30 World Cup Stars & the Game of Thrones Characters They Most Closely Represent
Summer is coming—Brazil will next month play host to the most testing tournament known to football kind, pitting friend and foe against one another in an almighty battle akin to that of Game of Thrones proportions.
Arms will be bore as the superstars of the sport clash in South America, and with the vast and varied personalities of Earth's mightiest players come more than a few likenesses to those inhabitants of the Seven Kingdoms.
The mischievous, maniacal and maleficent are a common breed in Game of Thrones mythology, but the fictional characters we've grown to know from the hit television series are perhaps more comparable to those in the football world than some might think.
Whether it's due to a particular story arc they share, traits and attributes that run true with both or purely because they, too, are capable of deposing entire armies almost single-handedly, we've sat 30 World Cup stars alongside the Game of Thrones character to whom they're most alike.
"The night is dark and full of terrors." Red Priestess Melisandre of Asshai summarises the treacherous battleground of the star-studded World Cup best in her Game of Thrones trademark phrase, and she is but one of numerous Westeros staples earning a comparison in our countdown.
Warning: Major spoilers for those not up to date in the television series.
1. Mario Balotelli: Oberyn Martell
Mario Balotelli's multi-faceted persona shares bonds here and there with many of the Game Of Thrones cast, but it's with Oberyn Martell, the Prince of Dorne, that the Italy striker has the most in common with.
Martell is known as a sexually ambiguous man, casually going about his endeavours with both man and woman alike, and while Balotelli certainly wouldn't subscribe to being bisexual (that we know of), he's had his fair share of tabloid headlines relating to relationships.
What's more, the Prince of Dorne is a renowned yet mysterious fighter, and his volunteering as Tyrion Lannister's champion to face the monstrous "Mountain" Gregor Clegane in a recent episode of the series would suggest his combative side matches that of his reputation in the bedroom, not too dissimilar to Cesare Prandelli's hitman.
2. David Luiz: Brienne of Tarth
Slightly feminine in appearance? Perhaps, but both David Luiz of Brazil and Brienne of Tarth are outrageously physical warriors when they choose to be.
Swap Luiz's flowing ginger locks out for the towering Brienne's more trimmed, bleached sweep, and you've got a like-for-like match in the fighting realm—or perhaps not.
Both aggressors are capable of showcasing a myriad of emotion—playful one minute and deadly in the next. Luiz Felipe Scolari will be hoping to see more of his centre-back's serious side when it comes to the business side of matters this summer.
3. Yaya Toure: Sandor "The Hound" Clegane
One of two brothers whose reputation throughout Westeros is the thing of folklore, Sandor "The Hound" Clegane stands as one of the most fearsome men in the land when it comes to combat.
Despite his talent, The Hound is more capable as a one-man army, shunning his journey partner, Arya Stark, for much of season four, preferring to work alone and thriving as a result.
That wouldn't sound too unlike Yaya Toure now, would it? The Ivory Coast midfielder undoubtedly makes those around him look better due to his skill in midfield, but alleged reports that he was unhappy at Manchester City not celebrating his birthday more vigorously, per the Mirror's Sam Adams, shows a more selfish strain.
"Maybe he just loves food," one might be tempted to think, and in that, he would share another fealty with Clegane. Except just a few days later, France Football (h/t Jamie Jackson of The Guardian) quoted Toure in issuing Paris Saint-Germain with a come-and-get-me plea:
"Given the goals of Paris, how could you not be interested in a club like that? PSG have become one of the strongest teams in Europe. It would be a honour to one day play for a club like that. If I can be of service [then good]."
A terribly efficient technician in his chosen field, yes, but you wouldn't trust him as far as you could throw him—so not far at all.
4. Kolo Toure: Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane
And that leaves Yaya's sibling, Kolo Toure—the older of the pair—to take the role of Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane in our comparisons.
A Wiki Of Ice And Fire describes The Mountain as, unsurprisingly, being a "freakishly large man" who weighs "more than 30 stone." Even if he has slipped off his wife's diet pills since being banned for substance abuse in 2011, Toure still isn't of those measurements, but he is a pretty fearsome figure in his own right.
The centre-back is known for his crunching tackles and sometimes bone-shattering defence, and it's a sometimes awkward approach to matters that leads him into trouble.
Thankfully, The Mountain's quaking ability is enough to see him past any opponent, and while Kolo is certainly not as agile as his younger brother, he's still adored by some.
5. Wayne Rooney: Eddard "Ned" Stark
When Ned Stark was appointed as Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon—a form of advisor—he is forced to fall on his own sword when Baratheon is killed, and he challenges heir Joffrey Baratheon's legitimacy as his successor.
In the wake of Sir Alex Ferguson's departure, Rooney was looked upon as Manchester United's hope in the dark, a contract rebel-turned-hero who could help David "The Chosen One" Moyes have a successful start at Old Trafford.
Fast forward nine months, and Moyes has been deposed as the Red Devils' leader, leaving Rooney to pick up a great deal of the pieces and answer questions as to why things haven't gone better at King's Landing—ahem—the Theatre of Dreams.
Granted, Rooney's neck is well intact, and unlike Sean Bean's character of Stark, the striker is yet to be beheaded by his own people and (most probably) never will.
6. Neymar: Joffrey Baratheon
At 21 years of age, Neymar was thrust into a new throne of responsibility at Barcelona last summer, and it's a weighty burden—arguably the biggest anyone his age has ever had to bear—that he hasn't always coped well with.
Joffrey Baratheon was quite literally given the keys to his own kingdom at an incredibly young age when his "father," Robert Baratheon, was unceremoniously murdered.
Just to set the record straight, this isn't to say Neymar is anywhere near as maniacal as the near unanimously detested heir to the throne Baratheon. In fact, he's quite the opposite, loved in general for the flair and panache he brings to almost any pitch.
But the former Santos starlet is still capable of his more immature moments, loving nothing more than to pass his time away with selfies and other vain ventures on Instagram as well as sometimes showing his over-exuberance on the turf.
One wouldn't expect Neymar to be taken from his position by literal poison chalice as Joffrey was, but you never know.
7. Luis Suarez: Cersei Lannister
"Hauntingly beautiful" is perhaps the best term that sums up both Luis Suarez (talent, not looks) and Cersei Lannister (looks, not talent) simultaneously.
Suarez's performances are a thing of wonder at times, as mesmerising as a bug zapper, and before you know it, there's the bitter, wrenching twist that just can't help but bring you back down to earth.
Luckily, the Uruguayan striker, clinical and to-the-point in his approach, has simmered down in terms of controversy, and there is less mention of his alleged racist comments toward Patrice Evra and biting of Branislav Ivanovic these days.
Cersei, mother of Joffrey Baratheon, is not quite as fickle in her ways and isn't likely to change until she leaves Westeros. On this account, the two differ.
That being said, the flip-flapping duo of split personalities share that most bipolar of trends in their personalities, and one can only hope another World Cup doesn't lead Suarez to unleashing the beast once again.
8. Ross Barkley: Robb Stark
Heralded by some as the next great leaders of their proud nations, Robb Stark and Ross Barkley are humble acceptors of their fates, going about their business in as normal a fashion as ever.
9. Cristano Ronaldo: Jon Snow
As a teenager, Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Manchester United as something of an unknown quantity, but it was clear from his early days as a senior Old Trafford figure that the potential for greatness was abound.
Jon Snow was also in a respected position in Winterfell, but being the bastard child of Ned Stark meant that there were always others who drew praise ahead of him.
Toward his last few years in England, Ronaldo had begun to mould into the superstar we know today, but his move to Real Madrid has brought about unparalleled greatness akin to that of Snow's move outside his adopted home in the North.
Whereas the Portuguese talisman headed south for Spain, Snow's development underwent its most dramatic change when he joined the Night's Watch and was eventually separated from his kinsfolk north of The Wall, igniting a brief bond with the Wildlings.
The inhabitants of the Santiago Bernabeu are far more cultured than those figures who live in the colds of the extreme northern territories of Westeros, but Snow is now back with his Night's Watch brethren, excelling as one of their best swordsmen, not to mention playing a prominent role in the entire series.
10. Radamel Falcao: Jaime "Kingslayer" Lannister
This time last year, Radamel Falcao was one of the most revered footballers in the realm, and while a 2013 move to Monaco has by no means eradicated his reputation, one might argue that the money-fuelled switch has diminished his standing slightly.
Despite being included in Jose Pekerman's squad for the 2014 World Cup, there's still no official word on whether or not the Colombian finisher will feature in Brazil, although the Daily Mail's John Drayton writes that he is training to make an audacious recovery from his anterior cruciate ligament surgery.
Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer, is also working hard to re-establish himself, having lost a hand while being held captive in enemy clutches earlier in the series and having not fared so well on his own travels.
Both figures have suffered physically debilitating setbacks of late but also share the trait in that both are of deep resolve, and you sense that there still lurks something terrifying under the surface.
11. Lionel Messi: Daenerys Targaryen
Mother of Dragons and Breaker of Chains, Daenerys Targaryen is an intimidating presence in the Seven Kingdoms, ruling her own roosts in the East but nevertheless feared on many a foreign shore.
To some, the mere uttering of her name is enough to make the boots quiver of those who know what she is capable of, accompanied by her trio of dragons that hatched of a fire in which she also survived.
Lionel Messi has his own batch of allies most powerful at Barcelona, but like the only remaining Targaryen, it's he who is supreme to all others.
To look at, neither conqueror is too intimidating. Daenerys, a meek, white-haired maiden of strong morals and even stronger will; Messi, the stout Destroyer of Defences who once required growth hormone treatment just to give him a fair shot at developing naturally.
They might be aided by their respective armies and comrades, but Targaryen and Messi have each proven in their own times just how capable they are as a lone unit, and both feel deserving of their thrones.
12. Andres Iniesta: Petyr Baelish
It's often supposed that the quietest figures are the ones most worth paying attention to, an ideology to which both Andres Iniesta and Petyr Baelish would subscribe.
The pair work best through others, preferring to utilise their energy in the most efficient manner possible and engineer toward their main goals through the work of those around them.
Admittedly, Baelish does this in a far more sleuth-like manner while Iniesta is a more gleeful character to watch and is more than capable of doing damage on his own when presented the opportunity, but then so too is Baelish should the occasion call for it.
Manipulating? Puppeteering? Call it what you must, but neither intellect can be blamed for going about their business in the shadows and reaping widespread benefits as a result.
13. Antonio Cassano: Tyrion "The Imp" Lannister
If there were to be one footballer in the world more renowned than the rest for sexual activity, then Antonio Cassano is the man. It's a heavy burden to bear, but someone has to do it.
Assuming it's the higher amount and, for mathematics' sake, assuming that Cassano first became sexually active at age 16, that would work out at an average of 47 different bed partners a year, or just shy of one per week.
Tyrion Lannister, more mockingly known as The Imp, is also a virile being, known to frequent the brothels of Westeros. That was until he met a prostitute worth settling down with, Shae.
Cassano has been taken off the market for some time now as well after marrying water polo player Carolina Marcialis in 2010, but there may not be any quenching of these particular thirsts.
14. Andrea Pirlo: Tywin Lannister
The younger stars of his lineage may be grabbing most of the headlines, but Andrea Pirlo is always the man in charge of his own household.
The 35-year-old may be past his physical prime, but the strongest part of his being remains in as good a working order as ever, and it's those kind of brains that also see Lord Tywin Lannister sit as the unofficial ruler in King's Landing.
That being said, one of the benefits of Tywin's position is that he still leads his men into the field when called upon as leader, just as Prilo does in his role of lead tactician among the Azzurri, sacrificing brawn and power in the pursuit of strategy and well-plotted moments to strike.
15. Franck Ribery: Varys "The Spider"
Let us get one thing established: Franck Ribery is a tremendously talented footballer, arguably one of the best in the world if his candidacy for the 2013 Ballon d'Or is anything to go by.
But it's a common trait in players that with great talent comes controversial personalities, and it's a truth that no matter how much the media covers a player on the pitch, some of his inner emotions and darker motives will never fully come to light.
Varys, sometimes referred to as "The Spider," is a eunuch and a man of hidden agendas, regularly putting his own needs and wants before others and using his position inside the council of King's Landing's most powerful members to his advantage.
France's 2010 World Cup was ravaged by in-house squabbles and traitorous acts, which then-manager Raymond Domenech delved into as part of his book released two years later, Tout Seul, or All Alone, (h/t The Guardian):
Ribéry doesn't like Gourcuff, that's for sure. Before the Uruguay match I told Gourcuff: 'You have the keys to the match, it's down to you. The worst thing was Ribéry's look. Maybe I'm exaggerating but in his eyes I saw hatred, contempt or jealousy.
He's the same as Anelka and Henry, everything revolves around their belly buttons. When things go wrong, they're the first to jump ship. A senior player warned me about Ribéry in 2008; and me, I gave him the keys [to the team]. What a moron I am.
There's more evidence to Ribery's questionable tactics after Bayern Munich legend Franz Beckenbauer was once quoted by Bild (h/t Sky Sports) in saying of the winger: "Ribery only came here to make a name for himself. He doesn't give a damn about Munich."
Yes, people can change, and Ribery may be a different person now, but there are some likenesses to Varys that the star forward may never shrug.
16. Shinji Kagawa: Sansa Stark
Once upon a time, there reigned a knight of most prodigious skill and uttermost potential from his lands in North Rhine-Westphalia, whose talent was mighty and his services most sought-after.
But then Shinji Kagawa jumped ship from Borussia Dortmund, almost held captive under Manchester United's governance, prevented from flaunting his past beauties.
Sansa Stark also knows what it feels like to be a prisoner, taken from her home in Winterfell to be Joffrey Baratheon's bride before again being whisked off to what she thought was a brighter alternative with Baelish.
It wouldn't be justified to suggest Kagawa is at Old Trafford against his will—at least not with any real evidence. But after starting just 14 Premier League games in the 2013-14 campaign, there's good reason to believe he might prefer a future elsewhere.
That being said, you get the idea that Kagawa, like former Princess Stark, remains capable of great things and may yet take up their seat of power to do just that in the years to come.
17. Gary Medel: Arya Stark
Sansa's baby sister, Arya, has also been unfortunate enough in being separated from her immediate family and, after a long, winding path of twists and turns, finds herself somewhat coincidentally in the company of The Hound.
A tomboy at heart and growing ever more independent as a result of her separation, Arya has picked up a bevy of fighting knowledge in sworsdmanship and is a sight more dangerous than her size might suggest.
Another of those accustomed to hacking down figures of more significant physical extremities is Chile's Gary Medel, the ex-Sevilla enforcer whom one would think is a prime candidate to leave Cardiff City this summer following their relegation.
Out of all of this year's World Cup stars, the touch-tackling midfield general enforces the point that "big things come in small packages," and Arya Stark would certainly do the same, accompanied by her aptly named blade, Needle.
18. Mario Gotze: Theon Greyjoy
Betrayal is a crime that never goes down well in football circles, and Mario Gotze felt just what it was like to incur the wrath of a club's fraternity when he agreed to join Bayern Munich in 2013.
At the time of his departure from Signal Iduna Park, Borussia Dortmund were at a critical juncture in their development as not just a Bundesliga powerhouse, but a giant in Europe, too.
However, a lot of those hopes came crashing down when he appeared so eager for a move to the Allianz Arena despite the fact that it was Dortmund and Jurgen Klopp who had been so responsible for his growth as a player.
Theon Greyjoy committed an even greater treachery, and when his legitimate father, Balon Greyjoy, came calling, the heir quickly turned his back on those very people who had raised him.
Greyjoy grew up in Winterfell as part of a political trade, held as a hostage of sorts as punishment for his father's attempt to sack King's Landing before the series began. However, the Starks were good to their "guest."
His manner of gratitude is controversial at best.
19. Thiago Silva: Khal Drogo
Khal Drogo never spoke much during his brief stint as a Game of Thrones character, but he nevertheless made a big impact as the man who once took Daenerys Targaryen as his bride.
Fearsome in appearance, Drogo led the Dothraki with physical might as much as anything else, but one could always tell that there were cogs ticking behind the muscled exterior, a good combination to have in any leader.
Thiago Silva is much the same in how he goes about his trade. The Brazilian captain's frame means that he's fully capable of being one of the most terrifying centre-backs in world football, but his reading of the game and understanding when a ball is placed at his feet speaks of a much more intelligent being.
That being said, Silva is lucky Pablo Osvaldo didn't make Cesare Prandelli's Italy squad, otherwise we all know who would be playing the Khal.
20. Ron Vlaar: Bronn
Defence has never been the Netherlands' most celebrated section of the squad, but it still doesn't excuse the fact that Ron Vlaar has somehow held down his place as a prominent figure in the Dutch starting line-up for some years now.
That's not intended as offence to the Aston Villa defender, but for a country looking to challenge for World Cup honours, it's surprising that Vlaar has found himself in such esteemed company.
And thanks to Tyrion Lannister, sword-for-hire Bronn has somehow wormed his way into a very enviable fold, acting as bodyguard for The Imp.
Through strange twists of fate, both Vlaar and Bronn are safely nestled inside groups which by all rights should be way above their pay grade, and the Holland centre-back also strikes as if he can knock back a pint or two, like his Game of Thrones comparison.
21. Javier Hernandez: Melisandre
Religion isn't a topic that everyone wishes to discuss but is nevertheless as much of a factor in Westeros life as it is in football, with Mexico's Javier Hernandez one of the keenest observers making their way to Rio de Janeiro.
Without fail, the striker will kneel down in prayer on the halfway line before every kickoff, and though in tribute to a very different deity, Red Priestess Melisandre also dedicates a generous portion of her day/life to the powers that be.
Melisandre speaks in an almost indecipherable language where every other word is referencing some great sacrifice or terrible omen while Chicharito is a lot more endearing in the way he promotes his faith.
22. Adnan Januzaj: Bran Stark
Seasons three and four of Game of Thrones have seen Bran Stark, second son of Lord Eddard, unlock some seriously funky powers where taking over the consciousness of the animals in his direct vicinity is but a thought away.
Another young gun who's recently unearthed some underlying strengths in recent history is Adnan Januzaj, who took the Premier League by storm at the beginning of the 2013-14 campaign.
Last October, in his first Manchester United start, the Kosovo-born magician conjured up two goals as his side came from 1-0 down to beat Sunderland 2-1, and he has since fit in well as a senior figure at Old Trafford, giving other hopefuls out wide a decent run for their money.
After months of speculation regarding which of the myriad countries he qualifies to play for would bank his talents, Januzaj revealed that he'll represent Belgium and is even more amazingly now heading to Brazil.
Bran's mind control versus 19-year-old Januzaj's flawless footwork—who wins? The irony being that one of the heirs to the Winterfell throne has lost the use of his legs.
23. Xavi: Jorah Mormont
There aren't many people who Daenerys Targaryen trusts in this world, and after the death of her brother and beloved Drogo, one would have to say Ser Jorah Mormont is next in line in terms of her loyalties.
The exiled Northerner sits as advisor to one of the most powerful figures in the world, and if there is anything she bids be done, Mormont simply finds a way. The options are that specific in his mind.
Year after year, season after season, Xavi has also performed this sort of role, the only difference being that his duty has been spread among two parties instead of just one: Barcelona and Spain.
Luis Aragones and Vicente del Bosque have both asked a lot of their midfield maestro when representing the national team over the past decade, but Xavi has always been a vital figure in ensuring the job gets done.
In fact, one could certainly argue that the Spanish becoming the first-ever country to win three back-to-back major titles couldn't have been accomplished without him, and Targaryen's (Messi's) resurgence to power wouldn't be where it is today without Mormont.
24. James Milner: Samwell Tarly
Samwell Tarly is a misfit of the Night's Watch. Bullied by many of his peers, a trip into the Wilds north of The Wall helps in giving him more confidence, but he remains a simple man at heart.
In truth, it's difficult to get a handle on what James Milner's personality may truly entail, but we've chosen to take the parodied Boring James Milner Twitter account as gospel in this scenario.
There, one can witness all of Milner's hilariously average musings, whether it be discussing bargain prices with supermarket Twitter accounts or how eight cups of tea will have the room spinning around his ears.
The social media site of course isn't available to the vast majority of Westeros inhabitants—all as far as we're aware, but you can never be sure—but if Tarly were to be an avid user, we imagine his and Milner's timelines may be uncannily similar.
25. Peter Odemwingie: Salladhor Saan
The world football community responded to Peter Odemwingie's failed attempt at pushing through a January 2013 deadline day move to Queens Park Rangers with both resounding laughter and awkward grimacing.
The Nigerian international was infamously locked out in the Loftus Road car park, per the Independent's Simon Peach, despite the fact that no fee had been agreed between the two clubs, and he was presumably pouncing on the chance to take a wage bump in West London.
In terms of money motivation, there are few more selfish characters in Game of Thrones mythology than Salladhor Saan, a pirate and mercenary whose skills and resources are available to the highest bidder.
However, loyalty pays little significance to Saan, who abandoned his employer, Stannis Baratheon, after the Battle of Blackwater, quite literally jumping ship just when times were tough.
26. Philipp Lahm: Daario Naharis
The world already had an understanding of just how awesome a player Philipp Lahm was, thanks to his longstanding exploits as Bayern Munich and Germany's first-choice right back.
However, in his maiden season at the helm of the Bavarian giants, Pep Guardiola chose to field the defender in a less familiar holding midfield role.
Long story short, Lahm is just as at ease in the role. What this has proven is that above all else, Lahm is an athlete first, entrenching himself within specific positional parameters second.
Daenerys Targaryen's newly acquired assassin, Daario Naharis, is of a very similar work ethic, and should his leader bid it, Naharis seems capable of accomplishing any task, be it sacking an entire city's defences almost single-handedly or dealing with an opposing army's elected champion in single combat.
For the record, Lahm's proficiency in malleability is not fuelled by the same love for Guardiola that Naharis feels for Khaleesi. Not even close.
27. Mario Yepes: Ser Barristan Selmy
If he plays this summer, Mario Yepes could well be the oldest player to feature at the 2014 World Cup, or at least its most experienced outfielder at 38 years of age.
Despite that quite unique brand of seasoning, Yepes has been included in Pekerman's plans for a reason, holding a certain amount of skill that he feels would be a shame to ignore.
Ser Barristan Selmy draws a steady comparison to the Atalanta centre-back in that respect, maintaining his standing as possibly the most talented swordsman in all of the Seven Kingdoms despite being dismissed as leader of the Kingsguard by Joffrey Baratheon.
Yepes hasn't quite logged the same 40-year servitude that Selmy did in his position, but give him another decade or so, and there's a chance of breaking the record.
28. Miroslav Klose: Lady Olenna Tyrell
Lady Olenna Tyrell is old—really old. But she uses that attribute to her advantage, and while many perceive the wispy, withered figure to house a frail, dim-witted mind, she is actually a shrewd intellect not to be trifled with.
Miroslav Klose seems to outmanoeuvre his typical age barriers in much the same way, and although he'll be 36 by the time this World Cup is underway, the Lazio poacher remains well able to get the job done on the grandest stage of all.
If Klose scores just one more goal in Germany colours, he'll surpass Gerd Muller as Die Mannschaft's all-time top scorer, and another two in Brazil would break Ronaldo's record of 15 at the finals stage of the competition.
Tyrell doesn't use her own form as imperiously as Klose, but listen to the Lady talk for long enough, and it's simple to see why she's survived in power for such a stretch.
29. Seydou Doumbia: Mance Rayder "The King Beyond the Wall"
Admit it, if ever we've played Football Manager with a team that has the funds necessary, CSKA Moscow striker Seydou Doumbia has at any one point been a priority purchase.
Year upon year, the Ivorian boasts tremendous physical attributes, but his Russian lodgings mean that he remains something of a mystery to the rest of the world.
Like Mance Rayder, The King Beyond The Wall, Doumbia has remained in the distant colds of Eastern Europe like a spectre, shrouded as an enigmatic power but a fearsome one nonetheless.
By season four, ex-Night's Watch member Rayder has begun making his move toward The Wall and into mainland Westeros. Perhaps a move to one of Europe's top-five elite divisions beckons, too.
30. Philippe Senderos: Hodor
He may not be thrilled to have the honour, but Philippe Senderos takes the most prestigious place as our Hodor, a gentle giant whose lack of intelligence is only matched by his sometimes adorable inadequacies.
At the command of his masters, the simpleton Hodor transports and protects the disabled Bran with his life, laying his body on the line in a manner that Senderos' bruised and battered body isn't all that unfamiliar with.