Have any nations lost their opening game at the World Cup in the past but later become champions?

When you consider that every team that makes it to the World Cup final has only six games to play before the biggest game of their lives, there really is no margin for error during their run. But believe it or not, there are actually three teams who didn’t win their opening game before lifting the Jules Rimet trophy as the curtain fell. Let’s take a look at who they were.

England spared the blush at home in 1966

The only time the English team won the World Cup was in 1966 and ironically they started with a draw against Uruguay. What’s more, the side led by English legend Sir Bobby Charlton actually played at home as they were actually the hosts. In fact, England’s victory in the finals against then-West Germany became only the third nation in history to win the tournament while hosting it. Of course, this honor came courtesy of a Mr Geoff Hurst Hat-trick – he scored twice in extra time – which remains the only hat-trick in a World Cup final to date.

The Italians made amends in 1982

There were many premieres at the 12th edition of the world’s largest sporting event. Spain hosted the tournament for the first time in history, and the cruel lottery we now know as penalty kicks was introduced for the first time ever at the World Cup. We are pretty sure that there are many who have something to say about it to this day. But the ‘first’ thing we really want to address is the fact that Italy became the only nation to win a World Cup without winning a single group game – you read that right. With draws against Poland, Peru and Cameroon, the Azzurri were heavily criticized for lackluster play and only qualified for the second round as Cameroon scored fewer goals. However, all of that was forgotten when they defeated West Germany 3-1 in the final to claim their 3rd World Championship title.

A minor blip for Spain in 2010

The third and final example on this list came recently at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. It’s worth noting that it’s the only time a nation has lost their opening game and then won the whole damn thing. Having recently won the European Cup in 2008, the Spaniards were seen as heavy favorites for the World Cup in Africa. Indeed, when they met the Swiss in the group stage opener, the fans expected a one-sided affair, but apparently the Swiss hadn’t read the script. With a 1-0 win, the Swiss sent shockwaves through the football world and raised questions. Ultimately, the Spaniards tackled the situation straight away, with Andres Iniesta, Xavi, David Villa and many others dominating every single opponent they faced from then on. This dominance was shown one last time in the final against the Netherlands, who were really outplayed by La Roja, although the narrow 0-1 line might give the impression.

Is there hope for Leo Messi and Argentina?

Given what we discussed above, if a nation doesn’t win their opening game at the World Cup, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doomed when it comes to their chances of becoming world champions. Then again, it’s definitely not an ideal situation given how short the tournament actually is. After the shock defeat to Saudi Arabia, Messi and company will next face Mexico in what is sure to be a thrilling affair before finally taking on Robert Lewandowski’s Poland. While we’re sure the Albiceleste have what it takes to get out of Group C, they have to address some glaring mistakes made against the Saudis. Assuming they can do that, this is still definitely a team capable of becoming champions.


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