You spend four years building up to a World Cup tournament, only to not win a single game.
It’s a feeling few players know. But, surprisingly, it’s a feeling not only experienced by the Carlos Costlys and Ashkan Dejagahs of the football world.
Some of the best to play the game have endured a summer of soul searching following a winless blow out on the biggest stage of them all.
France- 2002 World Cup
Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane, David Trezeguet, Patrick Vieira, Claude Makelele, Lilian Thuram, Marcel Desailly.
France took an elite, if ageing, group of players to the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, but came unstuck against Senegal, Uruguay and Denmark.
Ironically, none of the outfield Senegal players who shocked France in the opening group game played outside of France, with Lens’ Papa Bouba Diop scoring the winning goal.
A 0-0 draw with Alvaro Recoba’s Uruguay in the second game saw Henry dismissed after just 25 minutes, while Zizou’s return in the third game couldn’t stop France slipping to a 2-0 defeat against Denmark.
It was the first time since 1966 that the holders hadn’t got out of their group. Sacre bleu.
Nigeria- 2002 World Cup
A spine of Taribo West, Jay-Jay Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu should have been strong enough for at least one win at the 2002 World Cup.
But Sweden, Argentina and England had other ideas. To be fair to the Nigerians, they only conceded against world-class strikers.
Gabriel Batistuta settled the first game before a Henrik Larsson double edged it for Sweden in the second match.
Nigeria did, however, hold strong against Emile Heskey in a goalless final game against England.
Croatia- 2006 World Cup
Proof that too many Ivans can spoil the broth.
Ivan Klasnic, Ivan Leko and Ivan Bosnjak were all part of Croatia’s 2006 plans, along with the talents of Niko Kranjcar, Luka Modric and Dado Prso.
On paper, a group containing Brazil, Australia and Japan should have been navigated, given the balanced nature of Croatia’s squad.
But, after a narrow loss to Brazil in the opening group game, Croatia drew to Japan and Australia.
The game against Australia is best remembered for Graham Poll booking Josip Simunic three times before sending him off. Now that’s dedication to an early bath.
Italy- 2010 World Cup
You could hardly stifle the Italian giggles when the Azzurri were drawn alongside New Zealand, Paraguay and Slovakia in Group F.
Ahh, how the rest of the world laughed when Italy drew their opening two games, against Paraguay and New Zealand.
The maverick abilities of Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti had been replaced by more functional players like Alberto Gilardino and Vincenczo Iaquinta.
Italy lost an epic final group game to Slovakia 3-2, by which time the fat lady was belting her lungs out.
England- 2014 World Cup
Can we not talk about this one?
Shall we just all move on?