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England Fans Descend On Donetsk Ahead Of Euro 2012 Opener Against France

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England funs sunning it up in Ukraine | PA

The first chant of "En-ger-land" was belted out in Donetsk today as the travelling army of Three Lions fans arrived for their opening game of Euro 2012.

Hundreds gathered at a bar opposite a giant statue of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin before making their way to the 50,000-seater Donbass Arena to watch England take on France.

The bar did a roaring trade as fans warmed up their vocals in the glorious sunshine.

A handful of British police officers were on patrol, while their Ukrainian counterparts kept watch from across the road as flags of St George were hung from a marquee.

Some supporters proved their dedication by enduring a sweltering 13-hour overnight train journey from the capital Kiev.

Others enjoyed more comfort, with hundreds arriving in the industrial city of Donetsk by charter flights which left London earlier today.

The number of travelling England fans will be the lowest at a tournament for many years, with around 3,000 tickets sold through the official supporters' club for tonight's game.

But the lack of demand meant that fans in Donetsk were able to buy spare tickets off other supporters without an inflated price.
Dex Marshall, 52, from Uckfield, East Sussex, said: "No-one is paying more than face value.

"There are plenty of England fans with extra tickets that they won't be able to get rid of.

"I know people who haven't come because their wives and partners were worried by the racism and hooligan stories."

Joss Orpin, 23, was among a group from Leicester who arrived in Donetsk at 8am after a marathon train ride from Kiev.

He said: "It was really hot and they didn't have any windows in the cabins.

"They said there was air conditioning but it didn't work."

His friend, 24-year-old Alex Barnes, said they were staying in a campsite on the outskirts of the city.

"It's pretty rough," he admitted.

Louise Coles, 46, from Basildon, Essex, said she enjoyed watching England away from home because of the interaction with other fans.

"I like meeting up with people that we have met before.

"We've made some great friends. England fans become family."

France go into the match as strong favourites after a 21-game unbeaten run, while England are missing Wayne Rooney through suspension and have suffered a number of injuries to key players.

The weather could also be a factor, with experts predicting maximum temperatures of 30C (86F).

France coach Laurent Blanc has instructed his players to wear ice jackets to cool down at half-time, but England manager Roy Hodgson has said his team will not be doing the same.

"We'll deal with the heat as best we can," he said.

"It does get hot in England from time to time.

"The heat is a factor for all the teams playing in the Ukraine but it's important we don't put too much emphasis on conditions."
Defender Joleon Lescott acknowledged the ferocity of the heat not long after landing following a two-hour flight from the team's base in Krakow, Poland, where it was significantly cooler.

"The heat is no joke," he posted on Twitter.

But fan Simon Cookson, 35, from Bolton, was not concerned by the conditions.

"It will be 2-1 to England," he said. "You have to be confident."

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt, who is leading the British police contingent in Donetsk, said the number of England shirts being worn by people of other nations - especially Russian - presented a challenge to his officers.

He said: "What I don't want to do is have England fans mislabelled, misidentified because it's some other nationality wearing an England shirt.

"You can imagine that we will be very careful to ensure that if there is any sort of problem we identify the provenance of who we're dealing with."

A total of 18 British officers have been deployed in Ukraine and six in Poland - led by the Association of Chief Police Officers - to help up to 8,000 local armed police deal with fans at games.

Mr Holt said there have been no reports of disorder by England fans, but some may suffer from excessive alcohol intake in the "red hot" conditions.

He said: "There's been no problems. There are a few at the campsite that I don't think are going to make it to the game because of drink."

He added: "You've either got to have the constitution of an ox or you're not going to make it."

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