England’s awful record in their opening European Championship fixture

England’s awful record in their opening European Championship fixture
England’s awful record in their opening European Championship fixture

Gareth Southgate will be drilling into his England players the importance of a strong start as the Three Lions begin their Euro 2024 campaign against Serbia.

England, however, are not traditionally a good starter at the European Championship. In fact, their record of opening Euros with a win is pretty dismal. As Southgate’s side look to get their campaign up and running from the off, we’ve looked at England’s awful record on opening night in the European Championship.

England’s awful record in their opening Euros fixture:

Yugoslavia 1-0 England (Euro 1968)

England competed at the European Championship for the first time in 1968 as Sir Alf Ramsey’s side headed into the tournament as world champions. Having lifted the World Cup on home soil two years earlier, the Three Lions were favourites ahead of the four-team finals.

However, Dragan Džajić’s 86th-minute winner in Florence saw Yugoslavia win in their semi-final tie. England bounced back to beat the Soviet Union 2-0 in the third-place play-off, after goals from Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst.

Belgium 1-1 England (Euro 1980)

After failing to qualify for the following two editions, England returned to the tournament at Euro 1980. Their opening fixture saw the Three Lions held to a 1-1 draw against Belgium, with England leading for just three minutes after Ray Wilkins’ opener, as Jan Ceulemans hit back almost immediately.

England finished third to crash out in the group stage, while Belgium ended the tournament as runners-up to West Germany.

England 0-1 Republic of Ireland (Euro 1988)

Euro ’88 proved to be a disastrous tournament for England as the Three Lions lost all three group games in an embarrassing early exit. Their opener saw England upset as the Republic of Ireland secured a memorable win in their first-ever major tournament game.

In sweltering heat in the Neckarstadion in Stuttgart, Ray Houghton’s header sealed Ireland an unforgettable win in a tournament the Boys in Green had entered with little to no expectation.

Bobby Robson had talked up England’s ambitions pre-tournament, but further defeats to the Netherlands – courtesy of a Marco van Basten hat-trick – and the Soviet Union saw the Three Lions head home with their tails between their legs.

90s Hitmen: Marco van Basten – The Swan of Utrecht
Denmark 0-0 England (Euro 1992)

Things didn’t get much better for England four years later. A goalless draw with Denmark in their opening fixture kickstarted another winless European Championship for the Three Lions. Another goalless draw with the French followed before England succumbed to a Swedish comeback in their final fixture to lose 2-1 to the host nation and crash out.

England 1-1 Switzerland (Euro 1996)

Expectation and optimism surrounded England heading into the 1996 European Championship, as the Three Lions hosted the finals.

The opening fixture saw Alan Shearer open the scoring against Switzerland, ending a 21-month and 12-game goalless run to silence his pre-tournament critics.

Switzerland levelled through Kubilay Türkyilmaz’s late penalty but England regrouped to progress in top spot after comfortably beating the Netherlands and Scotland. Terry Venables’ team reached the semi-finals before bowing out to eventual champions Germany on penalties, while Shearer claimed the Golden Boot with five goals.

Portugal 3-2 England (Euro 2000)

England endured another group-stage exit at Euro 2000, with a costly capitulation against Portugal in their opener contributing to their elimination.

The tournament started in dream fashion for the Three Lions who raced into a 2-0 lead inside 18 minutes, with Paul Scholes heading home an early opener and Steve McManaman doubling the lead.

However, a Luis Figo-inspired Portugal hit back. Figo reduced the deficit with a deflected strike from distance before a brilliant Joao Pinto header levelled the game before half-time. With the momentum with Portugal, Nuno Gomes prodded in a winner on 59 minutes.

France 2-1 England (Euro 2004)

Euro 2004 also brought a heavyweight first fixture as France faced England. The Three Lions produced an impressive performance against the holders and took the lead through Frank Lampard.

A teenage Wayne Rooney was in sensational form up against an experienced France backline and was brought down after a scintillating solo run inside the box. However, David Beckham missed the resulting spot-kick and England were punished late on.

Zinedine Zidane hit a 91st-minute equaliser from a free-kick, before scoring a second in stoppage time from the spot. Steven Gerrard’s poor backpass was seized upon by Thierry Henry, with David James bringing down the forward inside the area.

A late show from Les Bleus in Lisbon.

Wayne Rooney at Euro 2004: A precocious phenomenon
France 1-1 England (Euro 2012)

France and England again met in the opening fixture of a European Championship in 2012. Joleon Lescott headed England ahead in the contest with his first goal for the Three Lions but the lead lasted just nine minutes as Samir Nasri – a club teammate of Lescott’s at Manchester City – equalised before half-time.

England 1-1 Russia (Euro 2016)

England again failed to win in a major tournament opener as Russia scored a stoppage-time equaliser to snatch a point in Marseille.

Eric Dier handed England a deserved lead as he stepped up to blast home a free-kick from 20 yards, but Roy Hodgson’s side were unable to hold on. In the 92nd minute, Vasili Berezutski rose above Danny Rose to plant a header past Joe Hart and rescue the Russians a result.

England reached the last 16 but lost to Iceland in a huge upset.

England 1-0 Croatia (Euro 2020)

At the 10th attempt, England finally ended their curse of having never won their opening fixture at a European Championship.

On home soil, Raheem Sterling steered in the winner from Kalvin Phillips’ pass, as England exacted revenge for their World Cup semi-final defeat to the Croatians in 2018.

England were well worth their win and went on to reach the final, losing to Italy on penalties.

England’s record in their opening fixture at the European Championship:

    • Played: 10

    • Won: 1

    • Drawn: 5

    • Lost: 4

Read  – Five England talking points ahead of Serbia clash

See more – Serbia vs England – Euro 2024 Match Preview

Subscribe to our social channels:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube | TikTok