The German Curse

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Most people are familiar with the women’s soccer statistic that if a team wins a World Cup one year, they will not win gold at the following Olympics.

But, there’s another trend I’ve found while looking back over old statistics that is both odd and intriguing.

I’m calling it “The German Curse.”

The curse (which is completely real and not conjured up by me yesterday) is based on the fact that if a team beats Germany in a major tournament, the team will not win the following major tournament. Of course, one could chalk this up to coincidence, but since 1991 no team has been able to achieve this feat.


1991 World Cup

USA beats Germany in semifinals:

A hat trick from Carin Jennings sealed the deal for the US’s victory over Germany in the 1991 semifinal match. Germany was outscored 5-2 by team US, who ultimately went on to win the inaugural Women’s World Cup. Though Germany had only conceded one goal throughout the entire tournament, the combination of Jennings, April Heinrichs, and Michelle Akers–a trio better known as the “Triple-Edged Sword”–proved to be too lethal for the German defense.

Sweden beats Germany in the 3rd place game:

After losing to the US, Germany suffered an even worse loss to Sweden in the 3rd place game. The team was shut out by Sweden’s defense and was scored on 4 times; once by Sweden’s current coach, Pia Sundhage. While Sweden seemed only marginally better than Germany on paper, the loss against the US could have drained the energy from the German team. They finished fourth, while Sweden took third.

1995 World Cup

Sweden is beaten by China PR in quarterfinals:

Although they won silver at the Euros in 1995, the Swedish international team was beaten by China PR in the quarterfinals later that year. China had been on a small upswing since making the quarterfinals in the 1991 World Cup, which could have fueled their win against Sweden, but they ultimately went on to lose to Germany and the US, respectively, earning them fourth place.

US is beaten by Norway in semifinals:

In a rematch of the 1991 World Cup, Norway found revenge by defeating the US in the semifinal. The US brought a very similar squad to their history-making 1991 roster, but Norway came prepared and held them to a 1-0 scoreline. USA moved on to defeat China PR and receive 3rd place.

Norway beats Germany to win the 1995 WWC:

Norway continued their domination by leaving Germany scoreless in the final match of the 1995 World Cup. Germany used all three available substitutions (Norway used zero) to try and keep up their pace and break down the Norwegian defense, but they failed to do so and in the end, walked away with 2nd place.

1996 Olympics

Norway loses to US in semifinals:

After defeating Germany in the World Cup the year prior, Norway fell to the US with a score of 2-1 in the semifinals. Norway began the second half of the game with a 1-0 lead, but the US tied the score with a penalty taken by Michelle Akers in the 76th minute. Ultimately, the US won the game with a golden goal in extra time. The US then went on the dominate China PR and win gold. 

Norway beats Germany in the group stage:

Before Norway lost to the US in the semifinals, they defeated Germany 3-2 in the group stages. 1996 was the only year that Germany did not make it out of the group stages. This could be due to them being grouped with dominant teams like Norway, Brazil, and Japan, but nonetheless they finished the group stages 1-1-1 and were eliminated. Shortly after this, their head coach, Gero Bisanz, resigned. And so began a new era for the German team with head coach, Tina Theune, and assistant coach and former player, Silvia Neid.

1999 World Cup

Norway loses to China PR in semifinals:

After dominant Women’s World Cup performances in the early 1990s, Norway was obliterated by China in a 0-5 loss in the semifinals. Norway also went on to lose to Brazil in the third place match. This came to a surprise to many people, as the Norwegian team had been undefeated throughout the group stages and quarterfinals.

USA beats Germany in the WC quarterfinals:

Germany seemed to be gaining ground from the last Olympics, but the US’s 1999 World Cup team proved to be too lethal for the German team to contain. Even one of Germany’s two goals in the quarterfinal match that ended 3-2 was an own goal scored by Brandi Chastain. Eventually, the US went on the win their second Women’s World Cup that year. 

2000 Olympics

USA loses to Norway at the Sydney Olympic games:

The 2000 Olympics kicked off with Norway losing to the US in the first game of the group stage. It seemed that the US was going to take the gold, entering the final match undefeated, but Norway managed to beat the US in extra time with a golden goal still considered questionable by some.

Norway beats Germany in semifinals:

This semifinal match was probably the most heartbreaking for Germany, given that the 1-0 game was determined by an own goal from Tina Wunderlich in the 80th minute. Germany continued on to win the bronze medal and would soon move on to dominate over the next decade. Since these Olympic games, Norway has not placed higher than 4th in a major tournament.

2003 World Cup

Norway is beaten by USA in the quarterfinals:

Norway started the group stage by losing to Brazil 1-4 in the group stage, and then went on to lose to the US in the quarterfinals of the 2003 World Cup thanks to a lone goal from Abby Wambach. Norway had been on a decline since Åge Steen had taken over in 2001 and this was particularly evident during the 2003 World Cup which stands as their worst performance since the 1991 World Cup.

Germany wins first Women’s World Cup:

Germany won their first World Cup in 2003 after a dominant showing against Sweden in the finals. They went undefeated in the tournament with the help of Birgit Prinz, who won the Golden Shoe and Golden Boot for her performance, netting seven goals over the course of play.

2004 Olympics

Germany loses to the USA in the semifinals:

Germany’s fall in the semifinals came from a game winning goal by the US’s Heather O’Reilly in extra time. The Germans had opened up the tournament with an 8-0 win over China PR, but after struggling in their win against Nigeria in the quarterfinals, they ended up being knocked out in the semifinals. The US went on to win  gold.

Germany wins bronze:

Germany eventually went on to win bronze against Sweden, the team they defeated to win the Women’s World Cup just a year previously.

2007 World Cup

USA is beaten out by Brazil in semifinals:

The US opened the tournament with a surprising draw to North Korea, but held on to win their group. Brazil ultimately ended up dominating the US in a 4-0 shut out in the semifinals with a helpful brace from Marta. The US then went on to beat Norway and claim third place.

Germany wins second World Cup:

Brazil’s national team had just begun to heat up at the World Cup, but after the German goalkeeper, Nadine Angerer,  saved a penalty kick taken by Marta, and then two goals from Birgit Prinz and Simone Laudehr in the second half, Brazil lost the finals. Germany walked away with their second consecutive World Cup.

2008 Olympics

Germany loses to Brazil in semifinals:

Germany and Brazil drew in the opening game of their group in a rematch of the World Cup final, but when they faced each other again in the semi-final round, it was Germany who finally fell to Brazil. Germany had gone up 1-0 early with a goal from their recurring standout Birgit Prinz, but soon Formiga, Cristiane (2), and Marta answered and sent Brazil to the gold medal match. Eventually, Brazil lost to a late game-winning goal from the the US’s Carli Lloyd, which earned the South American team a second silver medal. 

With the loss to Brazil, Germany was sent to the bronze medal match where super sub, Fattier Bajramaj, put up two goals in the second half against Japan to claim the bronze medal. 

2011 World Cup

Brazil is beaten by USA in quarterfinals:

In a game that boasted one of the greatest goals in Women’s World Cup History, Brazil was knocked out in a quite dramatic fashion by the US in the quarterfinals. The game had been tied 1-1 by an own goal from Brazil and a pk from Marta. Marta then scored in the 92nd minute of extra time to give Brazil a 2-1 lead, but it was a goal from Abby Wambach in the 122nd minute that led the game into penalties where Brazil was outscored 3-5. The US continued on only to be defeated by Japan in the final game, 3-1, after extra time and penalties.

Germany is beaten by Japan in quarterfinals:

Germany fell to a powerful Japanese team in yet another game that was determined by extra time (four of the final seven games went into extra time that year). This game broke Germany’s sixteen-game undefeated streak in the World Cup. Japan went on the win their first Women’s World Cup.

2012 Olympics

Japan loses gold medal match to USA:

In a rematch of the 2011 World Cup final, Japan and the US battled it out at Wembley Stadium, but this time it was the US, with two goals from Carli Lloyd, who defeated the Japanese team to win gold.

Germany does not qualify for Olympics:

Following the loss to Japan at the World Cup, Germany did not finish as one of the top two UEFA teams at the tournament, and were therefore disqualified from the Olympics.

2015 World Cup

USA beats Germany in semifinals:

After beating France 5-4 in penalties, Germany met the US in the semifinals. In the 63rd minute, Germany was awarded penalty kick, taken and missed by Célia Šašic. After that the US went up on Germany 2-0  when Carli Lloyd made a pk against goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, and Kelley O’Hara netted her first international goal only minutes after being subbed into the game.

England beats Germany in third place match: 

Germany and England battled for third place, with neither team managing to score during regulation time. The Lionesses then beat Germany in extra time from a penalty earned by Lianne Sanderson and converted by Fara Williams. Germany left the 2015 World Cup without a spot on the podium.

2016 Olympics

USA loses to Sweden in quarterfinals:

In their earliest exit ever in a major tournament, the US was knocked out in the quarterfinals to the defensive beast that was Sweden, coached by the very woman who’d led them to gold in 2008 and 2012, Pia Sundhage. Sweden progressed to the gold medal match, but lost to Germany and earned silver.

England does not play in Olympics:

Okay, actually England was kept from the Olympics due to the political disagreements and concerns regarding national identity between the four nations that make up Great Britain’s Olympic committee, but we can still blame that on their win over Germany, right?

Germany wins gold:

The Germans finally found a way to defeat Sweden and take their first Olympic gold medal.


One thing I found very interesting in this trend is that each time a team beats Germany and then falls in the next tournament, the primary cause isn’t always because the team is worse by any particular measure, but because the team they compete against wins in an extraordinary or surprising fashion. Case in point: Norway in the 1999 World Cup vs China PR, USA in the 2000 Olympics vs Norway, USA in the 2007 World Cup vs Brazil, Brazil in the 2011 World Cup vs USA, and USA in the 2016 Olympics vs Sweden. 

So, has the German national team placed some sort of Deutschland hex on any team that defeats them? Probably not. But, if your team beats Germany in a major tournament, don’t expect to win the next one.