In Lisbon, the England fans joked with French supporters. In Birmingham, they staged a riot

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The Independent Online

England fans in Portugal were praised yesterday for their "dignified" behaviour after the team's 2-1 defeat, but back home there were violent scenes as supporters vented their fury over France's last-minute victory.

England fans in Portugal were praised yesterday for their "dignified" behaviour after the team's 2-1 defeat, but back home there were violent scenes as supporters vented their fury over France's last-minute victory.

There were no arrests in Lisbon after the game, contrary to pre-tournament concerns and in contrast to scenes in the UK where police arrested some 85 people in violent incidents across the country.

Police in Portugal said the fans' reaction to the defeat was an example to supporters of other nations at the European Championships.

About 50,000 fans flocked to Lisbon for Sunday's game, including 40,000 at the Estadio da Luz, but over the weekend there were only a handful of arrests resulting in the conviction and planned deportation of one English man for violent behaviour on Saturday night.

A Portuguese police spokesman, Alexandre Coimbra, said: "The British fans were fantastic, they showed how to lose a game with great fair play and dignity. They facilitated our police mission. I hope they can give an example for other fans here in Portugal."

A two-year strategy by police from England and Portugal to exclude the hard core of hooligans appears to be paying off with about 2,700 fans banned from leaving the UK during the tournament. But despite the optimism in Portugal there was little sign in the UK that the so-called "English disease" had been cured.

Police officers were attacked with bricks and bottles and patrol cars set alight as serious disturbances broke out in town centres as far apart as Croydon, south London, and Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Irate supporters also left a trail of destruction in Hertfordshire, Cambridge, Essex, Birmingham and Boston in Lincolnshire.

In the most serious incident, in Croydon, up to 400 people were involved in clashes and two police officers were taken to hospital with minor injuries. Violence broke out when supporters left pubs after the match, and started hurling bottles and glasses at police. Some stormed a tram, smashing windows. London Ambulance Service experienced a surge in emergency call-outs as violent incidents flared around the capital. In Birmingham about 200 youths went on the rampage after watching the match on a screen in Centenary Square.

David Swift, the Deputy Chief Constable of Staffordshire and the senior British officer advising the Portuguese police, said: "I'm delighted with the behaviour of the England supporters last night, which was exemplary and attracted specific praise." Mr Swift said the tournament appeared to be attracting a different breed of fan. "Those most maligned and evil people have not appeared in any numbers in any location."

Meanwhile the Football Association yesterday criticised the organisation of England's match against France, saying it could have put the safety of fans at risk.

In a letter to the Euro 2004 organising committee, the FA raised concerns about crowd control and ticketing at the 65,000-seater Estadio da Luz in Lisbon. Senior figures at the game claimed that stewards were forced to rush through 12,000 supporters still queueing outside the ground half an hour before the 7.45pm kick-off and reported confusion around the concourses due to a lack of clear signage.

Critics said bottlenecks built up because there were too few entrance gates and security staff, some of whom were objecting to supporters bringing in spectacles cases, plastic bottles of sun cream and small cameras. The organisers have already undertaken to open a fourth gate for the next game there on Wednesday between Portugal and Russia.

Uefa, the governing body of European football, admitted that entrance to the ground was slow but put it in the context of an increased threat of terror strikes. A spokesman said: "It's not the usual problem of crowd disorder you have to deal with, that we know how to deal with.

"The world has changed since the last European Championships and it has changed since the bomb attacks in Madrid. The Portuguese are taking nothing for granted and I think they are right."