The World Cup is a global phenomenon. Games take place on a stage that is viewed in every country. The games provide an opportunity for players to make style statements to the whole world.
Football, more than any other sport, is about style. Players are more visible, not covered by pads, hats or helmets. They are allowed a freedom of expression that is lacking and even sometimes frowned upon in other sports. Many players have stylists and spend as much time on their physical appearances as movie stars.
Hair is a big deal in soccer. Different stages of players' careers can be referenced and even defined by what hairstyle they wore at the time. A change of hairstyle is sometimes the result of a dip in form or the signal of a fresh start for a player. Conversely, sometimes a new haircut is blamed for a loss of a form, a la the "Samson effect" from biblical lore.
For some reason, hairstyles among footballers seemed to hit their peak during the late '90s and early 2000s, so many of my choices come from that era. These days, most players tend to take a conservative route to hair maintenance.
So, here you have it: The Top Ten World Cup Hairstyles. Cheers, and here's hoping that future generations grow it out a little more.
Cristiano Ronaldo elevated himself from a flashy Premiership winger to a global love/hate figure with his displays and antics at Germany 2006.
His step overs, heel flicks, and clutch penalty against England earned him respect and admiration. His diving, crying, and winking will forever make some spectators' blood boil.
And his well-coiffed 'do made him the poster boy for modern guido culture. Gallons of hair gel and hours spent at the gym and on the tanning bed are certainly part of his daily routine.
There have been many notable braided styles on display in South Africa this year. David James, Glen Johnson, Steven Pienaar, and Florent Malouda are a few.
None of them are committed to the sheer weight that Siphiwe Tshabalala hauls around on his shoulders.
His braids converge into one fierce mass that is wrapped in his national colors. It's not like it slows him down though, Tshabalala was one of his country's best performers and scored a cracker of an opening goal against Mexico.
During his golden years, Alessandro Del Piero looked the part of the dashing trequartista.
The No. 10 wore his hair long and swept back. It flowed in the wind as he left defenders in the dust and arced shots in from his "Zone."
Combined with his creative facial hair styling, his long locks made him fit the bill as Italy's swashbuckling second striker.
Unfortunately it also marked him out for opponents, who brutally kicked him throughout the disappointing France '98 campaign. By the time 2002 rolled around, Del Piero was no longer first choice. But his legacy continued, as he left one of the indelible images of the tournament by raising his finger to the heavens amid a manic celebration after equalizing against Mexico.
With classic hair and sideburns in all their glory.
David Beckham, more famous among some circles for his hairstyles than his footballing ability, makes his first appearance on the list courtesy of his bleached blond look of the late '90s.
He combined the "mushroom" style of the time with long bangs that sometimes hung down on his face. He looked like an extra in a Backstreet Boys video, but no one wore the style better and it was very hip at the time.
And let's be honest: it did look pretty awesome.
Perhaps partly due to his pretty-boy image, Becks was vilified for England's loss to Argentina after he was sent off, and the country subjected him to constant verbal abuse at every club match the following season. Not a good memory for Beckham, except, of course, for winning the Treble at the end of that season.
Gabriel Batistuta. The "Lion King." Playing in his third World Cup in Korea and Japan in 2002, Argentina's record goal scorer did the job against Nigeria in the opener.
At the age of 33, his deadly scoring instinct was about all that remained of the talents that had made him one of the best strikers of all time. Marcelo Bielsa kept faith in him, possibly dooming Argentina's campaign as "Batigol" labored through the matches against England and Sweden, failing to score and being substituted each time.
Even in decline, he was a living legend and star attraction at the tournament. The old lion's mane was never in better health. Too bad Batistuta himself ended up in tears as one of Argentina's most talented squads was eliminated at the first hurdle in the Far East.
Holland's combative midfield duo at France '98 brought classic dreadlock styles to modern viewers.
Davids made more of an impact at the tournament, running the engine room as his country's "Pitbull," while Seedorf failed to establish himself as the playmaker. Clarence later reinvented himself as more of an all-rounder, while Davids remained crucial for club and country as a uniquely gifted midfield destroyer.
But France '98 will be remembered as the time they showcased their street football skills and reggae braids for all the world.
Francesco Totti inherited the No. 10 shirt and golden boy status of Alessandro Del Piero for the 2002 World Cup.
The Roman hero led an Italian phalanx that featured many long, gelled hairstyles.
Totti was clearly the star of the show, given full creative freedom to unlock defenses with his clever backheels and perfectly weighted through passes.
But manager Giovanni Trappatoni's cautious tactics and some horrible refereeing decisions saw Italy crash out in the second round to South Korea in one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.
The 2002 Italy squad was more stacked with talent than in 2006, and had much more expressive hair, but the country had to wait four years to triumph with a side of almost universally short-cropped manes that all had a better team ethic.
If you tell your barber to give you "the Beckham," you could be referring to a wide variety of haircuts.
But more likely than not, you mean the Mohawk that Becks made famous at Korea/Japan 2002.
Arriving at the tournament as England's captain, star man and most influential player, Beckham was tragically half-fit due to a metatarsal break suffered months before.
He seized top billing, until his side's quarterfinal loss to eventual champions Brazil, thanks to his unforgettable spiked, "faux"-hawk. He also left it all on the pitch, exercising his demons of '98 by scoring the winner from the penalty spot against Argentina and generally leading by example despite not being at his physical best.
An absolute icon. Few footballers earn the distinction of a nickname in reference to their hairstyle, and "the Divine Ponytail" is one of them.
He touched down on American soil as the reigning World Player of the Year, and eventually dragged Italy to the World Cup final despite early struggles in the group stages.
Not since has the country been blessed with such a talented and inspirational figure. But tragedy struck as Baggio picked up an ankle injury in the semifinal, and limped through the final against Brazil.
He stepped up to the penalty spot in the shoot-out with the fate of the match at his feet.
And he missed.
In the end he decided the game's outcome, though not in his favor. Despite the crippling defeat, Baggio and his multicolored, braided ponytail are two of the most beloved things in Italian sport. Will there ever be another player like him?
No player has been as instantly recognizable from a distance as Carlos Valderrama. His insanely huge blond afro is incredible.
That he wore it for the duration of his career and continues to do so is also testament to his dedication to personal style. Valderrama stood out for his singular ability on the ball as well. He led Colombia to three straight World Cups, and each time treated the world to his amazing vision and passing skills. A classic playmaker, Carlos spent much of his career strolling around the circle in the middle of the pitch.
He would then receive the ball and slice the defense open with two touches. He provided strikers with more breakaways than any midfielder of his generation. He presented an iconic image of the beautiful game, loaded with colorful jewelry and his frizzy 'fro.
An unforgettable player and worthy winner of the best hairstyle ever to grace the FIFA World Cup.