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The hair-raising soccer hunks

Forget the flowing football, the rush of goals and the fervour of the fans - for some, the players' haircuts are the most closely watched trend of the World Cup.

india Updated: Jun 21, 2006 19:12 IST

Forget the flowing football, the rush of goals and the fervour of the fans - for some, the players' haircuts are the most closely watched trend of the World Cup.

Italy's brush with the scissors and a bid for fame from a plucky African outsider have kept tongues wagging in hairdressers' salons all over the globe.

After years when flowing locks have been the norm, Italy have adopted the old adage that less is more.

Golden boy Francesco Totti, who had long cultivated a luxuriant bobbed style, appeared for his country's opening match against Ghana newly cropped.

Totti, not known for being shy about his talent or his looks, could not resist a wink to the cameras on hand to record his tonsorial step forward.

After two weeks of matches, the tournament has arguably thrown up only one truly memorable haircut - and it came from World Cup first-timers Angola and their extraordinarily-coiffeured defender Loco.

Possibly in homage to the bizarre 'half moon' cut sported by Ronaldo as Brazil cruised to the title in 2002, Loco has shaved his entire head except for a dreadlocked patch at the front. 

Running him a close second is the variation on the mohican which Germany's rising midfield star Bastian Schweinsteiger unleashed on the tournament.

The hair on the sides is shaved short but the strip down the middle of his head is bushy, earning him the nickname "Brushhead" in the German tabloids.

Not everyone liked it.

"I hope it'll grow back, or there'll be trouble," said Uli Hoeness, the no-nonsense general manager of his club Bayern Munich.

One trend from this World Cup: the ponytail is a dying phenomenon.

Sweden's Christian Wilhelmsson has stubbornly persisted with the style, even adding a few blonde streaks for maximum effect, although pairing it with a spiky cut was perhaps taking it too far.

World Cup history is littered with memorable haircut moments. In 1998, Romania showed true team spirit when their entire lineup were bleached blond, while 2002 was the year of the homemade mohican, as sported by Turkey's Umit Davala, US striker Clint Mathis and German defender Christian Ziege - at least until the mockery from his teammates persuaded him to shave it off. 

A straw poll of hairdressers in one of the World Cup host cities, Hanover, revealed disappointment at the players' lack of adventure this year.

"There were a lot more strange haircuts in 2002. Now a lot of the players just brush it forward like David Beckham," said one stylist, Luca.

Beckham once changed his hairstyle so often that the manufacturers of his replica doll tried to take out insurance - the minute they had churned out a new doll, 'Becks' had been to the salon again.

But the advancing years appear to be making the 31-year-old father-of-three conservative, and the face that has adorned a thousand magazine covers has been framed by a relatively unchanging blondish mop for at least 12 months.

Indeed Beckham's limelight was stolen by Marco Rodriguez, the Mexican referee for England's game against Paraguay, whose slicked-back appearance and scarlet jersey made him look as if he was heading for the dancefloor at the final whistle.

One player who might be regretting his style is Trinidad and Tobago's Brent Sancho. England's lanky striker Peter Crouch grabbed his dreadlocks to give him extra leverage as he jumped to head home the first goal in a 2-0 win.

And no-one will forget Tunisian defender Anis Ayari's name, but not unfortunately because of his appearance - he had two As shaved into his hair.