Are Italy the least fancied world champions ever?

June 9, 2010

World champions Italy arrived in South Africa on Wednesday but there wasn’t much of a fanfare.

Around twenty fans turned up to greet them at Johannesburg airport, nothing in comparison with the vast numbers of South Africans dancing beneath my window in Pretoria right now. They are blowing their vuvuzelas wildly for no apparent reason, they are just so excited the World Cup kicks off in two days.

There is very little excitement surrounding Italy. Even journalists in their own country have decided they have no hope of successfully defending their title. Half the squad are too old while the other half are barely known outside Italy, they say.

It got me thinking about other defending champions at World Cups. Yes France flopped hugely in 2002 but it wasn’t expected.

Many fans say England’s 1970 squad was better than the one which won in 1966 while Argentina in 1990 still reached the final despite not being pretty.

With odds of 16-1 to win the competition, are Italy the worst defending champions ever?

PHOTO: Italy’s soccer team coach Marcello Lippi (C) walks with Domenico Criscito (L) and Leonardo Bonucci as they arrive at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo airport June 9, 2010. The 2010 Soccer World Cup kicks off on June 11. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

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