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FIFA World Cup 2018: Germany become latest victims of 'curse' afflicting defending champions in football's mega event

Being the defending champions at the World Cup has proven to be a tough challenge in recent years.

Four of the last five winners, including Germany this year, have failed to get out of the group stage of the next tournament. The one exception was 2002 champions Brazil in 2006.

Although only Italy in 1938 and Brazil in 1962 have successfully defended their World Cup titles, most champions in the 20th century managed to get themselves beyond the first stage.

Here's a look at the ones that didn't in this century:

2002

France arrived at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea as the favorites to defend the title they won at home four years earlier.

After all, France had also won the 2000 European Championship and had a free-scoring striker in David Trezeguet, unlike in 1998 when the team relied on goals from elsewhere.

However, on the eve of the tournament, Zinedine Zidane injured his thigh in a friendly and would miss the start of the tournament. In the opening match, Senegal upset the defending champions 1-0.

France's Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet at the final whistle after their loss to Senegal in the 2002 World Cup. Reuters

France's Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet at the final whistle after their loss to Senegal in the 2002 World Cup. Reuters

In France's next match, they drew 0-0 against Uruguay, again without Zidane.

"Zizou" made a return for the must-win game against Denmark but he was a shadow of his former self and France lost 2-0, eliminated from the tournament with only one point and no goals.

2010

Italy have historically been slow starters in World Cups. But in 2010, defending the title they had won in Germany, the Italians barely awoke from their slumber.

The Azzurri picked up only two points from three group matches after successive draws against Paraguay and New Zealand were followed by a surprise 3-2 loss to Slovakia.

Italy's Fabio Cannavaro (L) looks dejected at the end of the Slovakia match after failing to qualify for the second round in the 2002 World Cup. Reuters

Italy's Fabio Cannavaro (L) looks dejected at the end of the Slovakia match after failing to qualify for the second round in the 2002 World Cup. Reuters

Like France in 2002, Italy finished at the bottom of their group, with injuries and age playing their part.

Marcello Lippi, the World Cup-winning coach from 2006, took responsibility for the disappointing performance in South Africa and admitted he hadn't prepared his team well enough.

2014

Spain turned up in 2014 widely expected to be the first team since Brazil in 1962 to defend their World Cup title.

The Spanish had been all-conquering since 2008, winning back-to-back European Championships as well as the World Cup in 2010.

Spain's Fernando Torres (R), Andres Iniesta (C) and Iker Casillas look dejected at the end of the match against Chile at the 2014 World Cup. Reuters

Spain's Fernando Torres (R), Andres Iniesta (C) and Iker Casillas look dejected at the end of the match against Chile at the 2014 World Cup. Reuters

They had a tough first match against the Netherlands to contend with, but all seemed to be going as planned when Xabi Alonso slotted in a 27th-minute penalty to give his team a 1-0 lead. Spain then nearly doubled their lead before a spectacular header from Robin van Persie got the Dutch even.

The second half capitulation was a shock. The match ended 5-1 to the men in orange.

Still, Spain had lost their opening match to Switzerland in 2010 and went on to win the title. But this time, Spain then went on to lose 2-0 to Chile in their next match and were eliminated from the World Cup in Brazil six days after it had begun.

2018

Germany, still with the nucleus of the successful 2014 team, arrived in Russia expected to contend after doing little wrong between World Cups.

The Germans reached the semi-finals at the 2016 European Championship and won last year's Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal for the tournament in Russia, with what was basically a reserve team.

Germany's Mario Gomez and Mats Hummels react after a missed chance against South Korea at the 2018 World Cup. Reuters

Germany's Mario Gomez and Mats Hummels react after a missed chance against South Korea at the 2018 World Cup. Reuters

But the Germans never really got going this time, losing their opening match to Mexico 1-0.

A last-gasp winner from Toni Kroos against Sweden in the second match appeared to have gotten Germany back on track. But a 2-0 loss to South Korea in the final group match meant elimination and last place in the group.

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Updated Date: Jun 28, 2018 13:02 PM

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