Defending champions France head into the World Cup in Qatar hoping to interrupt the curse that has plagued the previous title holders – a jinx the French inaugurated in 2002 when their formidable armada of strikers famously failed to attain a single objective.
The 2022 World Cup kicks off in Qatar on Sunday, November 20, with France bidding to develop into the primary workforce to win back-to-back trophies since Brazil in 1958 and 1962. Affected by a string of high-profile accidents, “Les Bleus” can even should deal with the burden of world cup historical past.
France’s defeat of holders Brazil on the 1998 World Cup marked the final time the match’s defending champions got here wherever near retaining the title. Of the following 5 World Cup holders, 4 didn’t even attain the knockout stage and three completed final of their group.
Such was the destiny of the mighty French workforce that arrived on the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea as each world and European champions, with a entrance line that contained the highest goalscorers from three main European leagues.
Removed from justifying their standing because the match’s scorching favourites, the 1998 champions flopped spectacularly within the group stage, crashing out with out a single win in one of many greatest upsets in World Cup historical past.
Historical past would repeat itself in subsequent tournaments, leading to humiliating early exits for defending champions Italy (2010), Spain (2014) and Germany (2018), and a lackluster quarter-final defeat by Brazil in 2006.
This is a take a look at what went mistaken for the title holders.
Whereas France gained their first World Cup in 1998 with out a striker, the workforce vowing to repeat the feat 4 years later had an abundance of scoring alternatives. With Arsenal striker Thierry Henry, Juventus marksman David Trezeguet and French league high scorer Djibril Cisse, the French assault appeared just about unstoppable.
With Zinedine Zidane anchoring the midfield, and the core of the 1998 workforce nonetheless current, it appeared affordable to imagine the French would get by a bunch containing newcomers Senegal, Uruguay and a Danish aspect stripped of the Laudrup brothers.
However nothing went in response to plan.
5 days earlier than the beginning of the World Cup, Zidane suffered a thigh damage throughout a warm-up match that dominated him out of the primary two group stage matches. Every week later, France had been shocked by underdogs Senegal, with Papa Bouba Diop scoring the one objective in a well-known victory for the Lions of Teranga.
Senegalese followers have a good time on the Champs Elysées in Paris after their workforce’s historic qualification to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup. AFP – JEAN AYISSI
French hopes of bouncing again within the second leg had been dashed when Henry was despatched off after 25 minutes for a reckless problem in a 0-0 draw with Uruguay. A strapped Zidane rushed again to the final sport towards Denmark, which France wanted to win by two targets. As a substitute, Les Bleus misplaced 2-0 and went dwelling embarrassed.
Twenty years later, the warning indicators are ominous. As soon as once more, accidents have knocked out key midfielders in a nonetheless fearsome French aspect that boasts one of the best assault on the planet… similar to in 2002.
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Zidane would bounce again in model 4 years later on the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the place it was France’s flip to topple reigning champions Brazil.
The Seleçao had been scorching favorites to repeat their historic one-two finishes of 1958 and 1962, led by the flamboyant brilliance of Ronaldinho, Kaka and World Cup veteran Ronaldo. Nonetheless, the French had struggled once more within the group stage, Zidane wanting out of practice and sad with coach Raymond Domenech.
However the 1998 hero rose to the event within the quarter-final towards Brazil, producing maybe essentially the most dazzling midfield efficiency in World Cup historical past. Zidane’s balletic stability and pirouettes confused Brazil and silenced the champions’ “samba football”, and his free-kick arrange Henry for the match-winning volley.
Sadly for France, Zidane’s renaissance would come to an abrupt finish within the ultimate sport towards Italy, most remembered for the notorious headbutt that ended one of many lovely sport’s biggest careers.
2010: Italy despatched packing
Italy’s title protection in 2010 was so weak that it put France’s fiasco in 2002 into perspective. Just like the French, the Azzurri completed backside of their group, behind a trio of groups – Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia – they had been anticipated to roll over with ease.
Of their opening sport, Italy salvaged a 1-1 draw towards Paraguay, with midfielder Daniele De Rossi equalizing. The four-time champions as soon as once more fell behind their opponents within the second sport towards New Zealand earlier than securing one other goalless draw, courtesy of a penalty.
Italy had been then performed out by Slovakia within the ultimate group stage match and crashed out of the match after a 3–2 loss.
First-choice striker Alberto Gilardino didn’t ship, blunting Italy’s assault. However the true letdown proved to be Italy’s usually watertight defence, with 2006 World Cup hero Fabio Cannavaro this time the weakest hyperlink.
2014: The twilight of Spain’s golden age
Coach Vicente del Bosque’s mighty Spain arrived in Brazil as defending world champions and double European champions, having gained all three main competitions they entered between 2008 and 2012, powered by a joyous midfield that included Barcelona legends Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.
Given their impeccable file, it was a fairly impolite awakening for Roja after they had been thrashed 5-1 by the Netherlands of their World Cup opener – in a counter-attacking masterclass that heralded the demise of Spain’s ‘tiki-taka’, possession-based model of play.
Spain had been torn aside by the Dutch duo of Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. © Javier Soriano, AFP
Regardless of the defensive pairing of Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique, gaps on the again had been uncovered once more within the second group stage match, which Chile gained 2-0, successfully ending Spain’s title defence. A subsequent 3-0 win over Australia supplied scant comfort.
The star-studded workforce’s untimely exit symbolized how two golden eras – Barcelona’s, at membership stage, and Spain’s – had been coming to an finish.
2018: And ultimately… Germany squanders their probabilities
Spain’s successors Germany topped FIFA’s rankings at the beginning of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, their squad largely unchanged from the ruthless attacking machine that put seven targets previous Brazil within the semi-finals 4 years earlier.
Nonetheless, the defending champions slumped to a messy 1-0 defeat towards Mexico of their opening match, earlier than getting back from a objective down within the following match to narrowly beat Sweden within the ninety fifth minute.
After surviving the Sweden scare with simply 10 males, Germany’s title protection again on monitor. They wanted to beat South Korea of their ultimate group sport to safe a spot within the knockout levels.
Forward of the match, South Korea’s coach gave his workforce a “1 percent chance” of securing a 2-0 win over the title holders – the one method the Koreans might hope to qualify for the final 16. Surprisingly, his gamers duly delivered, scoring twice in stoppage time to eradicate a shell-shocked German squad that had earlier squandered a number of probabilities.
South Korea defender Kim Younger-gwon celebrates after scoring towards holders Germany on the 2018 World Cup. © Jewel Samad, AFP
Sadly for South Korea, Sweden’s defeat to Mexico meant that the Scandinavians certified forward of them. However their victory over the formidable ‘Mannschaft’ would go down in historical past as one of many nice World Cup upsets.