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The Team That Finally Won Their First EURO Opening Match on Their 10th Attempt

AMD Editor AMD Editor

The European Championship (EURO Cup) has been played for 16 seasons. In each season, fans cheer for their favourite teams. The 17th season is coming up, and fans will once again support their favourite teams. Fans of the England national team have seen their team lose many times as England has never won the EURO Cup title. The fans are still waiting for England to win their first EURO title. However, there is an interesting fact about England’s performance. In the EURO tournament, the first match for each team is called the opening match. England has played 10 opening matches in the history of the EURO tournament. Out of those 10 opening matches, England has only won one time. They have lost or drawn the other nine opening matches. Here, we will be now looking at all those 10 matches and how the England team finally ended their 53-year-long curse.

1. Yugoslavia vs England in the 1968 EURO Cup

The year 1968 marked a significant milestone for the England national football team as they qualified for the European Championship (EURO Cup) for the very first time. In that era, the tournament format consisted solely of the semi-finals and the final, making it a more condensed affair compared to today’s expanded format. England’s maiden EURO Cup journey saw them progress to the semi-final stage, where they faced the formidable Yugoslavia team on June 5, 1968, at the Stadio Comunale in Florence, Italy. 

Despite being a newcomer to the continental competition, England was pitted against a Yugoslav side that was widely regarded as a powerhouse in European football at the time. The match proved to be a tight contest, with the experienced Yugoslavs ultimately prevailing by a slender 1-0 scoreline. The decisive goal came from the boot of the legendary Dragan Džaji?, whose sublime strike not only sealed Yugoslavia’s passage to the final but also marked a heartbreaking end to England’s maiden EURO Cup campaign, serving as a harsh lesson in the unforgiving nature of international football.

2. Belgium vs England in the 1980 EURO Cup

After a heartbreaking loss in the 1968 Semi-Finals, England failed to qualify for the next two EURO tournaments. Their next opportunity came in the 1980 EURO Tournament, where they were placed in Group 2 alongside Italy, Belgium, and Spain. England faced Belgium in their opening match on June 12, 1980, at Stadio Comunale in Turin. During this game, Ray Wilkins made history by becoming England’s first-ever goal scorer in the EURO, netting a goal in the 26th minute. 

However, their lead was short-lived as Jan Ceulemans of Belgium equalized just three minutes later in the 29th minute. The match concluded in a 1-1 draw, extending England’s wait for their first victory in an EURO opening match. Despite their historic goal, the team couldn’t secure a win, reflecting their ongoing struggles in the tournament. This draw added to England’s challenging history in the European Championships, where early successes remained elusive.

3. Republic of Ireland vs England in the 1988 EURO Cup

With hopes dashed in 1980, England returned to the EURO Cup in 1988, aiming for redemption in Group 2. Entering the tournament with high expectations, they faced the Republic of Ireland in their opening match. The game, held at Neckarstadion in Stuttgart on June 12, 1988, was dominated by Ireland. Just six minutes into the match, Ray Houghton scored a stunning goal, giving Ireland an early lead. 

Despite England’s efforts, they were unable to equalize, resulting in a disappointing start to their campaign. This early setback crushed England’s hopes of securing their first victory in an opening match at the EURO. The match highlighted England’s continued struggles in the tournament, as they were unable to capitalize on their high aspirations. 

4. Denmark vs England in the 1992 EURO Cup

England returned to the EURO Tournament in 1992, hopeful after showing improvement since their 1988 campaign. Placed in Group 1 with Denmark, France, and Sweden, England saw a good opportunity to advance to the next stage. Their opening match was against Denmark, held at Malmö Stadion, Malmö, on June 11, 1992. England was eager to secure their first victory in an opening match since 1968. 

However, the match ended in a 0-0 draw, with neither team able to convert their chances into goals. This disappointing result meant England’s long wait for a win in their first match of the tournament continued. Despite their efforts, the draw was a setback for England, highlighting their ongoing struggles in the EUROs. The 1992 tournament added another chapter to England’s challenging history in the European Championships, where early success remained out of reach.

5. Switzerland vs England in the 1996 EURO Cup

After a disappointing 1992 EURO Cup, England entered the 1996 EURO Cup with renewed hope in Group A. This tournament was a golden opportunity, especially with the schedule change favouring them. On June 8, 1996, England faced Switzerland at Wembley Stadium in London. Alan Shearer gave England an early lead by scoring in the 23rd minute. However, Switzerland fought back and equalized in the 83rd minute when Kubilay Türkyilmaz converted a penalty. 

The match ended in a 1-1 draw, leaving England still searching for their first opening match win since 1968. This result was another setback for England, who had high hopes for the tournament. Despite their early lead, they couldn’t secure the victory, continuing their pattern of struggles in opening matches. The draw against Switzerland added to England’s challenging history in the European Championships, where success in the first match again went out of reach. 

6. Portugal vs England in the 2000 EURO Cup

In the 1996 EURO Cup, England made it to the Semi-Finals but couldn’t advance further. With high hopes, they entered the 2000 EURO Cup. Their first match was against Portugal on June 12, 2000, at Philips Stadion in Eindhoven. England aimed to start strong, and in the 3rd minute, Paul Scholes gave them an early lead. Steven McManaman then doubled it in the 18th minute, putting England 2-0 ahead. It seemed like they might finally break their opening match jinx.

https://youtu.be/tMn7I3rImWk?si=AKcLgnvbvpVYgQdu

However, Portugal fought back. Luís Figo scored in the 22nd minute, and João Pinto equalized in the 37th minute. The match was now level at 2-2. In the 57th minute, Nuno Gomes scored the decisive goal for Portugal, leading them to a 3-2 victory. Once again, England’s hopes of winning their first match were dashed. Despite a strong start, they couldn’t maintain their lead and continued their struggle to win an opening match in the EURO Cup.

7. France vs England in the 2004 EURO Cup

After a tough loss to Portugal in their first match of EURO 2000, England hoped to win their opening game in the 2004 tournament. Placed in Group B with France, Croatia, and Switzerland, they faced France first at Estádio da Luz in Lisbon on June 13, 2004. England started strong, dominating possession. In the 38th minute, Frank Lampard scored, giving England a 1-0 lead. As the match neared its end, it seemed like England would finally win their first game. 

https://youtu.be/05ds1Q5vFEY?si=b2P1mtHMP67-ExEh

However, in the 91st minute, Zinedine Zidane scored, making it 1-1. The referee added extra time, and England conceded a penalty. Zidane converted it, and France won 2-1. Once again, England missed the chance to break their opening match curse. Despite their early lead and strong performance, they couldn’t hold on, continuing their struggle to win their first game in the EURO tournament. This late loss was another heartbreak for England fans.

8. France vs England in the 2012 EURO Cup

Just like in the 2004 EURO Cup, England had another chance to win their first group match and seek revenge against France in the 2012 EURO Cup. The game took place at Donbas Arena in Donetsk on June 11, 2012. England and France were in Group D, along with Sweden and Ukraine. It promised to be an exciting match. During the game, Joleon Lescott gave England the lead by scoring a goal in the 30th minute. England looked strong with their 1-0 advantage. 

However, France quickly responded. In the 39th minute, Samir Nasri scored, making it 1-1. Both teams had their moments, but neither could find a winner. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, leaving England winless in their opening matches since 1968. Despite their efforts and an early lead, England couldn’t break their first-match curse. The draw was another disappointment for the team, highlighting their ongoing struggles in starting the EURO tournament with a win.

9. Russia vs England in the 2016 EURO Cup

In the 2016 EURO Cup, England was placed in Group B with Wales, Slovakia, and Russia. Their first match was against Russia on June 11, 2016, at Stade Vélodrome in Marseille. England saw this as a great opportunity to finally win their opening match. England started strong, dominating possession for most of the game. In the 73rd minute, Eric Dier scored, giving England a 1-0 lead. As the game approached its end, England looked in control and seemed poised for victory. 

However, in the 92nd minute, Vasiliy Berezutski scored for Russia, making it 1-1. The match ended in a draw, with England once again unable to secure a win in their opening match of the EURO Cup. Despite their promising start and dominant play, England’s opening match curse continued, leaving them without a win since 1968. The draw was a disappointing result, highlighting England’s ongoing struggles to start the tournament with a victory.

Breaking the Curse: England vs Croatia in EURO Cup 2020

After nine attempts since 1968, England finally won their opening match in the EURO tournament in 2020. Placed in Group D with Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Scotland, they played their first game against Croatia on June 13, 2021, at Wembley Stadium in London. England started strong and dominated the match. In the 57th minute, Raheem Sterling scored, giving England a 1-0 lead. England maintained their focus and defensive strength throughout the game, ensuring they didn’t concede a goal. 

The match ended with a 1-0 victory for England, breaking their 53-year curse of not winning an opening match in the EURO Cup. This win was a significant moment for England, as they finally achieved what had eluded them for so long. It was a great start to their campaign in the 2020 EURO tournament, giving fans hope for a successful run. The victory marked a new chapter in England’s EURO history, ending a long-standing frustration.

Find out why the England team couldn't win their first European Cup match for a long time.
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