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7 Worst Defending World Cup Winners

Neymar Jr of Brazil sees his effotr saved by Keylor Navas of Costa Rica during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group E match between Brazil and Costa Rica at Saint Petersburg Stadium on...

Reigning world champions Germany lost their opening game of the 2018 World Cup to Mexico in a result which shocked millions across the globe, however, the defending champions losing their opening World Cup match is far from unusual.

In fact, defending world champions having poor tournaments all round is a surprisingly common occurrence. Only two countries have ever retained the World Cup in consecutive tournaments, the most recent coming almost half a century ago in 1962.

Here are our 7 worst defending World Cup winners

7. Italy - 1986

The goal scoring exploits of Paolo Rossi inspired Italy to victory at the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain, their first triumph in the tournament for 44 years. European teams have tended to struggle at tournaments held outside of the continent, and as the reigning champions in Mexico four years later, Italy were no exceptions. They got out of the groups, but were comfortably beaten 2-0 by France in the round of 16.

6. Argentina - 1982

2 Jul 1982:  Socrates2 Jul 1982: Socrates

Argentina won the World Cup for the first time in their history hosting the tournament in 1978, with talisman Mario Kempes bagging six goals, including a brace in the final. Four years later - and with a 21-year-old Diego Maradona in their side - Argentina should have been real candidates, but they suffered from internal disputes and bowed out pretty poorly. They squeezed through the first round of the group stages despite losing their opening game to Belgium, but went out bottom of their group in the second group stage, losing to both Italy and Brazil.

5. Italy - 1950

A little bit of a harsh inclusion, perhaps, since there was a 12 year gap between Italy winning the World Cup in 1938 and featuring in the finals of 1950 due to the Second World War, but they were defending world champions nonetheless. The Italians had none of their class of ‘38 in their squad by 1950, but they were still considered a dangerous outfit. It didn’t turn out that way, as they beat Paraguay, but lost to Sweden and went out in the group stages.

4. Brazil - 1966

22nd July 1966:  Footballer Eusebio Ferreira da Silva of Portugal celebrates his team's World Cup win against Brazil.22nd July 1966: Footballer Eusebio Ferreira da Silva of Portugal celebrates his team's World Cup win against Brazil.

Brazil were resounding world champions in both 1958 and 1962, playing some of the most vibrant football the game has ever seen. Four years after that second success came the 1966 World Cup in England. Brazil were hot favourites once more, and understandably so. They won their first game against Bulgaria, but failed to recover from an injury to star man Pele, as well as the rough and tumble tactics employed by Hungary and Portugal. They lost to both of those two and went out in the group stages. With a fit Pele, they made amends four years later though…

3. Spain - 2014

The most recent inclusion in this seven, Spain were incredibly underwhelming in Brazil four years ago. Having been by far the best national team in the world in South Africa in 2010, and having won consecutive European Championship titles in 2008 and 2012, they fell apart in the heat of Brazil. Despite still having a brilliant squad boasting the likes of Ramos, Pique, Xavi and Iniesta, Spain threw away a 1-0 lead and lost 5-1 to the Netherlands in their opening game. That set the tone for their entire tournament, as they then lost to Chile before beating Australia. A record of won one, lost two saw them fail to find a way out of their group.

2. Italy - 2010

Italy's national football team poses on June 3, 2010 at the Heysel stadium prior to a friendly football match against Mexico in Brussels ahead of the FIFA 2010 World Cup held in South...Italy's national football team poses on June 3, 2010 at the Heysel stadium prior to a friendly football match against Mexico in Brussels ahead of the FIFA 2010 World Cup held in South...

Italy were unfancied winners of the 2006 World Cup, despite having a fantastic array of talents at their disposal. They still had the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta and Andrea Pirlo for the finals in South Africa four years later, but they couldn’t replicate their heroics in Germany. In fact, they failed to win a single game, drawing with Paraguay and New Zealand before defeat to Slovakia. Wow, the Italians getting to a World Cup only to finish bottom of their group behind New Zealand, they must have thought it couldn’t get any worse...

1. France - 2002

Topping Italy in 2010 as the worst defending World Cup winners in history is no mean feat, but France’s class of 2002 did just that. France won the World Cup convincingly on home soil in 1998, as well as reaching the final in 2006. Sandwiched between those two, though, was the 2002 tournament jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan. It was there that a French squad containing the likes of Lilian Thuram, Marcel Desailly, Patrick Vieira, Claude Makelele, Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet, among others, who had been expected to breeze through their group, were dumped out in last place without a single goal to their name. France lost to Senegal and Denmark as well as drawing with Uruguay, making them undoubtedly the worst defending World Cup winners in history for us.

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