After what had been a largely peaceful and friendly atmosphere in Lille on Wednesday (15 June), the drunken mob had come out in force by sundown. Bloody fights, tear gas and tense stand offs stole the headlines from what had been an afternoon of good-natured drinking and chanting by England and Wales supporters in the city's bars (barring one brief incident with French riot police).
By the end of the night, dozens of people would be arrested and 16 taken to hospital. It was a scattering of violence of which only a minority were to blame.
IBTimes UK followed one heavily involved mob of about 50 England supporters as they went on a desperate and ultimately bloody search for their enemy of the night – the Russian Ultras. Some would later find themselves on the floor being kicked and punched. Others would be returning the favour in kind.
Hoping for revenge for the three days of violence in Marseille almost a week ago, they set off on 15 June at about 10.30pm close to the Gare de Lille Flandres – an area dominated by England and Wales fans throughout the day.
"Russia, where are you?" chants echoed around streets, with bar and restaurant owners pulling down their shutters as the group passed by. It was likely an intimidating sight for the Lille locals, some of whom watched on from their apartment windows.
But for the first 45 minutes or so, the city's streets were treated to an almost comical quest – a rowdy mob, mostly in their 20s and 30s, desperately searching for Russian fans who were nowhere to be seen. The group, travelling from north of the city, to south, back to north again, was pursued from a distance by French gendarmes and UK police spotters armed with video cameras.
At one point early on, the latter detained an England fan they believed to be the ringleader, thinking it would cause the others to disperse. The officers filmed him and took his name, accusing him of smashing a car wing mirror. The others simply strode on without him, continuing the search.
The hunt was futile; not a single Russian fan – let alone a hardened Ultra – had been found. The chants of "Russia, where are you?" were still going, but wearing thin.
A few of the mob took their frustration out on parked cars, smashing wing mirrors and banging on windows. One Lille local, with his family, had his phone smashed on the ground for filming the group. Other residents, watching France beat Albania in the bars along the way, appeared to look on bemused.
So desperate had the search become, the mob would haphazardly charge down streets at nothing, only to stop at the end when someone asked what they were charging at. At one low point, the group thought they'd struck gold after coming across a bar adorned with the Russian colours.
After some bangs on the windows and a few chants – goading the drinkers inside to come out and fight – the stand off ended when a few realised the stripes on the flags were the wrong way round.
"Lads, these guys are French!"
"Well let's just fight them anyway!"
It was delivered as a joke, but with a sinister undercurrent. The group – still about 50 strong – carried on with their search.
This was a far cry from the hyper-organised Russian Ultras the media had depicted following the events in Marseille. More Dad's Army than SAS.
It was getting close to an hour after they'd set off and still no Russians were in sight. Still the police and spotters pursued from a distance. "They'll never find them – it's completely stupid," one spotter told us. That wasn't completely true, as events would later reveal.
Some of the mob – which had been kept in unison with repeated orders of "stick together!" – began to speak of desertion, realising the bars would stop serving alcohol soon. Voices sounded annoyed. "Why is this city so dead? It's a joke! They close way too early."
The authorities in Lille had passed unprecedented alcohol restriction measures – forcing bars to close at midnight – to quell the fights this group were after and to prevent a repeat of events in Marseille.
It was just before 11.30pm when the mob – who appeared to make up their route on the hoof – stumbled upon a group of bars in Place Louise de Bettignies, in the old city. A large gathering of England, Wales and France fans had been drinking and watching the match. There was no sign there had been any trouble, but riot police watched on cautiously at the side.
The group began to scatter, off to get their last pints in but not before – finally – one spotted a Russian fan. A lone, middle-aged man dressed in his team's red colours had been minding his own business with a drink, seemingly untroubled by those he had so far encountered. He was hassled by a few of the mob until French riot police, stationed around the square, intervened.
About 10 minutes later, a group of fans were seen wandering past French drinkers up Rue de Gand, a narrow cobbled street home to several bars. People began talking of a fight planned at the end.
Who threw the first punch – and who of those left bloodied were innocent bystanders – is not certain. But the narrow street saw charge after countercharge between about 20 English speaking fans and an unknown number of other young men heard shouting "Allez les Bleus".
One man, who looked to be in his 20s, was seen scrambling on the floor as blood poured down his face. He had what looked like a shard of glass embedded in his skull. His attackers continued to punch and kick him in the head. A small contingent of English speaking fans berated anyone who dared run away from the fight.
Later, the riot police moved in and the unrest was either quelled or pushed to another part of the city. England fans would later be seen scrapping with France supporters outside the Gare de Lille Flandres, just after midnight. The groups were again divided and pushed back by riot police.
Like in Marseille, arguments over who threw the first punch will surround the events in Lille on Wednesday night. But if a minority charge through the city's streets looking for a fight, chances are one will be found, and innocent bystanders may pay the price.
In the coming weeks, it will be the job of those police spotters from the UK to track down troublemakers to ensure they're banned from travelling to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
While it's uncertain if this mob did find their Ultras – or simply a group of annoyed locals – it's unlikely chants of "Russia, where are you?" will be tolerated for quite so long during the World Cup as they were in Lille.