Winning the FIFA World Cup is the pinnacle of most footballer’s careers, and few of even the most decorated or well known players in the world can boast the World Cup medal in their trophy haul.
With that out of the way, since 2002, the World Cup Winner’s Curse Phenomenon has become a very real thing that should worry all those who lift the trophy.
Will France, the 2018 World Cup champions, fall victim to the curse that interestingly, began with their very own team as well? Let us examine the history of the curse, and how it has brought misery to those that have managed to hoist the biggest trophy in world football.
The Beginning : France – 2002
After winning the World Cup in 1998 on home soil, France went into the 2002 edition held in South Korea & Japan with the swagger of champions. That, however, was very short lived as they were immediately brought down to Earth after a shocking loss in their opening game to Senegal.
Les Blues then went on to draw against Uruguay, and finally bowed out of the tournament in the group stage after another defeat, this time at the hands of Denmark. They finished the group stage with only a single point.
Even more baffling is that the French squad in 2002 had the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Fabien Barthez, Thierry Henry, Didier Deschamps and Marcel Desailly. Yet France could not live up to the success of the previous outing at the World Cup, and became the first victims to fall to the curse.
Brazil – 2006
Brazil emerged victorious in the 2002 World Cup, defeating Germany 2-0 in the finals. It must also be noted that this was the year that the curse did not get the memo, as they actually managed to win all 3 games in their group stage, beating Australia, Japan, and Croatia for a flawless opening.
They followed that up with a 3-0 win over Ghana. Ronaldo “Fenomeno”, Adriano, and Ze Roberto were the providers in the routine win as Brazil utterly outclassed their opponents.
However, their stay in Germany was cut short in the next round, as they would be defeated by France 1-0 in the quarter finals, with the killing blow being dealt by Thierry Henry.
Italy – 2010
After being merciful against Brazil in 2006, the WC Winner’s Curse was back to its cruel ways in 2010, with Italy being its latest victims.
Having triumphed over arch-rivals France in the previous World Cup, Italy was not short on confidence as they were seemingly placed into an “easy” group stage, with their competition being Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand.
They stuttered to a draw in their opening fixture against the Paraguayans, before Marcelo Lippi’s side were held again, this time against an unfancied New Zealand side who would ultimately drop out at the Group Stages having stayed unbeaten.
Then came a classic against Slovakia, where, despite four goals being shared equally in the final 20 minutes, a brace from Robert Vittek helped his side to a 3-2 win that sent the World Cup winners packing.
Spain – 2014
Legend says that Spanish fans are still haunted by the image of Robin Van Persie’s “Flying Dutchman” goal against them in the opening game of their 2014 group stage.
La Roja were humiliated in their opening fixture at the 2014 World Cup. Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands side ripped through the tiki-taka playing Iberians, taking emphatic revenge for their World Cup final defeat four years’ earlier with a devastating 5-1 drubbing.
Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben scored two goals apiece while Stefan De Vrij added one of his own to cancel out Xabi Alonso’s opener, on the day where total football proved superior over the tiki-taka playstyle.
While they managed a 3-0 win over Australia in their following game, the Iberians were sent packing after Chile managed to dispose of Spain with a 2-0 scoreline, continuing the tradition of World Cup winners being quick to crash out.
Germany – 2018
If anyone needed any more convincing that the World Cup Winner’s Curse is a thing, mighty Germany is just the latest in a line of victims.
Die Mannschaft utterly dominated throughout the 2014 World Cup tournament, which included an unforgettable 7-1 humiliation of Brazil. Eventually, the Germans would win the ultimate trophy in world football after edging Lionel Messi’s Argentina 1-0 in the finals.
Fast forward to the 2018 World Cup, the curse struck once again. Germany’s group had Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea. The well-oiled German footballing machine fell to Mexico in their opening game, won the next against Sweden, and were struck down by a determined South Korea.
Will the Curse live on?
France were the champions of the World Cup in 2018, and come November, we will see if they will manage to buck the trend that they started, or if they will just be another casualty.
One thing is for sure, with the talent and depth of Les Blues, surely the World Cup trophy has to be cursed if once again, they crash out at the group stage.
We can’t really think of another cause for these uncanny “coincidences”. Can you? Let us know in the comments down below!