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Drunken brawls mar World Cup opening in France

SHARE Drunken brawls mar World Cup opening in France

A fantasy pageant to open the World Cup descended into a drunken party that spilled across Paris early Wednesday, with police battling fans on the famed Champs-Elysees. Fifteen police officers were injured, none seriously, during the unrest.

On Tuesday evening, crowds watched four 60-foot robots depicting the world's races lumber into the Place de la Concorde to meet around the ancient Egyptian Obelisk, done up as the World Cup.The spectacle ended in a swirl of color and sound, but the gaiety was dampened by zealous security officers who forced crowds behind a maze of barriers, often brusquely ignoring official passes.

Near midnight, several hundred soccer fans began heaving bottles at the police. One group seized a metal barrier and rammed it into a line of riot troops.

Police charged the fans, swinging batons and firing off tear gas, chasing them up the broad avenue. At least a dozen were arrested, and 15 policemen were slightly injured.

In the heart of Paris, partying visitors jammed almost every place that serves alcohol - no small number in this city - as they waited for Wednesday's opening game between defending cup champion Brazil and Scotland. The United States begins play Monday versus Germany.

Most of the Paris partygoers seemed relaxed, chanting fight songs or dancing impromptu sambas to Brazilian rhythms.

Brazil is favored but not by the 20,000 Scots who crossed the English Channel for the opening game.

"We'll win, 1-0, for certain," Eric Muirhead, in a kilt and bare chest, declared as he wavered unsteadily at the edge of the Place de la Concorde.