Well, Robert Green made a terrible mistake to gift the USA a 1-1 draw in Rustenberg last night it’s true but I’m not too disheartened. It wasn’t a brilliant performance by any stretches of the imagination but I do believe they will get better. USA was probably the toughest group match and they did create a few chances so there is cause for optimism.
It’s always better to improve from the start than have a fantastic group stage and then fade away in the later stages as they did in ’82 in Spain. England won their three group matches but then drew 0-0 twice to go out in the second round.
In Euro2008 Holland beat World Champions Italy 3-0 in their first match, France 4-1 in their second and Romania 2-0 in the third but lost 3-1 to Russia in the quarter-finals. Probably the best team of the tournament didn’t even make the semis that year.
I’ve been watching England in major championships for 30 years and they hardly ever start well. In fact 3-1 v France in 1982, 2-0 v Tunisia in 1998 and 1-0 v Paraguay in 2006 are our only victories in 12 opening matches.
For the record the others are 1-1 v Belgium (1980), 0-1 v Portugal (1986), 0-1 v Ireland (1988), 1-1 v Ireland (1990), 0-0 v Denmark (1992), 1-1 v Switzerland (1996), 2-3 v Portugal (2000), 1-1 v Sweden (2002) and 1-2 v France (2004)…and I did all that from memory!
Using the web to go back further the record is worse than I thought – here are their other major championship first game results going back to the first one in 1950…
1-0 v Romania (1970)
0-1 v Yugoslavia (1968)
0-0 v Uruguay (1966)
1-2 v Hungary (1962)
2-2 v Soviet Union (1958)
4-4 v Belgium (1954)
2-0 v Chile (1950)
That means they’ve won just five of 20 first round games. That’s truly appalling…