The curious case of the seven-match goals trend at Euro 2024

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Germany;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Germany</a> beat Scotland 5-1 to start a quirky seven-match run of Euro 2024 results in which no game had more goals than the game before it.</span><span>Photograph: Jürgen Fromme/firo sportphoto/Getty Images</span>

“As of Monday morning, with seven games completed in Euro 2024, no game has had more goals than any of the earlier games. Is this the longest such run at the start of a major international tournament?” asks Artie Prendergast-Smith.

As of Monday afternoon that run ended at seven matches when Romania put three unanswered goals past Ukraine. But we still thought seven matches wouldn’t be hard to beat. We were wrong. We underestimated what a quirky run of results Euro 2024 has delivered.

Germany 5-1 Scotland
Hungary 1-3 Switzerland
Spain 3-0 Croatia
Italy 2-1 Albania
Poland 1-2 Netherlands
Slovenia 1-1 Denmark
Serbia 0-1 England

We trawled back through every European Championship and World Cup for both men and women until Euro 2000 and can safely say that Euro 2024 has given us the longest run in which no game has had more goals than any of the earlier games … this century. We’ll show you our workings, too.

Women’s World Cup 2023 One game
Men’s World Cup 2022 One game
Women’s Euro 2021 (played 2022) No games
Men’s Euro 2020 (played 2021) Two games
Women’s World Cup 2019 Two games
Men’s World Cup 2018 Two games
Women’s Euro 2017 One game
Men’s Euro 2016 One game
Women’s World Cup 2015 Two games
Men’s World Cup 2014 One game
Women’s Euro 2013 No games
Men’s Euro 2012 No games
Women’s World Cup 2011 No games
Men’s World Cup 2010 One game
Women’s Euro 2009 One game
Men’s Euro 2008 No games
Women’s World Cup 2007 Three games
Men’s World Cup 2006 Three games
Women’s Euro 2005 No games
Men’s Euro 2004 Two games
Women’s World Cup 2003 No games
Men’s World Cup 2002 No games
Women’s Euro 2001 Three games
Men’s Euro 2000 No games

Perhaps it is because so many tournaments open with cagey performances that none of the tournaments’ run of results come close to the current men’s European Championship. But even when a tournament opens with a high-scoring result, such as Germany 11-0 Argentina in the 2007 Women’s World Cup, it is a rare occurrence for that run to go long. Three matches is the best we could find. Not even close. If you fancy a deep dive into the 20th century and find a longer run than Euro 2024, then please get in touch.

Free-agent Euro winners

“Has a player who is not attached to a club ever won the European Championship?” ponders George Jones. “Presumably Tony Kroos, whose Real Madrid contract expires on 30 June, could achieve this feat if Germany win the tournament before he retires.”

The greatest shock in European Championship history is the place to start. “On 28 April 2004, Demis Nikolaidis decided to retire from professional football,” writes Dirk Maas. “His contract with Atlético expired on 1 July 2004. Three days later, on Sunday 4 July 2004, he won the European Championship with Greece. He played four matches at Euro 2004. He was on the bench during the semi-finals against the Czech Republic and wasn’t included in the squad for the final.”

One man on the losing side was Portugal’s Ricardo Carvalho. Twelve years later he was part of the squad that won Euro 2016, with the final against France on 10 July. Carvalho’s Monaco contract had expired on 30 June so, although his departure from the club wasn’t announced until August, he was technically a free agent when Eder scored the winner in the final. Carvalho didn’t play in that game but featured three times in the tournament. He retired from international football after the tournament and, after a short stint in China the following season, hung his boots up for good.

Like father, like mum (and son)

Williot Swedberg made his debut for the Swedish national team on Saturday. His parents, Hans Eskilsson and Malin Swedberg, also played for Sweden. Are there any other families who can match this feat?” wonders Joakim Kingström.

There is certainly one American family, who were in the news during the last World Cup. “Gio Reyna is a current member of the USA men’s team, and he played during the most recent World Cup in Qatar,” writes Rashaad Jorden. “Gio’s father, Claudio, played in three World Cups between 1998 and 2006, and his mother Danielle Reyna (née Egan) has six caps for the USA women’s team.”

Back in Scandinavia, there’s at least one more family affair. “Genoa’s Albert Gudmundsson has 37 caps for Iceland,” begins Kári Tulinius. “His father, Gudmundur Benediktsson, was capped 10 times for Iceland, but is probably better known for his impassioned commentaries during Euro 2016. Albert’s mother, Kristbjörg Helga Ingadóttir, was capped four times for Iceland. Her father, Ingi Björn Albertsson, had 10 caps, and his father, also named Albert Gudmundsson, found time for six caps during a peripatetic career that took in stints at Rangers, Arsenal, Nancy, Milan, Racing Club de Paris and Nice.”

Knowledge archive

“England scored the opening goal against France in their Euro 2012 game on Monday,” wrote David Cooper in June 2012. “This seems to be a recurring theme in England’s opening game at a major tournament. When was the last time they conceded before they scored at a European Championship or World Cup?”

You have to go all the way back to 1988, and Ray Houghton’s goal for the Republic of Ireland. Since then England have opened the scoring in their first game in 1990, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2012. They also scored first in 1992: after two 0-0 draws, David Platt gave them the lead in the third match against Sweden.

2024 update: Italy scored first in England’s 2014 World Cup opener but since then England’s men have been first on the scoresheet in their major tournament openers.


Can you help?

“By my count there are five grounds being used for Euro 2024 that will be home to second tier teams next season: Hertha Berlin, Schalke, Hamburg, Fortuna Düsseldorf, and Köln. This is half of the grounds being used. Has the European Championship, World Cup or any major tournament ever had a higher number or proportion of stadiums that are home to clubs outside of the top division?” wonders Jack Edwards.

“I recently came across erstwhile Luton coach Dmitri Kharine having the record caps for post-Soviet oddity CIS (with 11 caps). Is this the lowest highest-appearance (for club or country) record ever?” wonders Ben Wood.

“German magazine Kicker lists the Euro 2024 groups with the corresponding flags next to the nation’s names,” begins Paul Nawrata. “This made me think – the group with the least colours in the flags are C and D, with three colours each: red, blue and white. Groups A and B have the highest number with six colours each. A group with just two colours would be the minimum, let’s say a group consisting of England, Switzerland, Georgia and Turkey (all red and white). My question: ignoring the odd multi-coloured crest in some nation’s flags: what’s the highest and lowest number of colours ever in a group (Euros and World Cup)? Of course there have been group stages with more (or less) than four teams per group, but anyway.”

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