Twenty years after Brazil’s last planetary triumph, and at the heart of an historic shortage for South America, the American subcontinent has very little left to roll the mechanic. Before perhaps rejoining the peaks on December 18th in Lusail, he has two final glorious titles. One who comes from afar: Brazil are the last world champions to keep their crown. It’s (very) long ago since it dates back to 1962 in Chile. The other, a little closer, which points to an inconsistency of the magnitude of the World Cup’s long history: the Brazilians are again the last reigning world champions to have crossed the first round. That was in Germany in 2006.
That Ronaldo’s Brazil, crowned in Yokohama, fell to the Blues in the quarter-finals in Frankfurt four years later is an oddity on the order of the 21st century. Because the other fans involved in the World Cup have all fallen in the first round of the competition for two decades.
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The unbelievable quadruple
France got the ball rolling in 2002. Italy followed in 2010. Gluttonous Spain joined the duo in 2014. And Germany, who have never been eliminated in the first round since 1938, played their part in 2018. In short, Europe has achieved the unthinkable 4/4 and it is all the more incredible given that in the 20th century only Brazil was dropped from the entry in 1966. Pelé’s legs still remember it.
Mario Americo with Pelé during the 1966 World Cup in England.
In short, what was an exception has become the rule. But apart from being reigning world champions, what do France, Italy, Spain or Germany have in common? What did you lose along the way? The similarities are there, albeit not striking. In 2002, the Bleus de Lemerre were conservative but were stripped of their best. The 2010 Italians, still in a group with New Zealand, Paraguay and Slovakia, have been renewed in numbers but not in leadership positions or talent, particularly up front. Spain had continued to trust its masters in the world and in Europe, but was nearing the end of an extraordinary odyssey without a valid plan B.
As for Germany 2018, it had changed in depth as there were still nine heroes from Rio. In addition, his coach Joachim Löw. But she had also picked herself up from the start. “The team was of quality, but without a game idea”remembers Dennis Melzer, a Eurosport journalist who was in Russia four years ago. “Many leaders like Lahm or Schweinsteiger had left. The home of the national team had also been criticized. Nobody felt as at home as they did in Brazil four years ago.”.
Özil, Müller, Kroos at the 2018 World Cup
Photo credit: Imago
Criticized after a failed competition, the resort is a classic. Remember the Hotel des Bleus in South Korea, open to the four winds… The bedding often has a good back, but in the end it doesn’t tell much about the reasons for a fall at that height. Beyond the renewal, or not, the weight of the club season in Europe that has increased in the 21st century, coupled with waiting and pressure, are other ingredients that spice up the recipe. Add a touch of wear and tear, mentally and/or physically, and you’ve got what it takes to crash. But anything but a rule.
That won’t spoil my mood
As France prepares to enter the arena and dreams of not imitating their predecessors, they don’t necessarily know how to do it any differently. Because, question of renewal, Didier Deschamps did the job, events left him no choice. Eleven minus Kimpembe, who resigned on Monday: there will only be 10 French world champions in Qatar. His team is currently lacking benchmarks, back, middle and if it has what it takes up front, it’s barely enough.
“That’s the high level… Winning is difficult. Keeping going and staying at the highest level is even harder, remembers Didier Deschamps. There’s talent out there. There are different benchmarks, some hold 15 world champions, some less than 10 or 12… It’s factual. But that won’t hurt my morale. Between the World Cup and the European Championship there were changes in our team for various reasons. When you win, you always want to win and you know why you won. But there is the reality of the high level.” Increased competition is a trail that lasts.
What about world champions captain Hugo Lloris, 139 caps on the clock? “You can’t not think about it. It happens once, twice, thrice… There have to be reasons. I think the staff and the coach have prepared the best possible team. Being the defending champions also means being a team that can to beat. We have felt that in recent years. We feel that the opponents are even more motivated to bring down the world champion. There is also a risk in the first games, accidents can happen.. Unsure of the cure, the blues won’t be able to say they weren’t warned.
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