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5 Biggest Disappointments in the Group Stage of the World Cup

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We’re only halfway through the 2018 FIFA World Cup and there have already been some memorable moments. Those include host nation Russia putting on a clinic in front of their fans, the joint celebrations between Mexican and South Korean fans, and the miracle that Argentina pulled off to advance to the Round of 16. Of course not every team is in a celebratory mood at the halfway point. Here are five teams that let their homelands down in Russia.

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1. The absence of Team USA

Let’s face it, not having the United States present after playing in the last seven World Cups is a huge downer. While American soccer fans have found a reason to watch anyway, it’s just not the same without being able to chant “I believe that we will win!”

2. Defending champion Germany

While the handful of roster changes since winning the 2014 World Cup were a little surprising, “The National Eleven” hoped to repeat as champions by switching to a youth movement featuring 20 players under the age of 30. Unfortunately that worked against the Germans as they were upset by Mexico in the group opener, barely got past Sweden and were shocked by South Korea, which caused the aforementioned joint celebrations between Mexico and South Korea. One has to wonder if Germany regrets those roster moves.

3. Costa Rica

After reaching the quarterfinals in Brazil four years ago, this up-and-coming Central American squad was a favorite to once again reach the knockout stages. Unfortunately they were sent home early as they went winless in group play and only managed to score two goals. A setback indeed, but at the end of the day it’s a learning experience.

4. Panama

After qualifying for the World Cup for the very first time, many were curious as to what this lesser known Central American nation had to offer at the international level. Sadly we’ll never know as the Panamanians lost all three Group G games by a combined score of 11-2. If anything this team has gained experience and has a better idea of what’s required to compete on soccer’s biggest stage.

5. Iceland

They were the feel-good story of the 2018 World Cup. After first arriving on the international stage in the 2016 Euro tournament in which they made it all the way to the quarterfinals as first-time qualifiers, this Nordic nation was ready to take their act to the next level. Not only was this their first-ever World Cup appearance, this was Iceland's second major international competition. But it was not meant to be as their Group D draw with Croatia (advanced to Round of 16), Argentina (group winners), and Nigeria proved to be a little too difficult. If there’s any good to come out of this, it’s that Iceland has shown the world that they can compete in the world’s most popular sport.

-- Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.

(Top photo courtesy of @FIFAWorldCup)