Every football fan knows the rollercoaster of emotions that the game often provides very well. The highs of success are euphoric, but the lows can be absolutely heartbreaking.

Whether it be at international or club level, football history is littered with tear-jerking moments and FourFourTwo recently compiled their own list of the 50 most emotional moments of all time – and a few sides have certainly suffered more than others.

Entries are football-based, meaning that tragedies or incidents that would be genuinely upsetting to a non-fan have not been considered.


The 50 most heartbreaking moments in football history ranked

1950: Uruguay break Brazilian hearts

Brazil are beaten 2-1 by underdogs Uruguay in a World Cup final on home turf – in front of 200,000 expectant fans at the Maracana Stadium.

1974: Total Football meets its match

A well-drilled West Germany side upsets Johan Cruyff’s ground-breaking Netherlands side in the World Cup final.

1975: Leeds feel robbed in European Cup final

The Whites are denied a stonewall penalty and have a goal disallowed before a late Bayern brace sees the trophy had to Munich. Leeds haven’t made it to a European final since.

1979: United’s cup final comeback cut short

Trailing 2-0 to Arsenal at Wembley, Manchester United courageously fight back to level matters with two goals in the final five minutes. The Gunners then promptly saunter up the other end and regain the lead – breaking United hearts.


1982: El Salvador suffer worst-ever World Cup defeat

Hungary 10-1 El Salvador. Needless to say, the Central American side finish bottom of their group.

1990: Gazza’s tears

Paul Gascoigne weeps after receiving a yellow card that would have ruled him out of the World Cup final if England manage to overcome West Germany in the semis.

The Three Lions don’t make the showpiece occasion, but ‘Gazza’s’ devastation is still regularly replayed for more than three decades.

1993: Nottingham Forest relegated in Clough’s final season

He may be the greatest manager in the club’s history, but even the iconic Brian Clough can’t keep Forest in the Premier League during the competition’s inaugural season. A sad end to a legendary career.

1994: Baggio’s penalty heartache

Baggio’s skied spot-kick hands the 1994 World Cup to Brazil at Italy’s expense.


1996: Newcastle ‘Entertainers’ blow title shot

Kevin Keegan’s must-watch Magpies surrender a 12 point lead at the top of the Premier League to Manchester United – and never again get so close to glory.

1996: Scots one goal short of Euro knockouts

A 78th-minute consolation goal for Patrick Kluivert in a 4-1 defeat to England is enough to see the Netherlands through to the knockout phase of Euro 96 at Scotland’s expense. The two sides are level on points and goal difference. The Dutch only progress on goals scored.

1996: Southgate penalty miss ends England’s run

Gareth Southgate’s tame penalty is saved in a semi-final shoot-out loss to Germany, ending English hopes of winning Euro 96 on home soil. The devastated defender goes on to become England boss two decades later and dedicates himself to guiding his country back to glory.


1998: Gazza doesn’t make the World Cup cut

More heartache for Gascoigne as England manager Glenn Hoddle dashes his hopes of appearing at France 98 at the last minute.

1998: Beckham sees red 

A petulant kick in the direction of Diego Simeone sees Beckham given his marching orders in a last-16 World Cup tie with Argentina. England ultimately suffer defeat and the free-kick specialist becomes public enemy number one.



1999: Batistuta injury ends Fiorentina’s title surge

Fiorentina’s promising Serie A title bid is cruelly derailed by a knee injury to their superstar striker Gabriel Batistuta.

2000: Injury problems begin for Ronaldo 

‘O Fenomeno’ suffers the first in a series of knee issues that would plague him throughout the remainder of his career.

2001: Schalke title celebrations cut short

Schalke fans genuinely believe their side have been crowned Bundesliga champions in 2000/01 for a few fleeting moments.

Schalke enter the final day of the season three points behind leaders Bayern Munich, but with goal difference in their favour.

The underdogs do their bit by defeating Unterhaching 5-3. However, they still require Bayern to lose to Hamburg in order to claim the title.

Surprisingly, Hamburg lead 1-0 as the clock ticks into the 94th-minute of the match, allowing rumours to begin circulating suggesting that the game is over and Schalke are champions.


Those whispers are incorrect, though. Bayern grab a late equaliser at the death to secure the title – and leave thousands of Schalke supporters crestfallen.


2002: Leverkusen’s horror treble

Leverkusen let a commanding Bundesliga lead slip, before losing both the DFB-Pokal and Champions League finals in quick succession. A potential treble that turned into bitter disappointment in record time.

2002: Ireland pay the penalty

Ireland miss several opportunities to spring a World Cup shock as Spain eventually squeak through to the quarter-finals on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Suwon.

2003: Balde sees red in UEFA Cup final

Central defender Bobo Balde puts in a heroic string of performances to help Celtic reach the 2003 UEFA Cup final.

The Bhoys even manage to take Jose Mourinho’s Porto to extra-time. Sadly for Balde, he is shown a second yellow card 10 minutes from the end of the additional period and can play no further part.


Shortly afterwards, Porto find a winner to clinch the trophy and Balde can’t hide his distress.

2005: Collina denies Dunc

Duncan Ferguson sees a late equaliser for Everton ruled out by legendary Italian official Pierluigi Collina against Villarreal in a Champions League qualifier at Goodison Park.

The La Liga side survive the scare and go on to clinch the tie. The Toffees haven’t looked likely to reach Europe’s premier club competition again since.

2006: Zidane loses his head

A majestic career ends on the sourest of notes.

French superstar Zidane strikes Italy’s Marco Materazzi with his head during extra-time in the 2006 World Cup final and is given his marching orders.

Les Bleus then fall to a shoot-out defeat at the hands of the Azzuri.

Not the finest way to bow out.


2006: Lasagna-gate

Needing to match Arsenal’s result on the final day of the 2005/06 Premier League campaign to secure Champions League football for the following season, 10 Tottenham players go down with food poisoning on the eve of their crucial match with West Ham.

Spurs lose their match, while Arsenal defeat Wigan – meaning that the Gunners take fourth place.

Conspiracy theories are plentiful regarding the Lasagne that the Tottenham team was served before the match, but an investigation later finds no wrongdoing by the hotel involved.

A devastating way to be denied Champions League football after a season of hard work, though.

2006: Lehmann makes unwanted history

German shot-stopper Jens Lehmann becomes the first player to be sent off in a Champions League final against Barcelona. His Arsenal side ultimately fall to a 2-1 defeat on the night.


2007: Baggies fall to record-setting Rams

West Brom pummel Derby in the 2007 Championship play-off final, but can’t find a route to goal. Derby nick the match – and a spot in the Premier League – completely against the run of play. Baggies players and fans alike couldn’t believe their misfortune at full-time.

2009: Le Hand of God

Thierry Henry gets away with a blatant handball in the build-up to William Gallas’ goal for France which denies Ireland a spot at the 2010 World Cup.

Irish fans still aren’t over the injustice today.


2009: Iniesta sinks Chelsea

Chelsea dominate this Champions League semi-final against Barcelona throughout, only for Andres Iniesta to pop up with a sickening goal to send the Spaniards through.

Chelsea are fuming at the final whistle too, arguing that they should have been awarded a number of penalties.

“It’s a f***ing disgrace,” shouts Didier Drogba directly down a TV camera at full-time.

2009: Duff own goal sends Shearer-led Newcastle down

Shearer is as legendary as they come on Tyneside, but even he can’t prevent the Magpies from the drop during a short-lived stint as manager in 2009. Relegation to the Championship is confirmed in unfortunate style, as Damien Duff deflects an effort from Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry effort into his own net.

2010: Forlan finishes Fulham fairytale

The Cottagers are within one win of a magnificent Europa League triumph. However, a brave Fulham effort in the final is ended by a late Diego Forlan strike.

2010: Lampard’s ghost goal


Lampard scores a screamer to draw England level against Germany at the 2010 World Cup. Somehow, though, the match officials don’t notice that the ball has crossed the line.

In the days before goal-line technology, England are denied and later fall to a hefty defeat, sending them home from the tournament.


2010: Suarez swats Ghana out of World Cup

Ghana are on the verge of becoming the only African side to reach a World Cup semi-final when – in an act of pure s***housery – Luis Suarez handles the ball on the line to stop a certain goal.

He’s dismissed, but Ghana miss the resulting penalty and go on to be eliminated in a shoot-out.

2012: Drogba’s AFCON dream dies

Ivory Coast legend Drogba misses a penalty in normal time as his country lose the 2012 AFCON final to Zambia.

Drogba rounds out his career as his nation’s greatest ever goalscorer, but fails to win a trophy at international level.

2014: The Gerrard slip

Liverpool’s 2013/14 Premier League title bids stalls in dramatic fashion as Gerrard tumbles to the Anfield turf against Chelsea.


The Reds icon later calls the period that followed “the worst three months of my life” as Manchester City go on to win the league.

2014: Brazil’s semi-final horror show

Brazil capitulate against Germany in a World Cup semi-final on home soil. The Selecao trail 5-0 after only 29 minutes, at which point fans in attendance are already on the verge of tears.

The humiliating match ends 7-1 to the Germans. A dark day for Brazilian football.

2014: Atleti denied at the death

A last-gasp Sergio Ramos equaliser for Real Madrid denied Atletico a 2014 Champions League triumph. Real go on to trounce Simeone’s men 4-1 after extra-time.

2015: Pirlo’s Juventus spell ends in tears

Pirlo’s final match for the ‘Old Lady’ ends in disappointment as Juve are downed by Barcelona in the Champions League final.


The emotion of the occasion is too much for Pirlo as he breaks down after the final whistle.

2016: Camp Nou honours Cruyff

La Blaugrana honour one of their all time greats following Johan Cruyff’s 2016 passing with a moving ceremony before an El Clasico showdown with Real Madrid.

The Camp Nou is decorated with a mosaic of 90,000 cards displaying the club’s colours, a massive no.14 shirt and the message ‘thank you Johan’.


2016: Ronaldo ends Welsh run

Wales blaze an unexpected path to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, before Cristiano Ronaldo turns on the style late to dash Welsh hopes of a final appearance.

2016: Messi retires after fourth final defeat

Distraught after missing a penalty in his fourth straight Copa America final defeat with Argentina, a tearful Lionel Messi calls time on his international career.

Happily, he is ultimately convinced to reverse his decision and finally got his hands on the trophy last summer.

2016: Independiente del Valle fall at the final hurdle

Ecuadorian minnows somehow upset River Plate and Boca Juniors on their way to an unlikely appearance in the Copa Libertadores final.


A fantastic run is eventually ended by Colombia’s Atletico Nacional, but Independiente del Valle create memories for their fanbase that will last a lifetime.

2017: Leicester sack Ranieri

The Foxes part ways with Ranieri just nine months after the veteran Italian guided them to the most unlikely of Premier League title triumphs. A sad end to a wonderful fairytale.

2017: Tears as Totti retires

There’s not a dry eye in the place as Totti bows out at Roma’s Stadio Olimpico in May 2017 following 25 years with the club.


2018: Buffon sees red after Oliver decision

The legendary Buffon has never won the Champions League in his career. After Michael Oliver sends him off towards the end of Juventus’ 2018 exit against Real Madrid, the emotional Italian tells the English referee that he has “a rubbish bin instead of a heart”.

2018: Wenger says goodbye to Arsenal

After 22 years of loyal service in the Gunners’ dugout, Wenger bids farewell to Arsenal with a heartfelt speech at the Emirates.



2018: The Karius calamity 

Two catastrophic errors from Liverpool shot-stopper Loris Karius helps Real Madrid secure a 3-1 victory over the Merseysiders.

The German keeper is in tears at the final whistle as he apologises to Reds fans in the stands. It’s later revealed that a concussion is likely to blame for his pair of howlers.

2018: Mandzukic ensures it’s not coming home

More bitter disappointment for England in a major tournament. Southgate’s men surrender a one goal lead against Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-final as Mario Mandzukic scores in extra-time to dump the Three Lions out.

2019: Ajax’s dream run collapses

Van de Beek, Ziyech, de Ligt and Frenkie De Jong. Just a few of the names who star for Ajax as they march to the Champions League semi-final, defeating Juventus and Real Madrid in the process.

The Dutch giants look set for the final too, until a 35-minute hat-trick from Spurs’ Lucas Moura denies them in unbelievable fashion.

2019: Sissoko’s handball

Tottenham’s Moussa Sissoko concedes a penalty just 22 seconds into the Champions League final. Mo Salah converts – and Liverpool canter to glory.


2019: Bury expelled

Bury are expelled by the English Football League after going into financial meltdown – the first club to suffer the fate in nearly 30 years.

2021: More penalty woes for England

The Three Lions fall at the very final hurdle of Euro 2020, edged out on penalties (once again) by Italy.

2021: Messi says bye to Barca

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is weeping before even saying a word at a highly-emotional press conference to address his departure from Camp Nou after 21 years with the club. It’s not long before everyone else in attendance is crying too.

Truly one of the game’s most tear-jerking moments.



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