The Battle of Marseille

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MARSEILLE: Eight hours of pitched battles. Overturned cars, set on fire with petrol bombs. A young Englishman with his throat slashed. An old Frenchman being kicked until blood spurts from his head. No, it's not a scene from World War II, but the second ugly incident of France '98. Ahead of Monday's England-Tunisia World Cup match, hundreds of English fans went to war with hundreds of Tunisians -- and fought a second front against thousands of local French Algerians and the police. More than 34 people were injured, according to rescue services, and early reports spoke of more than 100 arrests.

It was enough to give innocent bystanders second thoughts about hosting the world's largest sports tournament. "We should never have let these people come here," one restaurant owner told a Reuters reporter as he choked on police tear gas. "We must be a country of idiots. Somebody's going to get killed."

Thankfully, no-one was. But the drunken English hooligan -- the kind of soccer parasite last seen on the streets of Turin in 1990 -- has reared his ugly head again. A pall has been cast over today's game, not to mention England's bid to host the World Cup in 2006.