Mark O’Haire’s Euro Tips – France v Romania
Hosts France open the 2016 European Championships against Romania at the Stade de France with the home side heavily fancied to kick-start their campaign with a comfortable victory on Friday night.
France v Romania, Friday 10th June, 20.00, ITV1
Les Bleus have been backed into Euro 2016 favouritism over the past six months and the layers are taking no chances in the curtain-raiser, chalking Didier Deschamps’ men up at just 3/10 to take maximum points.
France have W5-D5-L0 in 10 clashes against Romania since their last head-to-head loss in 1972, although four of the last five meetings have ended all square. That was the case in the 2008 Euros encounter which finished goalless.
Stat fans might also be concerned by the poor record of tournament hosts and co-hosts in opening European Championship tournament matches. Since 1984, only Ukraine (2012) have started their finals campaign with a successful result.
There’s no clear correlation in the goals markets but if we include results since 2002, as well as World Cups and Copa Americas, only two of the past 14 opening matches have seen the hosts keep clean sheets. Both Teams To Score has landed on 10 occasions with seven fixtures featuring at least three goals.
Deschamps’ favoured XI from the back end of 2015 has required plenty of tinkering, particularly at the back where injuries to Mamadou Sakho, Raphael Varane, Jeremy Mathieu and Kurt Zouma have left centre-half looking short of cover. With Lassana Diarra also absent, defensively France are vulnerable.
However, N’Golo Kante’s elevation into the first XI should steady nerves despite accident-waiting-to-happen Adil Rami joining Laurent Koscielny at centre-back.
The hosts have shipped eight goals in their past five outings; nevertheless, France’s backline shouldn’t come under serious threat on Friday.
Expect Les Bleus to dominate possession and underdogs Romania to defend deep, keeping as compact as possible in their 4-2-3-1 formation. Recent friendly results aren’t a fair reflection on the Tricolorii’s standard performances under Anghel Iordanescu and we could be in for a rather dull first fixture.
Romania are a team built on unity, organisation, work ethic and nullifying their opponents with aggressive destroyers Mihai Pintilii and Ovidiu Hoban patrolling the area in front of defence. Possession is often ceded to the opposition with set-pieces, moments of magic and counter-attacks relied on for goals.
No player scored more than twice during qualification, only two squad members have scored double-figures on international duty and no qualified side scored as few goals (11) as Romania en-route to France.
Playmaker Nicolae Stanciu has made an excellent impression since his March debut and Florin Andone has scored consistently in Spain’s second tier this season but make no mistake, the Tricolorii will be aiming to frustrate France.
For Les Bleus, failing to get off the mark with a win is an unthinkable prospect. France hold a rather unimpressive recent record in this competition – W1-D2-L5, failing to score in five of those eight outings – but Deschamps’ troops arrive at the capital in fine fettle.
The hosts have W9-D0-L1 since June last year with their only reverse coming against England at Wembley, just days after the traumatic terrorist attacks in Paris.
It’s often difficult to judge non-competitive internationals but France’s well-stocked squad and home advantage should eventually prove decisive and so backing Les Bleus to squeeze out a low-scoring victory makes plenty of sense. In this case, the 9/5 on a French win and Under 2.5 Goals stands out.
Only 8/22 (36%) of Romania’s competitive internationals since Euro 2012 produced Over 2.5 Goals – include France’s meaningful matches across the same sample and cumulatively the two teams have seen just 15/37 (41%) matches break the Over 2.5 Goals barrier.
The first round of group games since Euro ’96 have averaged 2.20 goals-per-game.
It’s also worth noting Romania have conceded three or more goals in only three outings since 2009 – they’re rarely opened up.
France have enough quality in their locker to eke out a win but it might not be the cakewalk the pre-match odds suggest. An alternative is to back France in the HT-FT market at 10/11 – the home side have led at the interval in each of their past eight victories.
France to win and Under 2.5 Goals @ 9/5
*Prices correct at time of publication.