World Cup: France facing the curse of champions

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World Cup: France facing the curse of champions

Maintain a title world champion is a (nearly) impossible mission. Only Italy (1934, 1938) and Brazil (1958, 1962) have done so. Another era. Since 2002, a kind of curse even seems to strike the last sacred: France, Italy, Spain and Germany have not even passed the group stage of the edition following their crown. In question ? Too much confidence in players of the past and a style of play unsuited to current football.

2002: France falls from a great height

1998 World Champion and of Europe in 2000, France arrives at the World Cup organized by Japan and Korea in the shoes of the favorite. It also has three top scorers (Henry, Trezeguet, Cissé). But nothing goes as planned in this “World of Fatigue” which sees Argentina, Portugal and therefore France… exit from the group stage.

Roger Lemerre, the coach, cannot manage an overconfident team. In their luxurious hotel, the Blues have a good time, with their families or in the nightclub in the basement. Zinedine Zidane is injured. He leaves a huge void on the pitch, replaced by Youri Djorkaeff then Johan Micoud.

In 2002, France was beaten by Senegal (0-1). (FEL/The Team)

The ground, precisely, does not give gifts to the French. Against Senegal (0-1), Thierry Henry touches the bar while David Trezeguet fails twice on the posts. In the opposing goal, the Monegasque Tony Sylva does wonders.

The second match against Uruguay is of the same ilk (0-0). Now deprived of Zidane and Djorkaeff, France lost Frank Leboeuf to injury then Henry (expelled) in just 25 minutes. Emmanuel Petit touches the post then receives a warning which suspends him for the last match against Denmark. Again, everything goes wrong (0-2). On one leg, Zidane does the maximum but Marcel Desailly then Trezeguet touch the uprights. Without juice, without ideas, France is pitifully eliminated.

2006: Brazil fell to Zidane

Brazil, who finished first in the qualifications of the Amsud zone, arrive in Germany without Edmilson, injured during the preparation camp. This does not prevent him from dominating his group stage with three successes (Croatia, Australia, Japan). If the team is solid (one goal conceded), it struggles offensively despite its stars (Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Adriano).

Brazil suffered against Zidane's France in 2006. (A.Martin/L'Equipe)

Brazil suffered against Zidane’s France in 2006. (A.Martin/L’Equipe)

Critics rain down on the men of Carlos Alberto Parreira, who decides to set up a team of counterattacks, relying in particular on the speed of Robinho. Ghana did not resist offensive transitions (3-0) but this pragmatic Seleçao shattered France in the next round (0-1). And more especially on Zinedine Zidaneauthor of a fantastic match.

“It was nonsense. So-and-so was looking to break records, so-and-so was looking for self-esteem. Brazil did nothing.” then tackles former international Gérson while Jairzinho talks about the team “apathetic and jaded. » At home, fans set fire to a statue of Ronaldinho in Chapeco.

2010: Italy totally obsolete

Four years after his victory in the final against France of an expelled Zidane, it is an Italy at the end of the race which tries in vain to defend its title. The Nazionale aligns one of the teams with the highest average age of the tournament (Cannavaro, Zambrotta, Di Natale, Gattuso, Buffon, Camoranesi …) Back on the bench in place of Roberto Donadoni, Marcello Lippi especially advocates a restrictive game that no longer corresponds to the football of the moment. The failure of the 2009 Confederations Cup (elimination in the group stage), the sluggish qualifications and the sad preparation matches did not alert anyone.

Held in check by Paraguay (1-1), against whom Gigi Buffon is injured, Italy shows nothing against New Zealand (1-1): Fabio Cannavaro commits a blunder and it takes a generous penalty to snatch the draw (1-1).

In 2010, Chiellini and Italy ran out of madness.  (P. Lahalle/The Team)

In 2010, Chiellini and Italy ran out of madness. (P. Lahalle/The Team)

The Nazionale sink against Slovakia in the third game. Led 0-2, she rebels, comes back to the score, but bows (2-3) after seeing Simone Pepe miss the equalizer which would have qualified her. It is the first time that she has taken part in a World Cup without winning a single match. “We weren’t psychologically or physically ready,” assumes Lippi after elimination. Without a player of the style of Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti, Pepito Rossi or Antonio Cassano (the latter two were dismissed by the coach), his team lacked madness and above all creativity. Andrea Pirlo’s calf injury, just before the competition, counted a lot.

2014: the end of the Spanish tiki-taka

Two matches and then gone: world champion for the first time in 2010, Spain experienced a fiasco four years later. First undefeated in a qualifying group including France, solid in preparation matches, Vicente Del Bosque’s Roja still arrives in Brazil without too much ambition. Without Thiago Alcantara (injured to a knee before the tournament) nor Xabi Alonso, she falls from above from the first meeting against the Netherlands, revenge for the previous final.

Leading 1-0 until the 44th, she scuttled after the break (1-5). The central defense (Pique, Ramos) is opened by Arjen Robben. No longer starting at Real for 18 months, Iker Casillas made many mistakes, one of which allowed the fourth Dutch goal…

David Silva's Spain had taken a correction against the Netherlands in 2014. (S.Mantey / L'Equipe)

David Silva’s Spain had taken a correction against the Netherlands in 2014. (S.Mantey / L’Equipe)

The second meeting, against Jorge Sampaoli’s Chile, is a litany of untransformed actions against Claudio Bravo. The South American offensive transitions, behind her back, sink her (0-2). Spain is eliminated, weighed down by players who are exhausted, aging (Xavi) or returning from injury (Piqué, Costa, Busquets, Alba). His too slow tiki-taka, his inability to press when the ball is lost and the absence of a player doing the shopping in front also explain the resounding failure of the “golden generation”.

2018: Germany at the end of the race

Fell in the semi-finals of Euro 2016 against France in Marseille (0-2), Germany is experiencing much greater disillusion in Russia. Reigning world champion, author of a perfect qualifying campaign (10 wins) and winner of the 2017 Confederations Cup, she is one of the favorites for the 2018 World Cup. Too confident, she misses her first match against Mexico ( 0-1). Critics of Mats Hummel (injured during this meeting) update a group notably fractured by the political scandal involving Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan.

Thomas Muller and the Germans arrived overconfident in 2018. (R.Martin/L'Equipe)

Thomas Muller and the Germans arrived overconfident in 2018. (R.Martin/L’Equipe)

Offensively, the team is disappointing. She only scored two goals, including an unlikely free kick from Kroos in added time against Sweden (2-1). Thomas Müller and Timo Werner are not clinical (28 goalless shots against Korea, which won 2-0). It lacks creativity and verticality, especially in the absence of Leroy Sané (dismissed by Joachim Löw). Behind, Jérôme Boateng cracks against the Swedes. Abusing the long game, totally unbalanced, Germany leaves spaces everywhere and leaves the competition from the group stage.

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