Venue: Saint-Denis, Paris
Kick Off: 20:00
Referee: Viktor Kassai (HUN)
The night all us football fans have been counting down to and it’s finally arrived.
A major tournament with all hope and expectation, which for us English usually ends with penalty shootout heartbreak.
The opening match pits hosts France up against what tends to be a resolute Romanian side.
Due to France not playing a competitive fixture the newly updated FIFA rankings have Romania two places higher than tonight’s opponents with Anghel Iordanescu’s men sat in 19th.
The pressure of opening a tournament in front of your home fans is firmly on the shoulders of Didier Deschamps men and Les Blues will be hoping to get off to the perfect start.
There are some interesting statistics when you look at the opening matches of the past eight European Championships:
- 7 of 8 have been Under 2.5 Goals
- 5 of 8 have been draws – all 1-1
- Only 1 of 8 host nations has won their first match – that was France back in Euro ’84.
Romania finished a point behind Northern Ireland in Group F securing second spot in a campaign where they remained unbeaten – winning five and drawing five.
However it wasn’t the toughest of groups considering it contained Greece and Faroe Islands. The worrying fact is that they failed to win all things considered. You do have to imagine that they’ll struggle coming up against an opponent with the class that France contains.
The Tricolorii were one of the most defensively disciplined units during qualifying keeping eight clean sheets and only conceding two goals in their ten matches.
At the other end of the pitch they were not exactly frequent having only scored 11 goals – they failed to score in three contests.
Coach Iordanescu knows the limitations of his squad and with no real household names other than Costel Pantilimon and Vlad Chiriches these will be a difficult side to beat and one that will need to take its chances when they fall their way.
Didier Deschamps is likely to employ a 4-3-3 formation with Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud through the middle with Dimitri Payet/Anthony Martial and Antoine Griezmann on either side. If those three link up and gel then you can expect to see plenty of opportunities in games involving Les Blues, especially with Paul Pogba linking up from a deep lying role.
Romania will opt for a 4-2-3-1 with an emphasis on being stubborn and keeping it tight. They’ll be reliant on playmaker Nicolae Stanciu when they have the ball in the final third. The Steaua Bucharest man scored 12 goals in the league last season and he made an impact on his international debut when netting.
Constantin Budescu will be a big miss for the Romanians after he was a surprise exclusion following the qualifying campaign where he was joint top scorer with two goals.
It’s no surprise to hear that the French have more strength in depth when it comes to their reserves and in a game that looks tactically tight, that could be the difference.
My head is telling me France get off to their dream start and in convincing fashion – but the stats and what we know of them is giving me a different view.
The first stat giving me that feeling is the head to head record. There have been five previous meetings and four have ended equal.
Again from a goals perspective there have only been eight goals in those five matches with just the one of them seeing over 2.5 goals.
This match screams draw at half time, so I’m expecting this match to come to life in the second half and as I have already touched on the benches playing a part. If it comes to fruition then the half time/full time market looks appealing about the price France are to claim the three points come the final whistle.
Other markets that could be worth a look are corners. During qualifying Romania’s matches averaged out to 8.5 per game whilst Les Blues’ last ten friendlies have averaged out to just under 9 per contest. Therefore under 10 corners at 19/20 with William Hill could be worth considering.
Hungarian Viktor Kassai is the arbiter for this opening match. For him he’ll be hoping for a quiet night but I’m sure UEFA will be hoping he makes a mark to show what will and won’t be tolerated during this tournament. His card make up is one of the lowest for the officials responsible throughout this championship.
Kassai is one of the more experience officials and took charge of the 2011 Champions League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona. In his last 20 matches he has brandished 85 yellow cards (4.25 per game) and issued just the two reds. Booking points could be the way to go and William Hill are offering 17/10 on between 35-55 booking points.
Half Time/Full Time: Draw/France – 3/1
Under 2.5 Goals – 5/6