Mexico stunned World Cup holders Germany on Sunday, inflicting a 1-0 defeat that throws the Germans’ title defence into disarray. A shock loss as it was, it was not a complete surprise given Germany’s sloppy display and the Fifa World Cup defending champion jinx.
Remember Spain’s crushing 1-5 loss to Netherlands at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil? Or 2002 when Senegal stunned the then world champions France 1-0 in one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history. Italy also exited at the group stage in 2010, with three draws.
While Germany have not failed to make it beyond the opening round of a World Cup since 1938, Joachim Loew’s side now risk following Italy (2010) and Spain (2014).
Here’s a look at the defending champions have lost at the first hurdle at the Fifa World Cup
Spain came into the 2014 World Cup as world Champions and two-time Euro champions. They left with their reputation in tatters after consecutive losses to Netherlands and Chile in the group stage. (Yes, the teams that didn’t make it to this World Cup!)
In the very first match – a rematch of the 2010 final where Iniesta had scored *that* goal to lift the trophy – the famed Spanish defence and goalkeeper Iker Casillas were mercilessly beaten as they conceded five goals. This was only the second time that the Spaniards had conceded this many in a World Cup match, the first was back in 1950.
After getting a lead in the first half, all the once fearsome La Roja had to do was keep the Dutch at bay. But instead, Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben scored two apiece as Stefan de Vrij made it five as the second-half annihilation of defending champions was complete.
Vicente del Bosque’s men then went on to lose to Chile in the next match and left Brazil as the earliest defending champs to exit in over 64 years.
In 1998, France had lifted their first (and only) World Cup beating defending champions Brazil 3–0 in the final at home and remaining unbeaten throughout. In 2002, they lost their first match to World Cup debutant Senegal in Seoul.
Pape Bouba Diop upstaged the long list of big Les Blues names to score the only goal of the match after 30 minutes. To make matters worse for the holders, Zinedine Zidane had to withdraw due to injury. The African team’s relentless attack left the French hassled, a behaviour that carried on for the next couple of matches as the experienced team was knocked out early.
France’s failed to score a goal and managed only a draw and two defeats to crash out miserably in the first round, the worst performance by any defending champion.
While the Diego Maradona-powered defending champions reached the finals of the 1990 World Cup, only to lose to West Germany, it was the first match of the tournament that was perhaps the most defining. And just like the final one, it was the Argentineans that ended up on the losing side.
Cameroon, who became the first African team to reach the World Cup quarter-final, humbled the mighty La Albiceleste with a shock 1-0 win despite having only nine men on field by the end of it. The African nation built on this momentum as they reached the last eight, after topping the group that also had Romania and Soviet Union.
In their opener, Francois Omam-Biyik’s goal proved to be the difference as the underdogs notched a revolutionary victory despite seeing two red cards. But the bigger story of the tournament was Roger Milla, a 38-year-old striker who came out of retirement at the last moment after Cameroonian President insisted he return and scored four crucial goals.
The opening loss was a sign of things to come for the reigning champions. While Maradona and Co reached the final, they did so by winning only two games and scoring five goals in total in an overall scrappy tournament.
Eight years before the Cameroon shock and with a much younger Maradona, Argentina had suffered the same fate as reigning champions. Four years after lifting the trophy at home, the South Americans lost their opener in Spain. But not before we were given this iconic Maradona photograph.
In 1982, it was Belgium that upset the defending champions Argentina 1–0 at the Camp Nou stadium. The home ground of Barcelona, where star player Maradona was headed next, was not a happy hunting ground for them. The team would soon be eliminated in the second group round as Italy lifted their third title.
After an enforced break of 12 years due to World War II, two-time defending champions Italy – who were not full strength due to the war – came to Brazil.
However, they lost their unbeaten record at the big stage when they went down 3-2 to Sweden in the very first game. This loss also meant that were eliminated early despite a win over Panama. Uruguay went on to lift the Cup.
Interestingly, Sweden is the team that Italy failed to get past in the qualifiers and miss the World Cup for the first time in six decades.
Fun fact, this was the year India almost made it to the World Cup, and were placed in the same group as Italy.