The Wildest Personalities in the World Cup

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2014

The Wildest Personalities in the World Cup

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    The World Cup is always a colourful tournament. This summer, it will be lit up by a series of fascinating personalities. 

    The individuals in this list are known as much for their antics away from the field as their on-pitch performances. It is their idiosyncratic character, as much as their talent, that has marked them out for stardom.

    Join us as we count down the wildest personalities of Brazil 2014.

11. Lukas Podolski

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    Lukas Podolski is one of the most effervescent characters in European football. He has endeared himself to Arsenal fans with a series of startling escapades, including dousing Arsene Wenger in champagne in the wake of the Gunners recent FA Cup win.

    Last week, Podolski was taking part in a pre-World Cup media camp with the German national team. At the end of a series of interviews, Podolski promptly threw a journalist in to the nearby swimming pool.

    This joker will be hoping to deliver a major punchline come the World Cup.

10. Jerry Bengtson

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    Jerry Bengtson of Honduras may not be a particularly big name on the global stage, but he's certainly a big personality.

    During a run of qualifiers in June 2013, Bengtson unexpectedly left the squad. The New England Revolution striker demanded to return to his club side in the US after being left out of the starting XI for a game against Jamaica.

    However, relations between Bengtson, the Honduras coach and the international federation have since been repaired. He returned to the side to score vital goals against Mexico and Costa Rica.

    Bengtson will hope the uneasy truce will bring further success in Brazil.

9. Yuto Nagatomo

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    Yuto Nagatomo is one of the most popular players in Japan's squad, due to his candid and forthright personality.

    Former Inter Milan team-mate Wesley Sneijder recalls that Nagatomo introduced himself by telling a succession of dirty jokes in Italian.

    In an infamous TV appearance, Nagatomo also made reference to certain anatomical details of Samuel Eto'o that were probably never meant for broadcast.

    However, Nagatomo is not just coarse. His celebrated autobiography Nihon Danji (Japanese Boy), describes his difficult upbringing without a father and reveals a hitherto unseen philosophical side to this gregarious character.

8. Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Cristiano Ronaldo has an ego every bit as big as his talent.

    The recent Champions League Final was the perfect demonstration of his spectacular sense of self-importance. After scoring an inconsequential fourth goal from the penalty spot, Ronaldo tore off his shirt to reveal the rippling muscular frame underneath.

    There's no doubt he enjoys the grand stages of world football. With that in mind, he's sure to be saving his greatest performance of all for Brazil 2014.

7. Dani Alves

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    It's not just the arms covered with tattoos that means there is something unusual about Dani Alves: What's under the skin matters far more.

    In April, Alves made headlines for responding to a racist gesture in astonishing fashion. When a Villarreal fan threw a banana at him from the crowd, Alves simply picked it up and ate it. Although the ensuing anti-racism campaign was coordinated, per BBC Sport's Robert Hodgetts, this wild-man has an attitude that has made him an icon.

    Alves' theatrical antics on the pitch mean he courts controversy. In fact, Barcelona's Brazilian wing-back seems to revel in the limelight. This summer should bring out the best in the charismatic defender.

6. Diego Costa

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    Any Brazilian-born player bold enough to take the field wearing the colors of another country must be a very strong personality. Diego Costa is stronger than most.

    This summer, Costa will represent Spain in the World Cup. He rejected overtures from the nation of his birth to register for his adopted country, infuriating his homeland in the process.

    Costa won't mind: He is blessed with a remarkable will to win at any cost.

    On the pitch, this quality makes him a fierce competitor. Costa is as dangerous with his elbows as he is with his feet.

5. Antonio Cassano

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    Antonio Cassano is not yet certain of his place in Italy's final World Cup squad. If and when he is announced in the final 23, the celebrations could be something special.

    Cassano knows how to party in style. For a long time, it seemed as if his colorful lifestyle would inhibit his professional achievements. However, maturity has enabled him to balance his priorities. It wasn't always thus: In his autobiography, Cassano boasted of his voracious appetite for both women and pastries.

    Things were put in perspective when Cassano suffered an ischaemic stroke and underwent heart surgery in 2011. To even be playing competitive sport after that set-back is remarkable. The colourful Cassano seems determined to enjoy every minute.

4. Louis van Gaal

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    Football coaches are generally tasked with managing the more combustible egos in their squad. In the case of the Netherlands, their most combustible ego belongs to the coach.

    Louis van Gaal is one of the most outrageous characters in football management. Johan Cruyff is quoted by The Mirror as saying, "you wonder whether he has one or two screws loose". It's easy to see why Cruyff says that. Former Bayern Munich star Luca Toni told ESPN that Van Gaal once demonstrated his fortitude to the team by dropping his trousers in the middle of the dressing room.

    Van Gaal will leave his post this summer to take over at Manchester United. The Dutchman certainly has the self-belief required to fill the void left by Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement.

3. Wayne Rooney

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    At the last World Cup, Wayne Rooney infuriated England fans by swearing down the camera after the Three Lions' dour draw with Algeria.

    That scandal joins a substantial list.

    Rooney has been embroiled in media sagas involving transfers, prostitution and accusations of infidelity.

    The Manchester United forward is Paul Gascoigne's true successor: Both were the heartbeat of the England national team and both a regular fixture among tabloid headlines.

2. Luis Suarez

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    The only thing longer than the list of individual plaudits Luis Suarez has won is the list of indiscretions he has committed.

    At the last World Cup, Suarez's handball on the line to deny Ghana made him public enemy No. 1. Since then, he has picked up a couple of lengthy bans. The first was for racially abusing Patrice Evra; the second for taking a bite out of Branislav Ivanovic's arm.

    Suarez is currently facing a fight to be fit in time to play at the World Cup. Whether he plays or not, he'll still stand every chance of making headlines.

1. Mario Balotelli

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    Mario Balotelli is the wild man of the World Cup.

    He's not a bad player, either. Italy team-mate Giorgio Chiellini has labelled him as the best of his generation, telling (h/t Football Italia):

    Mario Balotelli is undoubtedly the greatest talent in Italian football.

    His career so far has had its ups and downs, but let’s hope that at the World Cup he will lead his team in the way that all fans want.

    Italy fans might want to be a calm, responsible Balotelli. However, neutral fans will want to see his idiosyncratic personality unleashed on the tournament.

    Lest we forget, this is the man who once had to call the emergency services after setting off fireworks in his own home. Balotelli's presence at the World Cup guarantees fireworks of a different kind.