ESSEN, Germany (AP) _ Four Germans accused of savagely beating a French policeman during last year's soccer World Cup went on trial Friday charged with attempted murder.

Daniel Nivel was cornered in a side street by shouting soccer hooligans who kicked and stomped him and smashed his head with a metal bar. He spent six weeks in a coma and is still undergoing daily physical therapy.

Charged in the June 21 attack are Andre Zawacki, 28, and Frank Renger, 31, both from the western city of Gelsenkirchen; Tobias Arno Reifschlaeger, 24, of Hamburg and Christopher Rauch, 23, from Erkner, near Berlin. The suspect's trial was expected to begin Friday.

Another German suspect, 28-year-old Markus Warnecke, was arrested in France and faces trial there.

As the trial opened amid heavy security, state prosecutor Joachim Lichtinghagen charged the four acted out of ``lust for cruelty.''

``They beat their victim in a brutal way when he was lying defenseless on the ground,'' he said.

In their opening statements, Zawacki and Renger expressed regrets.

``I want to apologize,'' Renger said.

All but Renger were involved in soccer hooliganism in Germany, prosecutors said. Renger, a dairy worker, was not an active hooligan, according to prosecutors, but joined in the attack on Nivel.

The suspects did not know each other before they arrived in Lens, France, where Germany was playing Yugoslavia, prosecutors said.

There were numerous violent incidents during the World Cup games across France, including three days of rioting in Marseille involving British hooligans and local youths. Hundreds of people were arrested or deported during the matches.

But the attack on Nivel, which lasted only a minute, was considered the worst for its brutality. Then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl called it a ``disgrace for Germany.''

Hundreds of German hooligans had gone to Lens, some hoping to see their national team play, others just looking for a fight. Few had tickets to the sold-out game.

With police out in force, violence broke out after the game ended in a 2-2 draw. A group of hooligans slipped into a street where Nivel was posted with two other officers, according to prosecutors. Two of the officers escaped, but the gang beat Nivel, prosecutors said.

Nivel, a 44-year-old father of two, is trying to regain his speech and increase his mobility, according to his wife, Lorette.