The World Cup Hair Bracket: Algerian Bleach Takes On Sweaty Spanish Curls

As much as purists may want to deny it, hair plays a crucial role in the World Cup. Unlike American football or baseball, where men's heads are covered by helmets and hats, soccer players have an opportunity to send a message to fans, teammates and opponents via their tresses. Just look at these men:

All the Hair Players
Composite made from AP and Getty Images

A truly genius hair player is one who understands the power to confound one’s rivals, and mobilize fans with ludicrous locks.  Colombia's Carlos Valderrama was the all-time hair legend.

Carlos Valderrama confuses Argentina's defender Leonardo Astrada with his hair in 1997. i i

hide captionCarlos Valderrama confuses Argentina's defender Leonardo Astrada with his hair in 1997.

Daniel Muzio/AP
Carlos Valderrama confuses Argentina's defender Leonardo Astrada with his hair in 1997.

Carlos Valderrama confuses Argentina's defender Leonardo Astrada with his hair in 1997.

Daniel Muzio/AP

Over the phone, South Florida Sun Sentinel soccer columnist Jeff Rusnak fondly recalled  "the unmistakeable incandescent glow" his curls left in their wake, adding there just hasn't been a hair champ like him since.

  • England Vs. U.S.: U.S.Wayne Rooney's reddish growth is no match for Oguchi Onyewu's Abe Lincoln-style beard, which has been known to leave great players speechless.
    Hide caption
    England Vs. U.S.: U.S.Wayne Rooney's reddish growth is no match for Oguchi Onyewu's Abe Lincoln-style beard, which has been known to leave great players speechless.
    All composites created from AP and Getty Images
  • Mexico Vs. Spain: SpainAlthough a close match between Andres Guardado of Mexico and Carles Puyol of Spain, curly bangs push Spain to victory.
    Hide caption
    Mexico Vs. Spain: SpainAlthough a close match between Andres Guardado of Mexico and Carles Puyol of Spain, curly bangs push Spain to victory.
  • Argentina vs. Paraguay: ParaguayOnly Paraguay forward Nelson Haedo can make smoothing one's hair on the field look like a dance move.
    Hide caption
    Argentina vs. Paraguay: ParaguayOnly Paraguay forward Nelson Haedo can make smoothing one's hair on the field look like a dance move.
  • France vs. Algeria: FranceMohawk with bleach trumps bad shave job.
    Hide caption
    France vs. Algeria: FranceMohawk with bleach trumps bad shave job.
  • Algeria vs. France Game II: AlgeriaBakary Sagna's beaded blond head tassels can't overpower Algeria's matching frosted islands.
    Hide caption
    Algeria vs. France Game II: AlgeriaBakary Sagna's beaded blond head tassels can't overpower Algeria's matching frosted islands.
  • Spain vs. Germany: TieBoring. Is this really the best you can both do with those headbands?
    Hide caption
    Spain vs. Germany: TieBoring. Is this really the best you can both do with those headbands?
  • Japan vs. Portugal: PortugalUsing his own greasy locks as a natural headband, Danny manages to defeat Yuji Nakazawa.
    Hide caption
    Japan vs. Portugal: PortugalUsing his own greasy locks as a natural headband, Danny manages to defeat Yuji Nakazawa.
  • Portugal vs. Greece: PortugalFaux-hawk synchronicity proves effective.
    Hide caption
    Portugal vs. Greece: PortugalFaux-hawk synchronicity proves effective.
  • Cameroon vs. Japan: CameroonThrough sheer dedication to his hair Rigobert Song can singlehandedly take down any team. Doubt his dedication to style? Check out the next photo.
    Hide caption
    Cameroon vs. Japan: CameroonThrough sheer dedication to his hair Rigobert Song can singlehandedly take down any team. Doubt his dedication to style? Check out the next photo.
  • Song arrives for World Cup training camp on May 20. Unfortunately in World Cup reality, his team's moves weren't as powerful as his hair and they lost to Japan 1-0.
    Hide caption
    Song arrives for World Cup training camp on May 20. Unfortunately in World Cup reality, his team's moves weren't as powerful as his hair and they lost to Japan 1-0.
    Dieter Nagl/AFP via Getty Images

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Nonetheless, this year's World Cup has produced some serious hair players. In honor of Valderrama's approach, we offer the hair bracket above; serious soccer reduced to a battle of super-hold gel, elastic bands, bleach, braids and mutton chops. Only teams with hair stars qualified. (Hint, the winner sometimes matches his scarves and shoes to his hair.)

Utterly disgusted by this treasonous approach to futbol? Even ESPNsoccernet senior editor Jen Chang admits ...

there's something bold about a footballer who's willing to risk eyesight for style.

A 1974 hair-bacle

hide captionPerhaps because his stringy blonde hair got in the way of his vision, Brazil's Marinho Chagas, right, misses the ball as Poland's Kazimierz Deyna, left, heads the ball towards the Brazilian goal in the World Cup third place match in 1974.

AP

"It's gotta be a handicap unless you get it tied back," he said, although he tried to convince us that World Cup players' attention to their locks is more a metrosexual "why don't Europeans wear boxer shorts kind of thing" than a soccer-specific phenomenon.

Either way, we're just glad that players have moved beyond the mullet.

Brescia soccer star Roberto Baggio, right is weighed down by his rat's tail

hide captionBrescia soccer star Roberto Baggio, right, is weighed down by his rat's tail in a fight against Empoli's Sanchez Emilson Cribari of Brazil on Nov. 10, 2002.

Felice Calabro/AP

 

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