German, French tricolors abound ahead of Euro 2016 semifinal
MARSEILLE, France (AP) Tricolors fluttered everywhere in Marseille on Thursday ahead of the second European Championship semifinal, with the black, red and yellow German flag outnumbering the red, white and blue of France in the city's packed Old Port.
Elsewhere, market traders used flags as sunshades and passengers waved the French tricolor from car windows as they maneuvered traffic-clogged streets near the Stade Velodrome. Even beggars asking for change had the French flag's stripes painted on their faces.
As kickoff approached, thousands of fans massed outside the stadium, with French heavily outnumbering Germans and rousing choruses of ''La Marseillaise'' ringing out.
Inside the ground, French fans also gave two renditions of Iceland's rhythmic Viking ''Huh'' chant and slow handclapping speeding up to a crescendo of applause, adopting the chant from the team Les Bleus knocked out in the quarterfinals.
Earlier, on a beach near the city's Fan Zone, German fans lived up to one national stereotype by laying out their flags alongside towels as they soaked up the Mediterranean sun hours before their team attempted to reach Sunday's final. Portugal awaits the winner, with Germany hoping to add the European title to the World Cup it won two years ago in Brazil.
The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly early afternoon, with both sets of fans confident their teams would win.
''We love France,'' said German fan Florian Fink, before adding that he was convinced his team would prevail. Decked out in lederhosen and a hat from which hung a huge German flag and smaller French and Italian tricolors, Fink and his friends drew a big crowd in the Old Port as they danced and sang with a slightly bemused looking French supporter.
Fink was unconcerned about Germany's weakened team facing France's dangerous front line, led by tournament top scorer Antoine Griezmann. Germany is missing central defender Mats Hummels through suspension, and striker Mario Gomez and midfielder Sami Khedira to injury. Captain Bastian Schweinsteiger was cleared to play after recovering from a knock to his injury-prone right knee.
''No problem for us,'' Fink said. ''We have (Jerome) Boateng, Manuel Neuer, best keeper of the world, and now we will win 2-0.''
As the tournament approached its penultimate match, a few fans from already eliminated teams mingled with the French and Germans - among other flags on display were Slovakian and English. There was even a small group of Dutch supporters standing outside a pub under an orange banner that read: ''We only do World Cups.'' The Netherlands, a losing semifinalist in the last World Cup, failed to even qualify for Euro 2016.
''We are going to win. We have the best team in the world. The winner is from France,'' said French fan Zack Morris who traveled from Paris to watch the match with his brother, who was resplendent in a red, white and blue mohawk wig.
The brothers also praised the friendly atmosphere among supporters that was in marked contrast to the three days of fan violence that marred the first Euro 2016 match in Marseille, a 1-1 draw between England and Russia.
There were plenty of police in the Old Port close to the busiest strip of bars, but they had nothing to do but sit in the shade of their blue vans.
''There are no problems,'' Morris said. ''Just united. United colors of football.''