Every football player dreams of World Cup glory – of producing the defining moment of the competition and becoming the returning hero at the winners' parade back home.

However, only one team can triumph, and for the other 31, there is abject disappointment after failing on the biggest stage of them all.

Some players and teams for one reason or another cannot live up to expectations or the occasion proves to be too big for them.

Here are four standout moments of recent World Cups where some of the biggest players have cracked under the pressure…


2010 World Cup

Entering the 2022 tournament as holders and one of the leading contenders if you bet on World Cup 2022 outright markets with odds of 9/2, France are night and day from the side that appeared in the 2010 competition. The current side are clinical and respect their manager. Their side that competed in the 2010 World Cup were disillusioned and lacked the unity to even dream about reaching the latter stages of the tournament.


Les Bleus appeared doomed from the start 12 years ago after only qualifying for the World Cup in controversial fashion in a playoff victory over the Republic of Ireland. Thierry Henry’s handball will forever live in infamy for Irish football fans, who felt robbed of a spot in the tournament after William Gallas’ goal.

France capitulated during the World Cup, crashing out at the group stage after failing to win any of their three group matches. The squad launched a mutiny against manager Raymond Domenech, which had to be resolved by the country’s sports minister. Ultimately, the discord resulted in their exit and one of the worst performances in their history at the World Cup.

Wayne Rooney

2006 World Cup

Rooney was heralded as England’s great hope of their golden generation of the 2006 World Cup. England were seemingly on the path to compete for the crown, boasting a deep squad filled with talent that stacked the best sides in the Premier League.

Rooney was the jewel in the crown and had enjoyed a fine start to tournament football in Euro 2004, where he excelled in England’s run to the quarter-finals. However, disaster struck towards the end of the 2005/06 season when the Manchester United forward suffered a broken metatarsal in a Premier League match against Chelsea that threatened his availability.

Sven-Goran Eriksson included him in the squad, but he failed to make an impact amid his injury as England struggled into the quarter-finals. Rooney started against Portugal in the last eight but was sent off for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho and teased by his United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo in the aftermath.

Without Rooney on the field, England battled hard for the remaining 28 minutes and extra time but lost on penalties. Rooney’s experience at the World Cup did not improve in 2010 and 2014 and is the perfect example of a player that could not rise to the occasion for his national side.


2018 World Cup

Germany won the World Cup for the fourth time in 2014 courtesy of Mario Gotze's late winner in extra-time in Argentina. Die Mannschaft arrived in Russia as one of the leading contenders to win the crown yet again, boasting a team stacked with emerging talent across the board.

However, their campaign in Russia began with a humbling defeat at the hands of Mexico as Hirving Lozano's 35th-minute strike was enough to hand El Tri the victory.

Joachim Low's men were on the back foot once again in their second contest, trailing Sweden 1-0 at the break to an Ola Toivonen strike. Marco Reus responded for Die Mannschaft, but the contest looked to be heading towards a draw. Toni Kroos then produced one of the strikes of the tournament to bail his team out with a stoppage-time winner from a free-kick on the edge of the box.

The stay of execution was only fleeting for Germany as they collapsed in their final group game to South Korea, suffering a 2-0 defeat to exit the World Cup at the group stage for the first time since the format was brought in.


2014 World Cup

Brazil were aiming to mark the occasion of hosting the World Cup for the first time since 1950 with their first triumph in 12 years.

The Selecao boasted arguably the strongest line-up in the competition, featuring one of the world's brightest talents in the form of Neymar.

They worked their way out of the group stage without any huge scares, defeating Croatia and Cameroon to book their spot in the round of 16. Chile were a tough opponent and took Brazil all the way in their bid to reach the quarter-finals.

The contest went to a shootout where Gonzalo Jara missed the decisive kick to allow Brazil to progress to face off against Colombia.

Again it was another grind against South American opposition for the Selecao, but goals from Thiago Silva and David Luiz were enough to secure a 2-1 despite a late strike from James Rodriguez.

The stage was set for a showdown against Germany in the semi-finals, but what would unfold was one of the biggest humiliations suffered by any team at a World Cup.

Die Mannschaft unleashed a devastating first-half performance to race into a 5-0 lead before adding two further goals. Oscar got a consolation goal, but Brazil's aura and hopes for a run to the crown were shattered in front of a stunned crowd at the Maracana.