When Spain won its first World Cup in 2010, the country almost certainly felt it could only mean good things. Spain had already won Euro 08 and would go on to win Euro 12, but while it was forging a path to World Cup glory in South Africa, Italy was realizing what horrors can be endured as the current holders. And now Spain has become the third winner of the last four World Cups to follow its title with group-stage elimination in the next tournament. Only 2002 winners Brazil managed to evade that same fate, but despite that hiccup in the narrative, it's become obvious that 1) curses are totally real, and 2) winning the World Cup is a curse.
Though Spain is now the third straight European World Cup winners to do this, it carries the added indignity of being the first to follow a World Cup title with two consecutive losses in the next group stage. And on top of that, the Spaniards also scored only one goal in those two matches (from the penalty spot), losing by a combined score of 7-1. That's one more goal conceded than in Euro 08, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 12 combined. Of course, Spain has faced two teams that are proving to be quite good in the Netherlands and Chile, but short of having every member of the team suddenly get attacked by bees, it doesn't get much more cursed than that.
As bottomless as Spain's pit of despair now seems, this World Cup winners' curse business hasn't lasted very long for the others. After winning the 1998 World Cup on home soil, France finished bottom of its group in 2002 with one draw, two losses and zero goals scored. Then in 2006, France made it all the way back to the final, only losing on penalties to Italy. After Italy won in 2006, it finished bottom of its group in 2010 with two draws and a loss. Italy then finished runner-up to Spain at Euro 12 and have gotten off to a good start in Brazil.
[Photos: U.S. soccer fans catch World Cup fever]
So, moving forward, it shouldn't all be doom and gloom or time to completely overhaul their entire football philosophy. Spain's youth teams have also been collecting trophies in recent years and should quickly replenish a team that will have several key players moving on after this. If anything, this "curse" seems to be at least partly down to an understandable reluctance to change and adapt after winning the sport's ultimate prize. It can be hard to say goodbye to those who have brought so much joy to their countries, but four years is a long time in the career of an athlete. And when heightened expectations get busted in spectacular fashion, it instantly becomes easier to make the changes that were necessary before suffering World Cup embarrassment.
That aside, it would probably still be best if European teams just following England's lead and try to avoid winning the World Cup ever again to prevent from being the next to succumb to this curse.
- Sports & Recreation
- World Cup 2014