How Important is Scoring the First Goal at the European Championships?

With not long to wait now until Euro 2016 kicks off, TSZ is going to look back at the history of the European Championships to see how important it has been to score the first goal.

We will look back at the data from Euro 1960 all the way through to Euro 2012.

When looking back at the data from all previous championships, we can clearly see the importance of scoring the first goal: teams that have scored first have gone on to win 64% of the time and have drawn 16% of the time- a combined total of 80% of matches not lost when scoring first.

It is notable to see that teams that have scored first have only lost 10% of these matches, with the other 10% of matches, where neither team scored first, obviously ending as a goalless draw.

One standout statistic brought to light from this analysis is the below average match win percentage (48%) after scoring first in Euro 2004, the year the underdogs Greece won (although this stat would have actually been brought up by the Greek's three one-nil wins in the knockouts).

Whereas in Euro 1988, an astonishing 80% of matches were won after teams scored first; similarly, Euro 2008 & 2012 also boasted a higher than average match win percentage after teams scored first, both with 71%.

Now that we have established the importance of scoring the first goal at the Euros, we will break down the scoring first data at Euro 2012 by game round. It must be said that no cast iron conclusions can be drawn due to the small sample size.

We can see that scoring the first goal in the match plays a big part no matter what round we discuss. There was a minimum win percentage of 50% in every round.

In the group stages, only two teams were able to turn the tables and go on and win the match after conceding the first goal. Plaudits must go to Ukraine, who overturned a deficit to win against Sweden in Round 1, thanks to two goals from legendary striker Andriy Shevchenko. Whilst Portugal managed the same thing in Round 3, coming from behind to beat Netherlands thanks to a double from Cristiano Ronaldo.

One interesting thing that this analysis has brought up is that there wasn’t a single 0-0 draw in the group stages, with teams waiting until the knock-out stages before failing to score. It will be a surprise if this is the case this time with fewer goals expected as teams try not to lose, due to the four best third-placed teams going through to the knock-out stages this time round.

To conclude, we have established the importance of scoring first in the European Championships, with teams going on to win 64% of matches after scoring first and losing just 10% percent of the time. Nevertheless, it is worth noting the difficulty of comparing this years championship with historic data, as Euro 2016 has more teams than ever before.

The quality of some of the games is arguably lower than in previous tournaments and qualifying for the next round is probably easier, so there are multiple factors that may impact the numbers for this tournament.