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Being a defending champion at the World Cup has proven to be a tough challenge in recent years. Exiting Euro 2000 at the group stage, Germany pressed the reset button and renewed their football structures (even reaching the 2002 World Cup final in the midst of a hard transition period).

Italy had won the 2006 World Cup despite coming into the tournament on the back of the Calciopoli scandal that racked European football and led to the relegation of Juventus.

Former Germany coach Berti Vogts has delivered a scathing assessment of his country's performance at the World Cup, suggesting that numerous players don't deserve to play for the national team.

Italy have historically been slow starters in World Cups.

Zinedine Zidane was missing due to injury as France were stunned 1-0 by Senegal in their first game, and they followed that with a 0-0 draw against Uruguay, as Thierry Henry was sent off.

Instead, they conceded two late goals while chasing the game to lose 2-0 to the Koreans, leaving the Swedes, who beat Mexico 3-0, and the Central Americans to progress with Germany rock bottom of the group.

Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has hit out at his squad and branded his side's performances in the World Cup as "pathetic" after Die Mannschaft were eliminated from the tournament in the group stages.

His manager has not been one of those to criticise him, however, and has even jumped to his defence, saying that criticism of him alone is harsh, considering how poorly the entire team played.

But what about our "superstar" Mesut Ozil, who was also involved in controversy in Germany about the being snapped with the Turkish leader before the competition, but he started in the first game which ended with the Champions being beaten by Mexico, and he was subsequently dropped for the match against Sweden. We'll have to talk about it calmly and I think it's premature for me to say something. Spain then almost doubled their lead before a spectacular header from Robin van Persie got the Dutch even.

But the Germans never really got going this time, losing their opening match to Mexico 1-0.

The curse of the champions struck again 4 years ago in Brazil, as Spain's all-conquering side was stopped in their tracks.


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