The World Cup: one team wins and becomes legend, 31 other squads face the most harrowing defeats of their careers. To the winner goes the spoils, to the loser goes tears, infamy and the lifelong question of “What if?”
As a quadrennial event, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The sporting drama is simply unmatched at a World Cup, and sometimes, the losers are as immediately recallable as the victors (think Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt in the 2006 final).
Here are 19 iconic photos (dating back to 1986) that showcase the agony and heartache of the World Cup.
David Luiz after Brazil's 7-1 defeat to Germany in 2014.
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Lionel Messi passes the trophy after Argentina lose the 2014 final to Germany.
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USA players collapse after their extra time defeat to Belgium in 2014.
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Arjen Robben’s son is disconsolate after Holland’s penalty shootout defeat to Argentina in 2014.
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Ghana is distraught after losing in a penalty shootout to Uruguay in 2010.
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France's Zinedine Zidane passes the trophy after his red card expulsion in the 2006 final vs. Italy.
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Thierry Henry goes to console Cristiano Ronaldo after France defeat Portugal in the 2006 semis.
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Oliver Kahn dejectedly sits at his post after losing the 2002 final to Ronaldo and Brazil.
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Spain players are left shocked after being eliminated in a penalty shootout by South Korea in 2002.
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Edmundo, Rivaldo, Cafu and Roberto Carlos after losing the 1998 final to France.
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A 20-year-old Gianluigi Buffon, Italy’s third choice keeper, moves to console Gianluca Pagliuca after a 1998 shootout defeat to France.
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Roberto Baggio stands dejected after blazing his penalty over the bar, giving the 1994 World Cup to Brazil.
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Colombia’s Andres Escobar reacts to his own goal against the United States in 1994.
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Diego Maradona after losing the 1990 final to West Germany.
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Bobby Robson consoles Glenn Hoddle after England are eliminated by Argentina in 1986.
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Socrates has his penalty saved in the 1986 shootout versus France.
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