World Cup 2022: France’s battle against the curse of the champions at the Qatar 2022 World Cup

France will have to fight against something much stronger at the Qatar 2022 World Cup than injuries to Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba, Presnel Kimpembe, Christopher Nkunku or N’Golo Kante – the curse of the champions.

Only two countries have managed to repeat as World Cup winners in the course of history. The first was Italy (1934 and 1938) and the last, Brazil (1962 and 1966). It is a jinx that has lasted 56 years without anyone breaking it.

How have World Cup winners performec in attempted defences of their crown?

  • Uruguay (1934) – Did not participate
  • Italy (1938) – Champions
  • Italy (1950) – Group stage
  • Uruguay (1954) – Fourth place
  • Germany (1958) – Fourth place
  • Brazil (1962) – Champion
  • Brazil (1966) – Group Stage
  • England (1970) – Quarter-finals
  • Brazil (1974) – Fourth place
  • Germany (1978) – Second group stage
  • Argentina (1982) – Second group stage
  • Italy (1986) – Round of 16
  • Argentina (1990) – Runner-up
  • Germany (1994) – Quarter-finals
  • Brazil (1998) – Runner-up
  • France (2002) – Group stage
  • Brazil (2006) – Quarter-finals
  • Italy (2010) – Group stage
  • Spain (2014) – Group stage
  • Germany (2018) – Group stage
  • France (2022) – TBC

But the curse, far from slowing down, has been increasing over time: four of the last champions have said goodbye at the first hurdle, in the group stage. Only Brazil has broken the rule… and they didn’t get very far and lost in the quarter-finals in 2006.

The World Cup winners’ curse

France (1998-2002)

Les Bleus won the tournament at home and beating Brazil (3-0) in a final that will always be remembered for Ronaldo‘s previous seizures and Zinedine Zidane‘s headed brace. France reaffirmed their dominance by winning Euro 2020 and arrived in South Korea and Japan as the big favorites. However, Zidane, Djorkaeff, Thuram, Desailly, Henry and Trezeguet were defeated. A 1-0 loss to debutants Senegal in the opening match was followed by a 0-0 draw with Uruguay and a 2-0 defeat by Denmark. In fact, Les Bleus left the World Cup at the bottom of Group A with only one point… and without scoring!

Italy (2006-10)

The Azzurri went to Germany 2006 immersed in the ‘calciopoli’ scandal. There was so much noise around that almost nobody counted on an Italy that, after beating Australia (1-0) in the round of 16 with a goal by Totti on a penalty in the 95th minute, grew. In the final, which was marked by Zidane‘s headbutt on Materazzi, they ended up defeating France (5-3) in the shootout. In South Africa 2010, they were more optimistic… but went out in the fast step. The group looked very manageable, but Lippi‘s Italy could only draw with Paraguay (1-1) and New Zealand (1-1). In the last matchday they lost to Slovakia (3-2) and said ‘arrivederci’.

Spain (2010-2014)

La Roja surpassed the feat of France and completed something never seen before in the history of soccer: it was the first team to win three straight tournaments from 2008 to 2012. In South Africa 2010, after the initial defeat to Switzerland, almost everything went according to plan. Perhaps they lacked a little punch to accompany such overwhelming dominance, but Spain beat Portugal (1-0) in the round of 16, Paraguay (0-1) in the quarterfinals, Germany (0-1) in the semis and the Netherlands (0-1) in the final with the unforgettable goal by Iniesta. Del Bosque trusted the same group of players in Brazil 2014 and the Dutch took revenge with a 5-1 win in the opening match. The defeat against Chile (0-2) left the world champion Spain mathematically eliminated on the second matchday. La Roja closed the World Cup with a consolation victory over Australia (0-3) in the farewell that allowed them to finish third in Group B.

Germany (2014-2018)

Germany also had a significant upset. In 2014, it conquered the soccer world with total authority. Gotze‘s goal in the 113th minute was enough to defeat Argentina (1-0) in the final… but the 7-1 defeat of Brazil in the semis remains the standout memory. However, Joachim Low‘s Germany did not age well. In Russia 2018 they trailed from the start. They lost the first match against Mexico, won against Sweden with a great goal by Kroos in the 95th minute and on the last day, while looking for a goal in desperation to go through to the round of 16, they conceded two goals to South Korea (2-0) in added time. It was a defeat that consigned them to last place in Group F.