Stade Velodrome, the Albanian fans are easily winning the singing contest so far.
One side of the stadium has been turned into a red wall of noise, with Albanian fans in hearty voice.
By contrast, French fans are far quieter, and the only roar was when the players came out onto the field.
In Lens, where England and Wales will play on Thursday, a group of about 250 English fans were drinking from plastic cups and singing songs in the middle of a closed-off street leading to the entrance of the town’s Fan Zone.
Some French fans were mixing with the English, while a small number of police looked on.
There were also pockets of English and Welsh fans in various bars in the town center.
There were no signs of violence.
More sporadic violence has erupted on the side streets of downtown Lille, with a fight breaking out near a bar where English soccer fans were drinking.
Riot police made at least two arrests.
Police moved in quickly to quell scuffles. The fights involved English supporters. It was not known if other nationalities were involved.
France coach Didier Deschamps has made two changes to his lineup to face Albania at Stade Velodrome, replacing midfielder Paul Pogba and forward Antoine Griezmann with wingers Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman and switching from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Martial and Coman will flank center forward Olivier Giroud, while Dimitri Payet — France’s best player in a 2-1 opening win over Romania on Friday — moves across from the left of midfield into a No. 10 playmaker’s role behind Giroud.
Albania coach Giovanni De Biasi made three changes, with one of those enforced as Arlind Ajeti replaces Lorik Cana in central defense because Cana has been suspended after getting sent off in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Switzerland.
The other two changes have Andi Lila taking Odise Roshi’s place on the right flank and Ledian Memushaj replacing Taulant Xhaka in midfield.
Left back Ansi Agolli is captain in Cana’s absence.
Here are the lineups for Wednesday’s European Championship Group A match between France and Albania in Marseille:
Albania: Etrit Berisha, Andi Lila, Ermir Lenjani, Elseid Hysaj, Ansi Agolli, Ledian Memushaj, Armando Sadiku, Burim Kukeli, Mergim Mavraj, Arlind Ajeti, Amir Abrashi.
France: Hugo Lloris, Bacary Sagna, Adil Rami, Laurent Koscielny, Patrice Evra, Blaise Matuidi, N’Golo Kante, Kingsley Coman, Anthony Martial, Dimitri Payet, Olivier Giroud.
Switzerland closed in on a spot in the next round of the European Championship with a 1-1 draw against Romania on Wednesday.
Admir Mehmedi scored a 57th-minute equalizer to ensure the Swiss have four points ahead of its final Group A match against France.
Romania took the lead against the run of play in the 18th minute when Bogdan Stancu scored with his second penalty in two games.
Although Romania hit the post through Cristian Sapunaru’s first-half shot, Switzerland had more and better scoring chances.
Romania has only one point from two matches, but should be favored to beat Albania.
Admir Mehmedi pounced on a loose ball in the area following a corner and sent a powerful drive through a packed goalmouth. Switzerland and Romania are now tied 1-1.
GOAL: Admir Mehmedi scores for Switzerland in the 57th minute. Switzerland is tied with Romania 1-1.
Germany coach Joachim Loew says he wasn’t fully aware of his actions when he was filmed with his hand down his pants during the team’s opening game of the European Championship.
Footage of Loew during Sunday’s 2-0 win over Ukraine shows the 56-year-old coach place his hand down the front of his pants before repeating the process with his hand down the back.
Loew says “naturally you do some things that you’re not aware of. I wasn’t aware of it somehow. But it happened and of course I’m sorry. You’re full of adrenalin and full of concentration and the things that happen then can’t be consciously taken as real.”
Police have used tear gas to disperse crowds of English soccer fans in the northern city of Lille.
Police chased large groups of English fans through the back streets around Lille’s main railway station.
A group of about 200 English fans had been getting progressively rowdier and noisier, singing songs taunting Russia, when a loud explosion was heard and some bottles were thrown.
That was followed by a large mass movement of fans chased by riot police. Police appeared to make at least one arrest, pinning a man against the ground. Police then charged, spraying tear gas in front of them as they ran.
Some bystanders took refuge in a nearby pharmacy.
Bogdan Stancu scored from the penalty spot after Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner pulled the shirt of Romania midfielder Alexandru Chipciu inside the area.
Romania leads Switzerland 1-0.
GOAL: Bogdan Stancu scores from the penalty spot for Romania in the 18th minute. Romania leads Switzerland 1-0.
Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic has kept the same lineup to face Romania as started in its opening 1-0 win over Albania.
Forward Haris Seferovic will lead the attack despite strong support back home for Basel teenager Breel Embolo to play from the start.
Romania coach Anghel Iordanescu makes four changes from the team that impressed when losing 2-1 to France in the first match at Euro 2016.
Forward Claudiu Keseru plus midfielders Alexandru Chipciu, Andrei Prepelita and Gabriel Torje come in to replace Florin Andone, Adrian Popa, Nicolae Stanciu and Ovidiu Hoban.
Here are the lineups for the match between Romania and Switzerland in Paris in Group A:
Romania: Ciprian Tatarusanu, Cristian Sapunaru, Vlad Chiriches, Dragos Grigore, Razvan Rat, Andrei Prepelita, Mihai Pintilii, Gabriel Torje, Bogdan Stancu, Alexandru Chipciu, Claudiu Keseru.
Switzerland: Yann Sommer, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Fabian Schaer, Johan Djourou, Ricardo Rodriguez, Valon Behrami, Granit Xhaka, Blerim Dzemaili, Xherdan Shaqiri, Admir Mehmedi, Haris Seferovic.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry says it has summoned the French ambassador to protest the detention of Russian soccer fans in southern France.
The ministry says the decision by the Marseille prosecutor to hold the Russians for 48 hours pending investigation was “discriminatory.” It warns that “further fanning of anti-Russian sentiments over our team’s participation in the European Championship could significantly strain the atmosphere of Russian-French ties.”
The Russians were detained Tuesday near Nice as they were heading by bus to Lille for Wednesday’s match against Slovakia. Local authorities said police stopped the fans to see whether any hooligans were among them.
The French police action followed violent clashes between Russia and England fans in Marseille ahead of their European Championship opener, a 1-1 draw on Saturday night.
Russia lost to Slovakia 2-1 on Wednesday.
Marek Hamsik scored one goal and set up another to help Slovakia beat Russia 2-1 at the European Championship.
Hamsik’s defense-splitting pass led to Vladimir Weiss’ first goal. He then powered in Slovakia’s second at the Stade Pierre Mauroy.
Russia provided little threat until Denis Glushakov headed in a late goal in the 80th.
But Slovakia held on for its first European Championship victory after losing to Wales on Saturday. Russia drew its first game with England in Group B.
Substitute Denis Glushakov headed a shot past diving goalkeeper Matus Kozacik in the 80th minute.
Glushakov, who replaced Aleksandr Golovin at halftime, scored from a chipped cross from the left by Oleg Shatov.
Slovakia still leads Russia 2-1.
GOAL: Denis Glushakov scores for Russia in the 80th minute. Slovakia leads Russia 2-1.
Croatia goalkeepers coach Marjan Mrmic has left the squad to travel back home after his father died.
UEFA said on its website that he is expected to return to France on Friday when Croatia takes on Czech Republic in Group D in Saint-Etienne.
Mrmic is the second member of the Croatia squad to learn about the death of his father since the tournament started. Captain Darijo Srna also traveled back to Croatia to attend his dad’s funeral following the 1-0 win over Turkey. He has since rejoined the squad.
GOAL: Marek Hamsik scores for Slovakia in the 45th minute. Slovakia leads Russia 2-0.
Slovakia forward Vladimir Weiss capitalized on a long pass by Marek Hamsik to give his team a 1-0 lead over Russia at the European Championship.
Coming into the area from the left wing, Weiss controlled the ball, made a quick move to wrong-foot two Russian defenders before sending his low shot past goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
GOAL: Vladimir Weiss scores for Slovakia in the 32nd minute. Slovakia leads Russia 1-0.
The animals are at it again, and they say Germany will beat Poland.
Nelly the Elephant on Wednesday predicted a narrow victory for the world champions by choosing — hesitantly — to kick a ball into a goal marked with Poland’s flag, according to her keepers at the Serengeti Park in Hodenhagen.
In Leipzig, a koala bear named Oobi-Ooobi chose a eucalyptus branch from a glass marked with the German flag.
Nelly correctly predicted Germany’s opening win against Ukraine. Her furry colleague, however, predicted a draw by refusing to touch either branch.
The craze for animal oracles started in earnest with Germany’s Paul the Octopus, who achieved cult status by correctly predicting eight matches at the 2010 World Cup. Other animals have struggled to achieve comparable stardom.
Russia coach Leonid Slutsky is sticking with the same lineup that earned a 1-1 draw against England on Saturday.
Russia captain Vasily Berezutsky, who scored the stoppage-time equalizer against England, leads the defense while Artem Dzyuba will play with Aleksandr Kokorin up front.
Needing a victory after its 2-1 opening loss to Wales, Slovakia will feature three new names.
Coach Jan Kozak has picked defender Tomas Hubocan, midfielder Viktor Pecovsky and forward Ondrej Duda to replace Patrik Hrosovsky, Michal Duris and Dusan Svento.
Here are the lineups for the match between Russia and Slovakia in Lille in Group B:
Russia: Igor Akinfeev, Igor Smolnikov, Vasily Berezutsky, Sergei Ignashevich, Georgy Shchennikov, Roman Neustaedter, Alexander Golovin, Oleg Shatov, Alexander Kokorin, Fyodor Smolov, Artyom Dzyuba.
Slovakia: Matus Kozacik, Peter Pekarik, Martin Skrtel, Jan Durica, Tomas Hubocan, Juraj Kucka, Viktor Pecovsky, Marek Hamsik, Robert Mak, Vladimir Weiss, Ondrej Duda.
Croatia captain Darijo Srna is back at the European Championship after attending the funeral of his father.
The Croatia soccer federation says Srna has returned to the team base in Deauville. Srna was accompanied by coach Ante Cacic for the funeral in Croatia on Monday.
Srna was told of his father’s death after playing in a 1-0 win over Turkey in Paris on Sunday.
He should captain the team again when Croatia plays the Czech Republic in Saint-Etienne on Friday.
Srna’s 130 international appearances is a national record.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says Moscow hopes that UEFA will give equal treatment to all those responsible for fan violence during the European Championship.
Dmitry Peskov also voiced hope Wednesday that the Euro 2016 will continue without any further “excesses.”
UEFA’s disciplinary body said Russia will be disqualified from the tournament if there is more fan violence inside stadiums in France after its fans attacked English supporters in Marseille after Saturday’s 1-1 draw.
Speaking in a conference call with reporters, Peskov said “we hope for a fair treatment during investigation into all excesses, with equal attention given to all the parties who might have been involved.”
He added that he wouldn’t “infringe on or comment on UEFA’s jurisdiction.”
Russia’s game against Slovakia in Lille on Wednesday is the first European Championship match not to sell all tickets.
UEFA says it has 1,100 tickets available in the top category at the 50,000-capacity Stade Pierre Mauroy.
The Category 1 tickets are listed for sale at 145 euros ($163).
The first 12 games at Euro 2016 sold all tickets available except for some seats in corporate hospitality boxes.
UEFA says it also has unsold seats for two matches in Lyon: 2,000 tickets for Ukraine vs. Northern Ireland on Thursday, and 1,000 for Romania vs. Albania on Sunday.
The total Euro 2016 capacity is 2.5 million for the 51 matches.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU