Ranked! Every World Cup mascot from worst to best

World Cup mascots

Since England unleashed World Cup Willie in 1966, every host has delivered a mascot – but they aren’t all equal. Who’s the best? And who’s the worst? (Hint: it’s Striker)

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14. Striker (1994)

Look at this jerk. There was nothing to like about Striker: a bland, nondescript cartoon dog with a drearily prosaic name. He was a pup purely because dogs are a popular pet in the USA and heralded the era of the quirk-free, corporate mascot.

Ironically, in a World Cup that was lit up by amazing strikers (Romario, Baggio, Stoichkov, Klinsmann, Batistuta), Striker himself deserved to go straight to the pound.

13. Juanito (1970)

Call the stereotype hotline. Juanito is an 11-year-old Mexican boy, wearing a sombrero, in full football kit, posing with a football. As if it wasn’t blatantly obvious already that he is a World Cup mascot, Juanito also has ‘MEXICO 70’ on his hat to idiot-proof the whole affair. Unimaginative.

12. Pique (1986)

Ay caramba! Doubling down on the stereotypes of 1970, Pique is a jalapeno pepper sporting a sombrero and bushy moustachio. More original than Juanito, and you sort of admire the pan-faced audacity in chucking something so insulting on to the Mexican public, but it’s not right.

Responding to the controversy around Pique in 1986, one of his creators claimed that the mascot “is a bit like the sleepy Indian taking a siesta against a tree”. We doubt that helped matters.

11. Zakumi the Leopard (2010)

Like that mangy cur Striker, Zakumi is a yawnsome cartoon animal who proved about as memorable as host nation South Africa’s performances in 2010.

Zakumi sits above three mascots because he’s not an offensive national stereotype – or, even worse, Striker – and because he has good hair, which goes a long way. What are the odds that Neymar is sporting a lustrous green quiff like this at, say, Real Madrid next season?

10. Zabivaka (2018)

On the one paw, Zabivaka is a Siberian wolf (which is cool) designed by a 21-year-old Russian student (which is also cool).

Yet he seems more like a generic Winter Olympic mascot to us – and the wraparound shades don’t help. Particularly as they look suspiciously like an eye mask. That said, we’ve all wished for a blindfold during an England World Cup performance, so maybe Zabivaka is just coming prepared.

9. Ato, Nik and Kaz (2002)

Each of this trio looks like a particularly disappointing Kinder Egg treat, yet the Korea/Japan 2002 mascots have an even stranger backstory. Ato, Nik and Kaz are actually ‘Spheriks’ who play a game called ‘Atmoball’, despite marketing the ‘football’ World Cup (sell-outs).

Ato, the yellow one, is the coach; a sort of lanky Arsene Wenger to the presumably underperforming young duo of Nik (blue) and Kaz (purple). Bizarre. Let’s park them in mid-table and never speak of Atmoball again.

8. Fuleco the Armadillo (2014)

Controversy alert! Fuleco is from the same generic cartoon zoo as Zakumi and Zabivaka, but he has his plusses. He’s a Brazilian three-banded armadillo, which is ace, and his snazzy blue forehead armour probably makes him a real handful at set-pieces.

However, FIFA were criticised for boasting that this mascot would raise awareness about an endangered species, but actually did nothing when conservation charities in Brazil reached out for help in protecting the habitat of Fuleco’s brothers and sisters in the wild. So FIFA essentially took something inherently good and Fu**co’d it up. Sounds familiar.