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2018 World Cup: Ranking the roughest group stage eliminations

African teams had it the hardest.

Senegal v Colombia: Group H - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

The 2018 World Cup group stage is complete, and while most fans are celebrating the teams that made it out of their group to the knockout stage, you have to pause for the teams that will be leaving Russia:

Some teams performed well but just came up short. Others did not play well at all and didn’t deserve to make it to the next round (looking at you, Germany). For others, the circumstances surrounding their exit from the World Cup were heartbreaking. We take a look at the teams who suffered the roughest group stage eliminations.

5. Peru

Peru was back in the World Cup for the first time since 1982, and they were hype the entire time. Their fans were incredible and you could feel the passion in their play. With their legendary white jersey with red sash, they played brilliantly for most of the group stage. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t score goals when it mattered, and a couple defensive lapses were the difference. They finished 3rd in the group thanks to a 2-0 victory over Australia on Tuesday, giving their fans something to be proud of as they departed the tournament. But, they performed way better than a lot of teams that managed to make it out of the group stage, and it feels a bit harsh that they’re going hom.

4. Iran

Iran started off the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Morocco, and played their tails off in a 1-0 loss against Spain in matchday 2. For the final match, they took on Portugal and gave them everything they could handle. In the 93rd minute, they earned a penalty and converted to equalize with Portugal, and then one minute later almost sent the world into chaos when a chance to win the match hit the side netting. They were one of the teams that played to win every time and won the hearts of many with their fight. They may have come up short, but they definitely deserved to make it to the knockout stage.

3. Morocco

Morocco was another Group B casualty that could have easily been moving onto the knockout stage. While they lost a tough match to Iran on matchday 1, they deserved to win against Portugal in matchday 2. Instead, a Cristiano Ronaldo goal in the 4th minute was the difference, and while Morocco pressed the issue the entire match, they couldn’t get the equalizer. They tried to make things interesting against Spain and almost did so, with a couple chances late in the match to seal it until Spain equalized in stoppage time. Hats off to Morocco for their incessant pressure on the ball and brilliant play throughout the group stage. Group B was a monster and Morocco was a big reason why.

2. Nigeria

Nigeria’s exit from the World Cup hurt. Not just because they had the coolest jerseys ever, but also because they played well enough in the final matchday to make it out of the group. And, for most of the match, they had it. Even despite an early Lionel Messi goal, they were able to equalize in the 51st minute with a Victor Moses penalty. In the 76th minute, controversy ensued when Marcos Rojo headed the ball off his outstretched arm in the box. It was called a penalty, and Nigeria had a chance to take the lead and put Argentina on the brink of crashing out of the World Cup. But wait...VAR stepped in. After review, the penalty was waved off and play continued. In the 86th minute, Argentina got the goal they needed to advance. The goalscorer? Marcos Rojo. It was just coldblooded and heartbreaking for Nigeria. They came so close and a controversial VAR decision was the difference.

1. Senegal

This was the cruelest way to exit the World Cup. Entering the final matchday yesterday against Colombia, Senegal only needed a draw to advance out of Group H. They thought they had a chance to take an early lead when Sadio Mane drew a penalty in the 17th minute. Then, our old friend VAR showed up to take the fun out of the day and took the penalty away. Senegal was still in control until the 74th minute, when Yerry Mina scored for Colombia. At that point, Japan was down in their match to Poland, and Japan and Senegal were level on every single tiebreaker except one: FIFA Fair Play rules. It was the first World Cup where the Fair Play tiebreaker was in effect. Japan had 2 fewer yellow cards than Senegal, so Japan was now in the next round and the Lions of Teranga were on the outside looking in, hoping that Japan could get 2 more yellow cards or one red card. If that had happened, the drawing of lots would have occurred to see which team would advance. It wasn’t meant to be, with Japan basically passing the ball aimlessly around the field in an effort to time waste while down in the match. Senegal could not get an equalizer, and they became the first team ever to be eliminated from the World Cup on the FIFA Fair Play tiebreaker. Life just isn’t fair sometimes, and for Senegal it was the roughest way to be bounced from the World Cup.

Which elimination had you feeling some kind of way? Which one on this list was the roughest for you? Hit the comments and have your say.