These photos of elation and heartbreak show the teams and fans of nations as they fought for a coveted spot in the 2018 World Cup.

Football can be a contrasting experience. Some see faceless, miniature people in uniform, chasing after a ball and kicking it blindly into a net. Nothing exciting happens, but it’s funny when the commentator yells “GOOOOOOOOOOL!”

For others, football is a little more complicated. Their very identities hang in the balance with every game. The faceless players are actually superheroes who represent fans’ deeply embedded childhood memories, from the first time they cheered on their team at the stadium, seated like royalty on dad’s shoulders, to that brilliant play they made with a schoolmate at recess, sealing a friendship for life.

The feeling is exponential when you’re talking about the World Cup. For an entire month club team allegiances don’t matter, and the colors on every countryman’s jersey are the same. Nations see past class and conflict, instead coming together in pride and hope.

Here we take a look at those who see football this way. For the past two years, Shutterstock followed fans, teams, and nations as they fought for a coveted spot in the 2018 World Cup. Some made it, leading entire countries into euphoria. Others failed, shattering the dreams of millions. In both cases, however, emotions were felt in a way only The Beautiful Game can bring to life.

This summer, Shutterstock will be in Russia bringing you all the action from the World Cup. For more amazing images, go to shutterstock.com/editorial/sports.

Fans rejoice as Neymar’s goal ensured Brazil would be the first country to reach the 2018 World Cup.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Brazil
AP/Shutterstock

In Iran, fans take to the streets and pray after their nation secured a spot in Russia.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Iran
EPA/Shutterstock

In Lima, celebrations trigger earthquake warning systems during Peru’s qualifying win against New Zealand.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Peru
AP/Shutterstock

Mohamed Salah is hailed a hero after his late goal guaranteed Egypt its first World Cup since 1990.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Egypt
APAImages/Shutterstock

Arms everywhere as Japan clinches its sixth consecutive tournament appearance.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Japan
EPA/Shutterstock

66,000 Icelanders (20% of their total population) requested tickets to see their country dispute a World Cup for the first time.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Iceland
AP/Shutterstock

Moroccans take to the skies after stunning Ivory Coast 2-0 and making it to their first tournament since 1998.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Morocco
AP/Shutterstock

A special moment between Andreas Granqvist and Sebastian Larsson after Sweden’s momentous playoff win against Italy.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Sweden
EPA/Shutterstock

Team captain Roman Torres and coach Hernan Dario embrace after a first-ever qualification for Panama.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Panama
EPA/Shutterstock

Saudi Arabia fans hold up pictures of Saudi King Salman and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on their qualifying day in Jeddah.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Saudi Arabia
AP/Shutterstock

Argentina was in real danger of missing out on this year’s World Cup, but a hat-trick from Lionel Messi on the last day of qualifiers earned the team a spot.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Argentina
AP/ Shutterstock

Flags everywhere as the Swiss emerge victorious from their playoff match against Northern Ireland.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Switzerland
BPI/Shutterstock

Northern Ireland fans look dejected at the final whistle of their qualification playoff match against Switzerland.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Northern Ireland
BPI/Shutterstock

Honduras did well to reach a playoff qualifying match against Australia but ultimately lost against the “Socceroos.”

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Honduras
AP/Shutterstock

Italians can’t believe their eyes as they witness their country fail to reach a World Cup for the first time since 1958.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Italy
AP/Shutterstock

Michael Bradley looks on as the U.S. unexpectedly lost to Trinidad and Tobago and failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – U.S.
AP/Shutterstock

Chile had high hopes for their squad after winning the 2016 Copa America but missed out on a ride to Russia.

Photos: Celebrations (and Heartbreak) of the World Cup Qualifiers – Chile
AP/Shutterstock