Katastrophe: 4 Reasons it's Difficult Being Defending World Cup Champions After Germany's Early Exit

Germany were many people's favourites to win the World Cup this, but they crashed out in humiliating fashion, losing to South Korea. In 2014, defending champions Spain were one of the favourites and lost their first game 5-1. In 2010, Italy were reigning champions, and ended their tournament by losing to Slovakia.


For some reason, winning the World Cup almost guarantees that you will be terrible four years later. This isn't a recent phenomenon, no country has retained the World Cup since the Brazil side of 1962. It goes against logic: why would a team look so imperious one tournament, but then be so atrocious the next? Surely, there must be a reason. 


As it happens, we've come up with four.

1. Retired and Aging Players

Winning the World Cup is like climbing Mount Everest. It's difficult, not many people do it, but when you get to the top it must be the one of the best feelings imaginable. But when, after all those months of preparation, you finally finish the task, and you look up that colossal mountain in front of you, few people would think 'let's do that again.'


It's the same with the World Cup. For many players the greatest achievement of their career acts as fitting full stop to their time in the international game.


Take the German side of 2014. All-time record goalscorer Miroslav Klose retired immediately, as did captain and one of the world's leading full backs Philipp Lahm. In time so did Per Mertesacker, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski.


Alternatively, if players carry on, they are not at the level they were four years previously. The likes of Xavi, Iker Casillas and Xabi Alonso played on for Spain after winning in 2010 until the next World Cup but age caught up with them.

2. Too Much Pressure for the New Players

For the young players who enter the squad, the pressure can be all too much. Firstly, they are filling the place of someone who has won the World Cup, meaning that they have the pressure of trying to live up to one of their country's greatest ever players.


Secondly, expectations have been increased ten-fold. Fans know that their country is capable of winning the World Cup, they saw it with their own eyes four years previously, so many expect it to happen again.


For a young player, trying to find their way in international football, this intensity and pressure can build up to inhibit their performances and lead to their nation's early exit.

3. Managers Tactically Found Out

In Rocky II, Sylvester Stallone's character switches his technique from left handed to right handed to take opponent Apollo Creed by surprise. He wins the fight, and four more sequels were spawned. Yet for World Cup winners, their tactics remain exactly the same: rigid, unchangeable and predictable.


In 2010, 'tiki taka' was still a fairly new concept, even if is just a slightly pretentious version of pass and move. It was fast and fresh. Come 2014, every country, club and pub side had at least attempted to play it. It wasn't new by 2014, it was stale.


Italy's flat back four that won them the World Cup in 2006 was once again copied by every side across the world, weaknesses found, and then exploited. 


Whereas players often retire after a World Cup victory, managers stay on. Following long-term dramatic success managers can often become caricatures of their previous selves, and stop evolving.


The likes of Del Bosque and Lippi began to believe they were infallible. Same tactics, same lineup without realising that even in four years, football had changed considerably. They were not brave enough to get rid of players who were past their prime, nor forward thinking enough to change their tactics and surprise their opponents.

4. Lack of Motivation

Defending champions obviously care. It's just that the burning hunger, that tiny edge has gone once a player has achieved the ultimate goal.


Consider the tunnel prior to the 2014 match between Spain and the Netherlands, which the Netherlands went on to win 5-1. The Dutch players who felt the hurt of losing a World Cup final had the chance against Spain to get revenge, to make amends for the defeat in Johannesburg. 


The Dutch players still had something to aim for which they had yet to achieve. The Spain players had already reached utopia, and of course they wanted to do it again, but that burning desire just couldn't be as intense.


To even have a chance of winning the World Cup, you have to put everything into it, chase every ball, make every tackle, to want it more than anyone else. It's difficult to still have that appetite when your dreams have already been fulfilled four years previously.