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The World Cup champions' curse: Will France continue long line of title holders from Europe to crash out in first round?

The last four World Cup winners from Europe have all failed to progress past the group stage in the following World Cup; the streak stretches back to 1998, with Germany knocked out in Russia four years ago with their earliest exit since 1938

Kylian Mbappe missed the vital spot-kick for France
Image: Kylian Mbappe missed the vital spot-kick in France's penalty shoot-out defeat to Switzerland at the Euros - will their World Cup defence go better?

Will France become the latest European World Cup winners to fall victim to the champions' curse?

Didier Deschamps' side took the crown four years ago in Russia and while their form has been mixed since then - a last-16 exit at the Euros but a Nations League triumph - they will go to Qatar confident of a strong defence of their title.

But that is far from guaranteed - with the past four teams from Europe to win the World Cup going out of the following tournament at the group stage, including France's 1998 heroes.

It is a streak which stretches back to that France team who were victorious on home soil and then flopped in Japan and South Korea, and in Russia saw Germany knocked out in the first round for the first time since 1938.

The last European team to back up a successful World Cup with a decent run was unified Germany in 1994, who reached the quarter-finals after West Germany won the 1990 tournament in Italy.

Will France - who have been drawn to face Denmark, Australia and Tunisia in the group stage - buck this strange trend?

Here, we take a closer look at the remarkable pattern...

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France - Champions 1998, Group stage exit 2002


After a memorable victory over Brazil in Paris in 1998 had been followed by Euro 2000 success, France went to Japan and South Korea with great expectations.

However, an inspired Senegal, playing in their first World Cup, shocked them with a 1-0 win in Seoul. "France will go to the second round," said boss Roger Lemerre - but he was wrong.

A frustrating 0-0 draw with Uruguay piled on the pressure and a 2-0 defeat to Denmark sent the champions packing. Bottom of their group, without a win, without a goal.

It was the first time the holders had been eliminated at the first round since Brazil in 1966 - but, as we will see, it would not be the last...

Marcel Desailly, captain: "It's really something terrible because it doesn't happen that the world champions go out in the first round. We still have the best players but something was broken in the machine."

Patrick Vieira: "I think we got what we deserved. Maybe the commitment wasn't enough and that's why we didn't win games we should have done."

Italy - Champions 2006, Group stage exit 2010


A penalty shoot-out victory over France at the 2006 World Cup had seen Italy crowned champions for a fourth time - but their defence was an embarrassing one.

The Azzurri finished bottom of their group in South Africa, below New Zealand. They had followed up their opening 1-1 draw with Paraguay with the same result against the Kiwis before losing to World Cup first-timers Slovakia 3-2.

It was the first time Italy had failed to win a match at a World Cup.

Marcello Lippi, manager: "I take full responsibility. If a team shows up at an important game with terror in its heart and head and legs, it must mean the coach did not train them as he should have done. I thought the men I chose would have been able to deliver something different, but obviously I was wrong."

Spain - Champions 2010, Group stage exit 2014


Spain's World Cup win in South Africa came at the height of their international dominance. They won European Championships either side of their maiden World Cup triumph - but the empire came crashing down in Brazil.

They had beaten the Netherlands in extra-time in the 2010 final, but the Dutch got their revenge in style with a 5-1 thrashing in the opening game of Spain's defence.

With Iker Casillas making uncharacteristic errors and the players in front of him all at sea, Spain then fell to a 2-0 loss against Chile which knocked them out of the competition.

A 3-0 win over Australia could not save face - Spain's reign was over.

Vicente Del Bosque, manager: "If they had told me that we would be in this situation before we arrived in Brazil, considering how the players were training and how focused they were, I would have thought it was impossible."

Germany - Champions 2014, Group stage exit 2018


Germany were crowned world champions for a fourth time in Brazil - but Joachim Low's men were a different team in Russia four years later.

Whether age, motivation or selection was the problem, Germany finished bottom of their group.

They were shocked by Mexico in their opener and, although a late Toni Kroos free-kick revived their hopes against Sweden, a poor display was punished by South Korea.

Never before had they been knocked out of a first-round group stage.

Joachim Low, manager: "All of German football has lost not just a match, but everything we have built in the last few years. We say sorry."

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