Make that four champions in the last five World Cups to not make it to the knockout round.

By 90Min
June 28, 2018

Germany's shock defeat against South Korea, combined with Sweden's comfortable win over Mexico ensured that the World Cup holders have fallen at the first hurdle in their bid to retain the crown they won in such style four years ago in Brazil.

The reaction from the English press has been a bit much, but given that Germany were favourites to lift the trophy after seemingly getting even better in the time that passed between this World Cup and the last, it is an enormous shock to see them go.

Yet it is one that has now been repeated many times in recent memory - a World Cup curse?

The Germans are certainly not the first World Cup winners to be eliminated in the group stage. Hell, they are not even the first this century...or the second, or the third.

After South Korea avenged defeat in the 2002 semifinal, Germany are the fourth World Cup holders to be dumped out at the group stage in the last 16 years. In fact, only one reigning champion this century hasn't befallen that embarrassing fate, and that was Brazil in 2006.

For European World Cup winners it has been a sorry story next time out to say the least.

It began with France in 2002. Les Bleus were reigning World and European champions at the time and were tipped to continue their dominance, not least because their group featured World Cup debutants Senegal, Uruguay in their first World Cup since 1990, and Denmark.

The defeat at the hands of Senegal remains one of the World Cup's greatest ever upsets, while a loss against Denmark after drawing with Uruguay sealed France's fate at the foot of the group.

Fast forward to 2010 and reigning champions Italy also finished bottom of what seemed like a relatively straightforward group four years after lifting the trophy.

The Azzurri, who also fell out at the group in 2014 and didn't even qualify to 2018, failed to beat Paraguay and New Zealand, before a loss in their third and final game against World Cup newcomers Slovakia sealed their fate in the form of an early exit.

Spain won that World Cup, but in 2014 they fell from grace as France in 2002 had spectacularly done. The Spanish were double reigning European champions as well as World Cup holders, and yet a full on collapse, combined with tactical masterclass from Louis van Gaal saw them get annihilated 5-1 by the Netherlands in their opening game.

Vicente del Bosque's Roja never recovered, and a 2-0 defeat to Chile in the next game knocked them out with a game to spare. Only a final win against Australia, who were also already out, ensured that they would at least go home with a victory to their name.

And so now we have Germany. They had been given hope by a very late Toni Kroos free kick to beat Sweden after a disastrous start when they lost to Mexico. But they paid the price when they couldn't beat South Korea, exiting the World Cup in the first round for the first time in 80 years.

No country has successfully retained the World Cup since 1962 when a Brazil side inspired by Garrincha held onto the Jules Rimet trophy after winning four years earlier in 1958. And no European side has done it since Italy won back-to-back titles in 1934 and 1938.

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