Defence in tatters – World Cup success difficult to repeat
By Etta McEwan
When Germany’s defence of its World Cup title ended prematurely in the group stage of Russia 2018, it was one of the major upsets of recent World Cups.
But while the Germans performance belied their world number one ranking, the inability of a nation to successfully defend the title should not be such a surprise.
You have to go back 56 years to find the most recent World Cup defence when Brazil won the 1962 tournament in Chile after success four years earlier in Sweden.
The only other country to achieve the feat was Italy which won in 1934 on home soil and four years later in France.
Germany arrived in Russia as one of the tournament favourites but with losses to Mexico and South Korea – and a last-minute win against Sweden – failed to make it out of the group stages.
💬 “I still feel a huge sense of disappointment, but I am fully committed to leading us through this rebuilding phase” – Joachim #Löw is staying on as #DieMannschaft head coach 👉 https://t.co/ig3iF594cs pic.twitter.com/amteKwboGK
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) July 3, 2018
A look back at World Cup winners shows Germany is not alone in struggling to defend the title.
In three of the past four tournaments, the holders have not made it out of the group stage.
In 2002, France went out without winning a match, the same happened to Italy in 2010 and Spain lost 5-1 to the Netherlands as part of its failed 2014 campaign.
Since the turn of the century, Brazil has been the only World Cup champion to make it to the knockout stage of the next tournament when, in 2006, it lost to France in the quarter-finals.
One of the surprises is the underwhelming nature of these World Cup defences.
Each of these countries went into the next World Cup as the number one ranked team except Italy (ranked 5th), meaning they had all sustained success in the period after winning the title and were expected to launch a serious tilt at retaining the crown.
The lesson from recent history is that the nation that does win the final in Moscow on July 15 should just savour the four years as world champions because, beyond that, a repeat performance would be against all the odds.