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The official soundtrack to football glory

Four of the most iconic World Cup songs in footballing history

Shakira performing at the 2010 World Cup opening ceremony.  Photo: AFP
Shakira performing at the 2010 World Cup opening ceremony. Photo: AFP

The official song for the 2018 World Cup is out, and it has been met with either lukewarm indifference or brutal derision. Titled Live It Up, the anodyne, by-the-numbers collaboration between Nicky Jam, Will Smith and Ira Istrefi represents a sad low point in the history of the World Cup song, which has been a footballing institution ever since The Ramblers released El Rock Del Mundial in support of 1962 hosts, Chile. Over the years, World Cup songs have fired the imaginations of millions of football fans, inspiring visions of victory and glory. Here we revisit four iconic World Cup anthems.

Lonnie Donegan
World Cup Willie (1966)

“The King Of Skiffle", Lonnie Donegan, gave us the first truly memorable World Cup song. A tribute to the tournament’s mascot, Willie The Lion, World Cup Willie gained iconic status after Sir Alf Ramsey’s team won England its first—and only—World Cup. It also started the tradition of English teams having their own World Cup anthems.

Edoardo Bennato and Gianna Nannini
Un’estate Italiana/To Be Number One (1990)

Originally composed by Giorgio Moroder as “An Italian Summer", this ode to the “magic nights following a goal under the sky of an Italian summer" was one of the first World Cup songs to become a hit outside the host territory. Thanks to versions in English, Spanish and Cantonese, To Be Number One made it to the top 10 charts all over Europe.

Ricky Martin
La Copa De La Vida (1998)

Ricky Martin’s upbeat number for the 1998 World Cup in France became a global smash hit, topping the charts in eight countries and making the Puerto Rican singer an international star overnight. It also laid down the template for the World Cup songs that followed.

Waka Waka (2010)

When Waka Waka was first released, Fifa came under fire for not getting an African musician on board for the first World Cup on the continent. But the Shakira song, inspired by a traditional African soldiers’ song, quickly won over critics. The 27th most watched video on YouTube, it’s still the gold standard for a sports anthem.

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