It’s a widely held belief that you need to get off to a good start in a major tournament in order to win the tournament, and while it’s rare that a team goes on to win the competition after drawing their first group game, it’s not unheard of, particularly in the European Championships.
In fact, the last two winners of the Euros have begun their campaigns with draws. Five years ago in France, Portugal played out a 1-1 draw with debutants Iceland in their first match, before ultimately going on to lift the trophy. Four years previously, Spain’s tournament began with a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Italy, before Vicente Del Bosque’s men went on to beat the same opposition in the final.
At the ongoing Euro 2020, Spain’s tournament didn’t get off to the start they were hoping for, as Sweden frustrated them on a hot and sticky evening in Seville. Luis Enrique’s side had plenty of opportunities to score, but profligate finishing cost them and the game finished 0-0. They went into Euros as one of the favourites in the Euro 2020 betting, but those odds have now lengthened.
The result will have many Spanish football fans fearing the worst, but the fact that the last two tournament winners have lifted the trophy having drawn their first match should bring them some crumb of comfort.
Indeed, looking at the data, out of the last 10 editions of the European Championships, only five of the overall winners have done so after winning their group. That means that even if Spain don’t progress from their group with flying colours, they shouldn’t despair too much.
It’s widely accepted that this Spain team is in transition, and the squad is not as strong as when they won two successive European Championships in 2008 and 2012. But Portugal proved five years ago that you don’t necessarily need the best squad to win the tournament, and if Spain can save their best football for the knockout stages, you never know what might happen.