France should beware of opening night jitters – they’ve been stung before

Deschamps has to banish memories of 2002

We’ve got great news for Russia and Qatar! If you host the World Cup, you are guaranteed to not lose your first game of the tournament. In the last ten editions of the world’s most famous tournament, none of the hosts have lost their opening game.

It’s a drastic difference in the European Championships which will be worrying for France. Since the format changed in 1980, in the nine championships since then, the hosts have only managed to win their opening game twice – (Belgium against Sweden in 2000 and France in 1984).

So what were the greatests upsets along the way? Gather round children as Paddy opens his first day storybook.


Euro 96 – England 1-1 Switzerland

Almost 77,000 supporters had packed into Wembley. Three Lions was being played on repeat and English fans were preparing for their team to bring football home after 30 years of hurt. They had a nice easy start to the group on paper as Switzerland lined up opposite them.

Fun fact: Roy Hodgson was in charge of the Swiss through qualifying, but left before the finals.

23 minutes in and Alan Shearer scores for the first time in 13 international games to put England ahead. Jolly good, add another one and England have got three points in the bag. Kübilay Türkyilmaz didn’t read the script though as he coolly converted a penalty after Stuart Pearce handballed six minutes from time.

The English would recover to finish top of the group before exiting on penalties in the semi final, but the draw deflated expectations for a while.

Euro 2004 – Portugal 0-1 Greece

Luis Figo, Simao, Deco and a young Cristiano Ronaldo on the crest of a wave after debuting for Manchester United. Up against Stelios, Takis Fyssas and a squad which had just eight from 24 players playing outside the Greek league. No one gave them a hope and rightly so.

But with under ten minutes on the Portuguese were stunned into silence by Giorgios Karagounis and despite battering the Greek goal, they fell further behind just after half time to an Angelos Basinas penalty. Ronaldo did pull one back in injury time but the humiliation was already complete.

It was the first time ever that the host had lost their first game and Greece would go on to win Euro 2004 and become a bigger fairytale than Jack and his field of beanstalks.

Greece Euro 2004

World Cup 2002 – France 0-1 Senegal 

Okay we’re cheating a little bit here. But this was a massive shock to open the Korea/Japan World Cup in 2002.

The French had won the World Cup in 1998. They had won the European Championship in 2000. Senegal were making their debut at a World Cup having done well in the African Nations Cup up to that point. Thuram, Henry, Trezeguet, Petit and Wiltord were all world class players.
But even they were not prepared for the wrath of one man. Or to paraphrase Chris Kamara, one man mountain himselfPapa Bouba Diop stunned the holders in Seoul by netting after half an hour. The Senegalese squad was based entirely in Ligue 1 and 2 bar two goalkeepers and had only one player over 30.

The French overestimated greatly and never recovered from the defeat, exiting the tournament after failing to beat Uruguay and Denmark, finishing bottom of the group.

Could it happen again?

There’s always a possibility. Our full match preview is here. Romania had the best defence in qualifying, letting in just two goals in ten games. Both of those came in the second half, so it could take France a while to break down the defence. Romania are a massive to win the match but a draw no bet is far more tempting at odds of.

What do you think?