World Cup | Can Germany handle the defending champions tag?

In every World Cup there’s a team that comes into the tournament with a target on their back as defending champions.

This summer it will be Germany who will wear that target like a badge of honour as they look to successfully defend the crown they won in Brazil four years ago.

Germany have experience of coming to a World Cup as defending champions with the 2014 victory being their fourth triumph in this tournament, but how have they managed to do in their previous title defences?

Germany’s first World Cup victory came under the guise of West Germany, as they were known between the 1954 and 1990 tournaments.

Just nine years after World War 2 had ended, and in their first tournament since the war due to being banned in 1950, they won their first World Cup by beating Hungary in Switzerland.

In 1958, they would travel north to Sweden to try to defend that crown, and did relatively well by reaching the semi-finals, before losing to the hosts, and a Just Fontaine inspired France, which saw them finish the tournament in fourth place.

It wouldn’t be until 1974 that West Germany got their hands on the trophy again, this time defeating the Netherlands on home soil.

Four years later, they would travel to South America, but were disappointing as hosts Argentina won the title.

They made it through the first group stage but came unstuck in the second, finishing third behind the Netherlands and Italy.

Mario Gotze scored the winner in 2014 but won’t be in the squad this summer.

West Germany’s third and final World Cup success, under that title, came in 1990 when they gained revenge on Argentina, who had beaten them in the 1986 final.

In a fiery game that saw two Argentine players sent off, West Germany managed to win 1-0 to secure the title.

Unfortunately for Germany, as they were now known after the reunification of the country, they were unable to live up to the defending champions status yet again in 1994, and were stunned in the quarter-finals by a Hristo Stoichkov inspired Bulgaria, who defeated them 2-1 in Giants Stadium, New Jersey.

Defending the World Cup hasn’t worked out well for Germany in the past, but how have other defending champions fared?

In truth, not very well.

Only two teams have successfully defended the World Cup, with Italy winning back to back competitions in 1934 and 1938, while Brazil repeated the trick in 1958 and 1962. Since then nobody has successfully defended the title.

Not only has no defending champion won the World Cup since 1962, but in three of the last four tournaments the defending champion hasn’t even managed to make it out of the group stage, with Brazil in 2006 the only team to get out of the groups before losing to France in the quarter-finals.

The big question is will this have any impact on Germany’s hopes this summer?

On the face of things it shouldn’t matter.

The majority of their players are experienced enough to not allow history to get in the way of what they do this summer.

There’s a good mix of talent in this Germany squad, with some key players from the 2014 win still there, and then a healthy amount of new, up and coming players to supplement the squad.

This World Cup doesn’t look to have a clear favourite with maybe half a dozen teams capable of winning it.

Germany are among that band of teams, and if they don’t defend their crown it’s unlikely that the fact they won it four years ago will have a lot to do with it.


Gerry Johnston

This article originally appeared on, where you can find a definite World Cup guide.