Sometimes in elite sport, a millimeter can be the difference between defeat and victory. Thursday night’s Group E matches of the 2022 World Cup proved painful and glorious again for Germany and Japan respectively.
Japan’s winning goal against Spain, which led to a group stage exit by one of the World Cup favorites Germany (ranked 4th in the world by FIFA this year), was almost ruled out as the ball went out of bounds earlier. Help. Unfortunately for the Germans, the goal was checked and Hansi Flick’s side made an early exit from the tournament. After the setback in Russia in 2018, it was the second time in a row that the “Mannschaft” fell early in this tournament.
Germany is far from the only former world champion to lose in the group stage of the World Cup, which is of little consolation to this great nation of football enthusiasts. As this chart shows, even going back twenty years, there are many examples of “big men” who beat the odds and lost in the first round of the tournament.
If the French team has recently accustomed us to good rather than bad memories, it will be one of the best teams to have signed the most spectacular early exits of the century. First the 2002 campaign was a failure, then world No. 1 and reigning champions Blues collected just one point and finished last in a group that, at least on paper, should have easily won. But a combination of political and media controversies, business, internal tensions and, more to the point, a popular strike by the players, may have gone to the prize for the 2010 World Cup defeat in Knysna (then 9th in the world in the FIFA rankings) and last in its group behind South Africa (83rd in the world in 2010 ).