Every four years 32 teams bring their nation's hopes and expectations to the World Cup.
Some will succeed, and even exceed these expectations, but many more will fail and cast their countrymen into gloom for months to come.
Find out which seven teams we think will disappoint once the action gets underway in South Africa.
There is only one reason why a talented French team is likely to disappoint— their coach Raymond Domenech.
Domenech is still living off his France side reaching the last World Cup final, even though most inside observers attribute their success to the off-field guidance of star player Zinedine Zidane.
Domenech oversaw a disastrous Euro 2008 campaign and was remarkably left in charge as France struggled through their World Cup qualifying campaign.
They needed a play-off and that controversial Henry handball against Ireland to make it to South Africa.
France now face a tricky group featuring the hosts and a pair of smart Latin American sides, Mexico and Uruguay.
If they get off to a bad start in their opening match against Uruguay, France could be facing an early exit and Domenech will surely be shown the door.
England will disappoint simply because they always do.
The national level of expectation is always so immense ahead of major tournaments that disappointment is inevitable.
In truth, anticipation is not as high as it usually is thanks to the worrying club form of many of their major stars and a series of poor performances in friendly matches.
It will only take a couple of good results in England’s opening matches to send spirits soaring high, until the inevitable quarterfinal come-down against the first quality side they meet.
Elimination by penalty shoot-out is almost a certainty.
After a solid showing at the 2006 World Cup finals, fans of the Socceroos might be expecting more of the same in South Africa.
Australia even switched to the Asian qualifying section in order to test themselves against better sides than they face in Oceania, and proved themselves up to the challenge.
However, they received a tough draw when they were placed in Group D, alongside Germany, Ghana, and Serbia.
Australia simply doesn’t have the strength in depth to deal with this new challenge and a swift, if spirited exit is likely.
A host nation has never been eliminated from the World Cup in the first round.
This fact may provide some succor to South African fans who know their side would not be featured in the tournament were it not being held in their country.
Despite the best efforts of experienced coach Carlos Alberto Parreria, Bafana Bafana are likely to struggle in a tough group.
France may be out of sorts under the erratic guidance of Raymond Domenech but have the kind of players South Africa can only dream of.
Their other opponents, Uruguay and Mexico, also possess far more quality than is available to Parreria.
This leaves South Africa relying on their 12th man—the home crowds—to help them; loud as those vuvuzelas are, they can’t put the ball in the net for the team.
Having been drawn in a relatively easy group, Italy should qualify for the second round.
If luck continues to go their way, they should have a winnable match against the second place team in Group E.
As soon as they face any team of note, Italy is likely to be on the plane back to Rome.
Marcello Lippi’s squad is little changed from the team that performed so meekly at Euro 2008, and showed little signs of improvement in a straightforward qualifying group.
With a creaking defense and lack of real match-winners up front after the omission of Francesco Totti and Antonio Cassano, Lippi continues to rely on the passing game of Milan’s Andrea Pirlo. But even the midfielder’s best days are behind him and Lippi has failed to find new blood in time.
Expect a quarterfinal exit with nothing much to excite the fans along the way.
Of all the top teams who stuttered through their qualifying campaigns, the one side you expect should come good is Portugal.
Yet they were placed in a very tough group alongside Brazil and Ivory Coast, and of those three teams, it is Portugal that looks most likely to fail to make the second round.
Their problems are hard to nail down, but it seems that coach Carlos Queiroz may be the quintessential assistant coach who cannot cope with the step-up to the main job.
He has failed to make a talented group of players into a team unit, and his side endured far too many uninspiring draws in qualifying.
Even so, you might imagine that Cristiano Ronaldo—one of the world’s greatest players—should be able to single-handedly drag Portugal to glory.
Yet, Ronaldo has rarely shown the same kind of dynamism and influence in a Portuguese shirt that he does for his club sides.
If Ivory Coast can find consistency under Sven Goran Ericksson, expect more tears from Ronaldo and his compatriots.
Far than disappointing their own fans, New Zealand could disappoint their Group F opponents, who may have assumed they would pick up an easy three points against the Oceania qualifiers.
Games against Fiji, Vanuatu, and even their play-off tie with Bahrain are not the best preparation for a World Cup, and New Zealand are one of the lowest-ranked qualifiers.
Some recent friendly matches, including a 1-0 victory over World Cup dark horses Serbia, have shown New Zealand may be more resilient than expected.
Strikers from Italy, Paraguay, and Slovakia, who may have been expecting to fill their boots against the All-Whites, may be disappointed to discover that New Zealand aren’t so giving.