We've trawled the archives, and our sample size for the analysis of opening matches at European Championships begins with Euro ’84. Up until this point there was no set group-stage-followed-by-knockout format that we are accustomed to today, and only from 1984 onwards has the opening match of the championships featured the host nation. Therefore the following examination refers to the past seven European Championships dating back 28 years.
If you like to see plenty of goals when watching your football then history suggests you will be slightly disappointed by this Friday’s Poland v Greece Euro 2012 opener. In the past seven opening matches at the European Championships we have seen just 14 goals at an average of two per game, and have never seen more than three goals in a game.
Only twice in that period has the 2.5 goal barrier been broken, both times the game ending in a 2-1 scoreline, whilst no one team has scored more than two goals in the last seven European Championship openers.
Given that this summer’s opener involves the notoriously defensive Greece, it is therefore no surprise to see Under 2.5 goals quoted at short odds of 1.45. A 1-0 win for Poland is available at odds of 5.50 and 0-1 in favour of Greece is 9.25. A 1-1 draw, the most popular opening day scoreline in the last 28 years, is quoted at 7.00.
Opening European Championships matches are traditionally slow starters. In the last 28 years there has never been more than a single first-half goal, with three of them being 0-0 at the interval.
A goalless opening 45 minutes is quoted at odds of 2.30 this Friday, while Under 1.5 first-half goals is a predictably short 1.28. The half-time draw is priced at 2.00.
Playing in front of your home crowd in a major championship is often seen as an advantage, but it also comes with the pressure of expectation. Host nations have produced mixed results on the opening day of European Championships with home teams winning two, drawing two and losing three of the first games of past tournaments.
When we add co-hosting nations into that mix the landscape becomes even more uniformly spread with three wins, three defeats and three losses for the hosts. Poland are the 1.95 favourites to pick up three points against Greece on Friday, while Ukraine are 2.40 for victory over Sweden on Monday night.
Depending on the opponent the main aim of the opening match in any major tournament is often, simply, to avoid defeat. Throw into the mix a players own personal, and perhaps selfish, desire to keep out of trouble with the referee and avoid any potential suspensions and it is understandable to learn that opening matches tend to be fairly timid affairs.
There have been a total of just 22 yellow cards in our sample, at an average of just over three cautions per game.
The man appointed as referee for the Poland versus Greece opener is Spaniard Carlos Velasco Carballo. The 41-year-old has developed a reputation for being a stern and strict adjudicator, but has attracted most praise for his tendency to allow the game to flow.
Having awarded just six penalties in 29 La Liga games last season Velasco Carballo is not one to be easily conned by simulation either. All things considered, I particularly like the look of the 2.00 Unibet’s compilers are offering about there being fewer than 40.5 booking points.
Under 40.5 Booking Points @ 2.00