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Spain hit with World Cup defending champions curse

Almighty Spain out of the World Cup: A curse of defending champions?

June 19, 2014 By Roxane Coche
After six years on top of the world, Team Spain has come back down crashing to the ground. Their World Cup 2014 group stage exit has millions of La Furia Roja fans in shock worldwide.

After their humiliating defeat against the Netherlands (5-1) in the opening game, the Spaniards have suffered yet another loss last night, 2-0 against Chile. Spain has thus become the fifth defending champions in history eliminated as early as the group stage (Italy 1950, Brazil 1966, France 2002, and Italy 2010), a page of history Vicente del Bosque's men would have rather avoided writing.

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is the 20th edition of the tournament. This means that 5 times out of 20 – or 25% of the time, the defending champion crashed out in the group stage of the competition. Knowing that (1) the 4th edition in 1942 was canceled because of World War II, and (2) that some of the early events did not even have a group round, that figure is actually higher. 

Overall, only two teams were able to win back-to-back world cups: Italy in 1934-1938 and Brazil in 1958-1962. Not to take anything away from those achievements, but the fact is that it was a different era. The 1938 tournament in France only welcomed 15 participating nations. In the same vein, only 16 teams made the trip to Chile in 1962. That is half as many teams as this year's event. The game, of course was also very different back then.

Looking at modern history, since the World Cup became a 32-team competition in 1998, three of the four World champions were eliminated in the group stage of the following World Cup: France in 2002, Italy in 2010, and now Spain in 2014. The sole survivor is Brazil who after lifting the trophy in 2002 reached the quarter finals in Germany four years later.

France 2002

Following its victories in the 1998 World Cup and 2000 Euro Cup, team France was seen as the favorite to win the first Asian World Cup. Instead, Roger Lemerre's players became the first – and so far only –  defending champions to fail at scoring a goal in World Cup history. Deprived of Zinedine Zidane injured, team France started its World Cup overly confident, and they soon suffered the consequences. With losses against Senegal (1-0) and Denmark (2-0) and a scoreless tie against Uruguay in between, les Bleus flew back to France much earlier than expected.

Italy 2006

When Italy was drawn in a group with Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia, everybody thought the Azzurri would breeze through it. It didn't happen. While Italy was far superior on paper, the story was quite different on the field. Marcelo Lippi and his men were sent packing after two shocking 1-all ties against Paraguay and New Zealand, and one surprising defeat against Slovakia (3-2).

Spain 2014

Much like France in 2002, many soccer experts predicted Spain would reach the final of this year's tournament. Despite being drawn into a trickier group than both France's group in 2002 or Italy's group in 2006, few imagined the Spaniards hanging their heads so soon in the competition. In its first two games, La Roja never quite looked like the well-oiled machine it used to be. With a shaky defense and inefficient strikers, it was almost as if the aging Spanish players had never played together, despite winning their last three major events (Euro Cup 2008-World Cup 2010-Euro Cup 2012).

Team Spain now has one game left to save some face, but beware of the Australians who offered two very gutsy performances against Chile (1-3) and the Netherlands (2-3).



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Group A
Jun 14 11:00amMoscow
Russia 5 - 0 Saudi Arabia
Jun 15 8:00amYekaterinburg
Egypt 0 - 1 Uruguay
Jun 19 2:00pmSaint Petersburg
Russia 3 - 1 Egypt
Jun 20 11:00amRostov-on-Don
Uruguay 1 - 0 Saudi Arabia
Jun 25 10:00amVolgograd
Saudi Arabia vs Egypt
Jun 25 10:00amSamara
Uruguay vs Russia
Group B
Jun 15 11:00amSaint Petersburg
Morocco 0 - 1 Iran
Jun 15 2:00pmSochi
Portugal 3 - 3 Spain
Jun 20 8:00amMoscow
Portugal 1 - 0 Morocco
Jun 20 2:00pmKazan
Iran 0 - 1 Spain
Jun 25 2:00pmSaransk
Iran vs Portugal
Jun 25 2:00pmKaliningrad
Spain vs Morocco
Group C
Jun 16 6:00amKazan
France 2 - 1 Australia
Jun 16 12:00pmSaransk
Peru 0 - 1 Denmark
Jun 21 8:00amSamara
Denmark 1 - 1 Australia
Jun 21 11:00amYekaterinburg
France 1 - 0 Peru
Jun 26 10:00amSochi
Australia vs Peru
Jun 26 10:00amMoscow
Denmark vs France
Group D
Jun 16 9:00amMoscow
Argentina 1 - 1 Iceland
Jun 16 3:00pmKaliningrad
Croatia 2 - 0 Nigeria
Jun 21 2:00pmNizhny Novgorod
Argentina 0 - 3 Croatia
Jun 22 11:00amVolgograd
Nigeria 2 - 0 Iceland
Jun 26 2:00pmRostov-on-Don
Iceland vs Croatia
Jun 26 2:00pmSaint Petersburg
Nigeria vs Argentina
Group E
Jun 17 8:00amSamara
Costa Rica 0 - 1 Serbia
Jun 17 2:00pmRostov-on-Don
Brazil 1 - 1 Switzerland
Jun 22 8:00amSaint Petersburg
Brazil 2 - 0 Costa Rica
Jun 22 2:00pmKaliningrad
Serbia 1 - 2 Switzerland
Jun 27 2:00pmMoscow
Serbia vs Brazil
Jun 27 2:00pmNizhny Novgorod
Switzerland vs Costa Rica
Group F
Jun 17 11:00amMoscow
Germany 0 - 1 Mexico
Jun 18 8:00amNizhny Novgorod
Sweden 1 - 0 Korea Republic
Jun 23 11:00amRostov-on-Don
Korea Republic 1 - 2 Mexico
Jun 23 2:00pmSochi
Germany 2 - 1 Sweden
Jun 27 10:00amKazan
Korea Republic vs Germany
Jun 27 10:00amYekaterinburg
Mexico vs Sweden
Group G
Jun 18 11:00amSochi
Belgium 3 - 0 Panama
Jun 18 2:00pmVolgograd
Tunisia 1 - 2 England
Jun 23 8:00amMoscow
Belgium 5 - 2 Tunisia
Jun 24 8:00amNizhny Novgorod
England 6 - 1 Panama
Jun 28 2:00pmKaliningrad
England vs Belgium
Jun 28 2:00pmSaransk
Panama vs Tunisia
Group H
Jun 19 8:00amSaransk
Colombia 1 - 2 Japan
Jun 19 11:00amMoscow
Poland 1 - 2 Senegal
Jun 24 11:00amYekaterinburg
Japan 2 - 2 Senegal
Jun 24 2:00pmKazan
Poland vs Colombia
Jun 28 10:00amVolgograd
Japan vs Poland
Jun 28 10:00amSamara
Senegal vs Colombia
Knockout Stage

Round of 16
Jun 30 10:00amKazan
[1C] vs [2D]
Jun 30 2:00pmSochi
[1A] vs [2B]
Jul 1 10:00amMoscow
[1B] vs [2A]
Jul 1 2:00pmNizhny Novgorod
[1D] vs [2C]
Round of 16
Jul 2 10:00amSamara
[1E] vs [2F]
Jul 2 2:00pmRostov-on-Don
[1G] vs [2H]
Jul 3 10:00amSaint Petersburg
[1F] vs [2E]
Jul 3 2:00pmMoscow
[1H] vs [2G]
Quarter Final
Jul 6 10:00amNizhny Novgorod
[W49] vs [W50]
Jul 6 2:00pmKazan
[W53] vs [W54]
Jul 7 10:00amSamara
[W55] vs [W56]
Jul 7 2:00pmSochi
[W51] vs [W52]
Jul 10 2:00pmSaint Petersburg
[W57] vs [W58]
Jul 11 2:00pmMoscow
[W59] vs [W60]
Third place match
Jul 14 10:00amSaint Petersburg
[L61] vs [L62]
Jul 15 11:00amMoscow
Final: FIFA World Cup 2018