What is the World Cup Champions' Curse? Germany Is Out, and People Used This as an Explanation

Nobody saw it coming. But perhaps we should have.

Gemany—defending World Cup champions and a nation that seems to always find a way to win—was eliminated from the World Cup on Wednesday after suffering a stunning 2-0 defeat to South Korea.

It was the continuation of a so-called curse: Three straight defending champions have now been bounced in the group stage of the next tournament—Spain and Italy matching the unenviable feat in the two prior World Cups in 2014 and 2010, respectively. In 2006, defending champs Brazil managed to make it to the quarterfinals. But in 2002, then-defending champions France were summarily defeated in the group stage as well. 

Germany might have been, in an odd way, double-cursed. They won the pre-World Cup tournament, the Confederations Cup, last year—and no Confederations Cup winner has ever gone on to win the ensuing World Cup and have typically gone on to perform below expectations. 

Germany will likely take little comfort in knowing they're not alone in their failure.

“The disappointment is just huge,” Germany manager Joachim Löw said, via the Wall Street Journal. “In this tournament we didn't deserve win the World Cup again. We didn't deserve to be in the round of 16.”

After Spain was eliminated from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil—via a 2-0 loss to Chile—the squad talked about a similar let down in quality.

"These things happen in sport," said Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso at the time, according to German news outlet Deutsche Welle. "It was unexpected, but we need to deal with it. We were unable to maintain the levels of conviction and hunger that brought us success and happiness before. We committed a lot of errors and didn't have the solidity that had helped us win so many matches. We didn't have the same feeling on the pitch that we had during other championships."

Germany's elimination might be the most surprising of all the recent failures from defending champions, however. The nation is known for pumping out teams that are consistently excellent. English soccer legend Gary Lineker has a famous quote that summed it up quite nicely: "Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win."

Wednesday he updated that quote. "Football is a simple game," Lineker tweeted. "Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans no longer always win. Previous version is confined to history."