1) Far Away In America (Village People and Deutsche Fussball-Nationalmannschaft) Team: Germany. World Cup: USA 1994.Let's not beat around the bush – the Village People certainly didn't - this camp dancefloor barnstormer isn't one of the worst World Cup songs of all time. Truth be told, it's not even the worst German World Cup song of all time. That particular honour goes to Peter Alexander and the 1986 squad for Mexico Mi Amor, featuring half-hearted sombrero- and poncho-themed japery from Lothar Matthäus and Pierre Littbarski, plus the amusing spectacle of Toni Schumacher "playing" the trumpet.
But it would be a gross dereliction of journalistic duty if we failed to doff our hat to the disturbing mental images conjured up by this official collaboration between a group of camp-looking blokes in dodgy outfits and the Village People: a team of buff, ball-fondling Teutons and the gayest ensemble in the history of disco. Throw in the fact that the German football team's collective sobriquet is this close to being a perfect euphemism for the love that dare not speak its name and it simply has to go straight in at No1 with the proverbial bullet.
Obligatory schoolboy sniggering aside, there's no question that the Village People's guest appearance on Germany's 1994 World Cup song was good for team morale; the arrival of the iconic cop, Native American, cowboy, leather-clad biker and admiral on set was amusing enough to prompt Matthäus and Jurgen Klinsmann to smile simultaneously while standing near each other for the first and last time.
Village People were originally a concept group, the brainchild of French composer Jacques Morali and the band's original cop Victor Willis in the mid-70s. When public demand for live performances grew on the back of the pair's studio success, they were forced to assemble an actual group by advertising for dancers to perform alongside Willis. "Macho types wanted: must dance and have a moustache," read the appeal. The video for Far Away In America could well be the subsequent auditions.
2) Re-sepp-ten (Dodo And The Dodos and the Denmark 1986 World Cup squad) Team: Denmark. World Cup: Mexico 1986.Emetic tracksuits? Check. Stereotypical blond Scandinivian poodle perms? Check. Mullet-and-moustache combos? Check. International footballer who has no idea how to use a mixing desk being taught how to use a fader? Check. Obligatory behind the scenes footage? Check. Eighties-style steel cylindrical microphones with no fuzzy bit over the business end? Check. Band Aid-style holding of headphones to ears with fingertips while bawling tunelessly? Check. Star striker flirting none-too-subtly with attractive frontlady of popular 1980s Danish pop band? Check.
Much has been written about Danish Dynamite, the Sepp Piontek-managed ultra-attacking Denmark side of John Sivebæk, Jesper Olsen and Michael Laudrup that ended up winning nothing but making plenty of friends along the way. Indeed, an awful lot of it has been written in this epic by Rob Smyth and Lars Eriksen, of this parish, in which space and in one case possibly pride precluded the authors from giving anything more than a cursory mention to a World Cup song that, 24 years after being recorded, continues to get more enthusiastic airings than the Danish national anthem from the home support in Copenhagen.
The original idea was for the lyrics of Re-sepp-ten to be written by the readers of the Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet, but when this went predictably pear-shaped, TV host and actor Jarl Friis-Mikkelson was brought on board to whip their ideas into the kind of fluid coherence befitting the style of play for which Piontek's side were a byword. Needless to say, he failed dismally, albeit in a good way - while laughing at this audio-visual study in cheese, it's worth bearing in mind that, unlike today's professional footballers, these guys were happy to make complete fools of themselves for the public's amusement long before the invention of mobile phones or webcams.
Some info: the title Re-sepp-ten refers to Piontek and the Danish word for a medicine prescription. The Kevin Phillips lookalike in the wife-beater vest is Henrik Stanley Møller. The female singer's name is Dodo Gad, lead singer of Danish popsters Dodo and the Dodos and as she sings the now infamous line "Mother Denmark loves all Danish boys who can bang ... the ball," Preben Elkjær can be seen cracking up in the background, while simultaneously phnarr-phnarring the impression that he'd be more than happy to show her how well he can bang, given half a chance.
Denmark went out of 1986 World Cup in the second round, but Fifa's technical report noted that their "readiness to risk something, linked to a full physical commitment" provided them "with an exceptional dynamism". Whether it was referring to their style of football or this video remains unclear.
3) Give It A Lash Jack (Liam Harrison And The Goal Celebrities) Country: Republic of Ireland. World Cup: Italy 1990.Give it a lash Jack! Give it a lash Jack!
Never, never, never say no!
Oirland! Oirland! Repub-a-lic of Oirland!
Rev it up and here we go!
The soundtrack of an Irish summer and opportunistic Paddywhackery of the highest order, which is unsurprising considering it marked the Republic of Ireland's first jaunt to the World Cup finals and the end of poverty as the country's greatest export until quite recently. Unsurprising, but not right.
This wasn't an official dirge, but it's difficult to imagine how the appearance of the eponymous hero Jack Charlton or his squad giving carefully choreographed fist-pumps in a recording studio could conceivably have made the uber-cheap video any more naff. Eschewing the Eurobeat oeuvre generally favoured for ditties of this nature, songwriter Liam Harrison opted instead for a blatant pig-under-the-arm staple delivered in a cod Oirish blarney that made Tom Cruise's performance in Far And Away sound authentic.
Beginning with a low, rhythmic rumble of "Here we go! Here we go! Here we go!", the song also sampled the opening bars of the Irish national anthem, rhymed the words "cry" with "qualified" and suggested in a manner that can only be described as sinister that if the Irish squad returned victorious from Italy, they'd be stuffed and mounted by a taxidermist. Perhaps deliberately, they went out in the quarter-finals.
Despite all this, Give It A Lash Jack topped the Irish charts in June 1990, but was quickly eclipsed as the most embarrassing episode of Irish football song-related tomfoolery when several thousand liquored up natives massed outside Dublin's Mansion House to catch a glimpse of Nelson Mandela and greeted the bemused South African leader with a chorus of "Ooh aah, Paul McGrath's da!"
4) Don't Come Home Too Soon (Del Amitri) Country: Scotland. World Cup: France 1998.If William Wallace had delivered an entreaty this impassioned prior to the Battle of Stirling Bridge, not only would the combined English forces of John de Warrennee and Hugh de Cressingham have won, their infantry and cavalry wouldn't even have had to muddy their spats once their Scottish opponents had shrugged their shoulders with a collective "meh", downed broad-swords and headed for home.
Del Amitri's crie de couer scaled the dizzy chart heights of No15 in June 1998, a considerably higher ranking than the team in whose honour it was written will ever earn again from Fifa. Catchy and accomplished in a strummy, strings and sideburns sort of way, it almost certainly has no place on a roll of shame where assorted South Korean actors and comedians failed to make the cut on the grounds that this effort was deemed far too good. Don't Come Home Too Soon is almost certainly the first recorded instance of a World Cup song recorded by morose folk singers imploring their country's national football team not to embarrass themselves at a tournament.
Lead singer Justin Currie shipped much criticism for releasing what many saw as the musical equivalent of a white flag of surrender before Scotland had even kicked a ball, but considering the team's "previous", it's no surprise he was maudlin and knew the jig was already up.
True to form, Scotland failed to progress past the first round, finishing bottom of their group behind Brazil, Norway and Morocco. "And the world may not be shaking yet, but you might prove them wrong. Even long shots make it," crooned Currie, presumably alluding to the squad's dash to St Étienne-Boutheon Airport after their 3-0 hiding at the hands of Morocco.
5) We're On The Ball (Ant & Dec) Team: England. World Cup: Japan and South Korea 2002.Having forged multi-million-pound careers out of being cheeky Geordie chappies with no discernible talent for doing anything beyond standing beside each other in a particular way that helped confused TV viewers tell which one is which, Anthony "Ant" McPartlin and Declan "The one on the right" Donnelly decided to plot their next move.
Realising the Great British public were dumb enough to lap up any old guff to which they turned their hand, the gruesome twosome decided to clamber aboard the World Cup song bandwagon in 2006, by recording a number that confirmed their well-documented inability to sing, which would be accompanied by a video that confirmed their well-documented inability to act.
The result was On The Ball, a painfully unfunny "musical skit" which began with our heroes hatching a fiendish plan over breakfast in a greasy spoon to swap places with England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and his assistant Tord Grip, disappearing dubiously in a phone box from which they emerged dressed as ninjas and then going on to mastermind victory for England in the World Cup. Or something.
It could be argued, by people with too much time on their hands, that We're On The Ball was a shamelessly cynical attempt to emulate the success of David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and The Lightning Seeds triumph with Three Lions in 1996. The alternative view, that it was little more than harmless, poorly-performed fun by a pair of eejits messing about for cheap yuks is no less depressing.
When push comes to shove it was just a rubbish song and plenty of those get recorded every day. Perhaps the only mildly amusing facet of the whole debacle was that it was Dec that drew the short straw and was forced to impersonate the nondescript Grip by ... occasionally revealing a T-shirt with his name printed across the chest. Evidence of Donnelly's subsequent relationship with an attractive blonde TV presenter meant he should have got to play Sven.
6) Ciao Ciao Italia (After Shave & Fotbollslandslaget) Country: Sweden. World Cup: Italia 90More "ouch ouch" than "ciao ciao", this is the Swedish song for the 1990 World Cup, which stands apart from other anthems in that half of it is in Italian, half in Swedish and none of it good. We're not sure what else to say about it really, except to point out that it was recorded by these bozos and its effect on the Sweden team in Italy was so deleterious and dispiriting they were even beaten by Scotland.
With thanks to James Dart, Sean Ingle, Rob Smyth, Raphael Honigstein, Lars Eriksen and Marcus Christenson.
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.