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World Cup A-Z: Mascots

29 May 2014

Before a ball is kicked, one of the most talked-about things ahead of any World Cup - once the hosts have been revealed, and putting sticker albums to one side (more on that on Wednesday 4th June) - is the big reveal of the official tournament mascot.

This year that honour has been bestowed on Fuleco - an armadillo.

The endangered three-banded tolypeutes tricinctus is native to Brazil and his name is a combination of futebol (football) and ecologia (ecology). The species can grow to 50cm in length in adulthood and weigh 1.2kg. When threatened they roll into a ball to protect themselves. As impressive as that is, Fuleco has a bit more up his sleeve than his relatives though - he loves to dance.

So much so, he has released his own official World Cup song 'Tatu Bom De Bola', with a bit of help from Arlindo Cruz.

Fuleco becomes the competition's 17th mascot since World Cup Willie made his debut back at England 1966. The footballing lion, resplendent in a Union Jack top that set the flag-inspired fashion trends long before Geri Halliwell, was succeeded by a little Mexican boy called Juanito, who couldn't have seen much of that year's World Cup due to the huge sombrero that covered his eyes.

In 1974 the West German's introduced the world to rosy-cheeked twins, Tip and Tap, before Argentina returned to the successful recipe of a happy little boy - called Gauchito - with a ball, just with a more sensibly sized hat.

The Spanish took it to another level in '82 with none other than Naranjito, a smiling orange. It was then the turn of the Mexicans again, who didn't deviate too much from the drawing board 16 years on - although they did play a blinder by replacing the human element for the first time in World Cup mascot history.

A disproportionately sized football made it's debut alongside the tried and tested sombrero, sported by none other than a jalapeno pepper called Pique, with a 'tache we can all only dream of growing. The combination was a huge success and a star was born.

Mascots were really starting to take off in popularity on the global stage and the Italians provided us with an iconic effort in 1990. In a nod to il Tricolore, Ciao had a green, white and red blocked body with a football for a head. Simple, but effective.

After three successive World Cups that bought us two pieces of friendly fruit and a sculpture, the American's took it upon themselves to introduce an animal and in doing so kicked-off a trend that would remain in place for all forthcoming campaigns to date. Human beings were no more.

Striker, a grinning dog, was followed by Footix, a smiling French rooster four years later before the Koreans and Japanese collaborated with Spheriks called Kaz, Ato and Nik. Twelve years on and we still haven't worked out what they are.

In 2006, the Germans became the second country to host a World Cup for the second time since the requirement to provide a mascot was introduced some 40 years earlier. To celebrate, the twins were replaced, at face value at least, by a friendly lion with a perfectly groomed mane called Goleo VI, who it has to be said, looked more than a little bemused by the spherical object he was often seen holding.

He had a sidekick called Pille. It turns out Pille was actually the talking ball he carried everywhere with him, which explains the reason Goleo VI look a bit on the scared side.

The pair were the predecessors to Zakumi, the green-haired leopard who shot to fame in South Africa.

And so to Fuleco...

The official mascot for Brazil 2014 has already clocked up more air miles than any of his predecessors. He has been on a whistle stop tour of the world with the trophy ahead of the tournament and is currently on his way to Sao Paulo, the stage for the opening match between Brazil and Croatia on Thursday 12th June.

Click here to see the other letters in our World Cup A-Z

The World Cup mascot gallery

World Cup Willie (1966)

Juanito (1970)

Tip and Tap (1974)

Naranjito (1982)

Pique (1986)

Ciao (1990)

Striker (1994)

Footix (1998)

The Spheriks (2002)

Goleo VI and Pille (2006)

Zakumi with Shakira (2010)

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