The World Cup Top 10
by Stephen Slaybaugh

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (i.e. someplace without cable or internet access), you’ve no doubt experienced some of the thrill that only comes every four years with the greatest sporting event in the world, the World Cup. While the action on the pitch has always been the main attraction, there’s also been a good degree of pageantry that’s gone along with the event. Since some time late last century, pop music has gotten in on the act, with artists the world over recording anthems to inspire their home teams to victory.

In past years (as the following list will show), the Brits have had an advantage, with their bevy of footy-loving musicians taking up the baton. This year, without an official anthem, the Lions have had an overload of acts looking to fill the gap. Elsewhere, though, bands in the States and abroad have shown a similar fervor. Anyway, here’s a quick look at some of our favorites from over the years.

10. Embrace
World at Your Feet
Independiente, 2006

The official song of the 2006 English campaign in Germany, Embrace’s single had a slow-building refrain reminiscent of Coldplay. However, the cut also featured the kind of gang-chanted chorus that has characterized all the best anthems. England may not have won, but it wasn’t for Embrace’s lack of trying.

9. Republic of Ireland Footbal Squad
Put ’Em Under Pressure
Son, 1990

The World Cup of 1990 was monumental for Ireland, as it was the first World Cup for which the national team had ever qualified. U2’s Larry Mullen, Jr. produced this single, which spent 13 weeks in the number one spot on the charts in Ireland.

8. Del Amitri
Don’t Come Home Too Soon
Mercury, 1998

Del Amitri recorded this somewhat melancholic official song for their Scottish homeland’s campaign in France. The team hadn’t qualified for the Cup since 1990, but didn’t make it past round one.

7. Sham 69 & The Special Assembly
Hurry Up England (The People’s Anthem)
EMI, 2006

Having always recorded anthemic punk rock ready-made for punters, Sham 69 re-recorded their 1978 cut “Hurry Up Harry” as “Hurry Up England” as an unofficial song for England’s 2006 run at the Cup. This version also featured Blur’s Graham Coxon on guitar, and debuted at number 10 on the UK charts.

6. Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds
3 Lions
Epic, 1996

The Lightning Seeds’ Ian Broudie (known for his production work with Echo and the Bunnymen) teamed up with David Baddiel and Frank Skinner to compose this official anthem for England in the European Championships. The song came to be a perennial favorite, long associated with the Brits’ suffering on the world stage.

5. Black Grape featuring Joe Strummer and Keith Allen
England’s Irie
Radioactive, 1996

Also recorded for England’s campaign in the 1996 Euroepan Championships, this song, co-written by Joe Strummer, paired the former Clash singer with former Happy Monday Shaun Ryder’s Black Grape. Though often overlooked, this cut is one of the greatest to celebrate the sport.

4. England United
(How Does It Feel to Be) On Top of the World
London, 1998

The official English anthem for the 1998 World Cup, this track features the odd pairing of Echo and the Bunnymen with the Spice Girls (featuring a future Mrs. Beckham), as well as members of Space and Ocean Color Scene. Still, there ’s no denying the song’s appeal.

3. Eux Autres
World Cup Fever 2010
self-released, 2010

Despite attempts by Shakira, R. Kelly and others, the best of this year’s Cup’s musical accompaniments comes from little-known Portland duo Eux Autres. The inexpensive production values do little to diminish the song’s pop appeal.

2. Air Miami
World Cup Fever
Teen Beat, 1998

This classic from Teen Beat principal Mark Robinson’s Air Miami was released as a general celebration of the World Cup’s contagious allure on the band’s debut and has turned out to be a perpetually golden slice of indie pop.

1. New Order
World in Motion
Warner Bros, 1990

New Order’s anthem for the 1990 British team is perhaps the first World Cup cut of the modern era. With “rapping” from members of the squad, ”World in Motion“ combines football chants with the band’s post-pop aesthetics for the perfect combination.