Europe is a powerhouse of football and the home to many great teams and cricketing clubs with rich histories. They have scored many victories and a multitude of championship titles. However when it came to the FIFA World Cup, it always had a monkey on its back till the year 2006.
It hadn’t won a single World Cup outside of Europe. They were just continental tigers when it came to football’s biggest prize.
When a World Cup has been held in Europe, a European team has won a staggering 9/10 times. The only exception has been Brazil, which won the final in Sweden beating the hosts 5-2 in 1970.
Also, the home advantage has been tremendous. Italy won in Italy in 1934. England won in England in 1966. West Germany won in West Germany in 1974. France won in France in 1998.
But when it came to 8 tournaments spread across the remaining continents, Europe always drew a blank. It’s not that it never got the chance. In Chile Czechoslovakia lost to Brazil 1-3 in the 1962 finals. In Mexico Italy lost to Brazil 1-4. In Argentina Netherlands lost to the hosts 1-3 in 1978.
In Mexico, West Germany lost to Argentina 2-3 in 1986. In 1994, Italy lost to Brazil via penalties in the United States in 1994. In 2002, Germany lost 0-2 to Brazil in Asia.
So that’s 0/8 titles outside European soil: But more importantly a 6/6 loss in World Cup finals outside Europe.
That was one real monkey on its back.
However, the jinx was broken in 2010. In the edition held in South Africa, 3/4 teams in the semi-finals were from Europe. The final was an all-European affair and Spain beat Netherlands to not only win their first ever title, but the first European team to win outside Europe.
When the World Cup began in Brazil in 2014, Europe was looking to breaking their other jinx: That of never having won in South America. Half of the teams that qualified for the knockout stage were from the Americas, showing how the continental advantage held sway.
The semi-finals were a perfect Europe versus South America affair. Many were hoping for a dream Brazil versus Argentina final that would have meant that Europe’s wait to win on South American soil would have been postponed indefinitely.
The 2018 edition will be held in Russia while the 2022 one will be in Qatar.
While Argentina raced past Netherlands along expected lines (via a penalty shootout), Germany had totally other ideas.
They totally blanked Brazil 7-1 in what can be called one of the greatest matches of all time and one that will dent the psyche of the South American nation indefinitely and force them to bring about radical changes.
But when German Mario Gotze scored the all-crucial goal in the extra time of the final versus Argentina, he had changed the course of his nation’s and continent’s history forever.
Not only had the Germans reclaimed the prized title after 24 years, but they finally threw one more monkey off their back.
Many other jinxes were broken.
A united Germany had never won the title. West Germany had won three titles, but Germany had failed to win at any of the three editions before it was broken up in 1945 and none after its unification post the 1990 edition.
So “Germany” in a way won for the first time.
But had Germany lost, they would have been considered final chokers. Then they would have won only 3/8 of the FIFA World Cup finals; but now 4-4 looks much more respectable.
Europe has also created another record.
Usually South America and Europe always share the honours and win 1-2 titles at a time. South America has never won three titles in a row.
Europe has done it for the first time: Italy in 2006, Spain in 2010 and Germany in 2014.
Of course South America never had the continental jinx.
Brazil won the FIFA World Cup in South America (once), North America (twice), Europe (once) and Asia (once).
Argentina has won the tournament both in South America and North America.
Brazil is still the clear leader with 5 titles.
But now both Italy and Germany with 4 titles each will look to match that in 2018!
© Sunil Rajguru