World Cup: Spain become the fifth defending champion to be knocked out in group stage
Spain just flamed out of the World Cup, dropping a 2-0 decision to Chile to end one of the most impressive runs by any national team in the sport's history. Over the course of four years, they won two European Championships and one World Cup, a run of three straight majors – something that not even Pelé's Brazil accomplished.
Instead of adding to their glory, they've become the third defending champion in the last four tournaments and fifth overall to be knocked out in the group stage. Below are the other four:
1950: Italy – This one is a little bit different than the rest considering there was a 12-year gap in between the Azzurri's 1938 title and the next tournament due to World War II. Nevertheless, Italy were in a group with Sweden and Paraguay, with only one team slated to advance. In their first game the Italians lost to the Swedish 3-2, all but ending their chances of getting out. In their second game, they defeated Paraguay 2-0, but it was not enough.
1966: Brazil – In 1966, a Seleção were coming off two straight World Cup titles and still had many of the all-time greats on the team, including Pelé and Garrincha – though the former missed the second game and played injured in the third, while the latter was not at his best throughout. They still won their first game against Bulgaria 2-0, but lost 3-1 to both Hungary and Portugal. They finished third in the group.
2002: France – After claiming the 1998 World Cup in their home country, then doubling up with the 2000 European Championship, the French entered the 2002 World Cup with the "favorites" tag despite having star playmaker Zinédine Zidane as an injury concern. They got one point out of their first two games without Zizou, then tried to rush him back to health for their third game against Denmark. It was too little, too late as they lost 2-0. Les Bleus finished the tournament in 28th place and didn't score a single goal.
2010: Italy – The Azzurri entered the 2010 World Cup with many of the same players that helped them win the 2006 tournament in Germany. It didn't work out. Even though they were drawn into a relatively easy group with Paraguay, Slovakia, and New Zealand, they only collected two points and finished last in the group.