November 11, 2022 12:34 PM
Last modified date: November 14, 2022 12:21 PM
Alex Sarwar

History of champions’ performances at the FIFA World Cup

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We’re counting down the days until the start of the 2022 World Cup and plenty of eyes will be on the reigning champions France. As you would expect, Les Bleus contain a plethora of quality across their team, but over four years between World Cups is a long period of time and as defending champions, Didier Deschamps’ men have a huge bullseye on their back.

But how have reigning champions previously performed at the following World Cup? Can French fans take heart from the fact that past winners traditionally perform well four years later, or should they be concerned that previous champions have failed to live up to expectations as defending World Cup holders.

Below, we’ve compiled the performances of every defending champion at the World Cup, starting with inaugural winners Uruguay in the 1934 tournament.

This shows that in the early years of the World Cup, the reigning champions historically performed well in the following tournament. Of the first six defending champions, four of them reached the semi-finals stage with two going on to successfully retain their World Cup crown, those being Italy in 1938 and Brazil in 1962.

However, in recent years, it has been the opposite story. Countries coming into the World Cup as the holders have often failed to replicate their success and exited the tournament in extremely disappointing fashion. Four of the last five World Cup winners have exited in the group stage, three of them finishing rock-bottom of their respective groups. One of those countries was France back in 2002. The 1998 World Cup winners drew with Uruguay, but most notably lost to both Senegal and Denmark, therefore exiting the tournament bottom of their group without scoring a single goal. Fans of Les Bleus will be praying that history doesn't repeat itself 20 years later in Qatar.

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