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Top Ten World Cup Rituals

Cruyff: Gum spitter

Top Ten World Cup Rituals

Given: Keeps faith

Top Ten World Cup Rituals

Mutu: Strange

Top Ten World Cup Rituals

Domenech: Unconventional

Top Ten World Cup Rituals

Ince: Last out

Top Ten World Cup Rituals

Blanc & Barthez: Just good friends

Top Ten World Cup Rituals

Lineker: Saved his goals for the game

Top Ten World Cup Rituals

Moore: Superstitious World Cup winner

Top Ten World Cup Rituals

James: Eccentric

Top Ten World Cup Rituals

Pienaar and Co.: Huddle Histrionics

Top Ten World Cup Rituals

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Footballers have always been strange sorts, as skysports.com's run down of superstitions proves

To most of us it is difficult to see how preparations for a football match can consist of anything more than a quick change of clothes and a brisk walk around the pitch to get the juices flowing.

Footballers, though, are a strange breed and have taken pre-game rituals to unfathomable levels.

Professional sportsmen have been well known as superstitious types for generations, with most able to reel off some tall tale of lucky underpants or a refusal to shave while on a winning run.

Quite why they feel the need to go through such preposterous routines is anyone's guess - but each to their own, I suppose.

It is not just the slightly enigmatic stars who indulge in such activities either, as you could excuse them for being abnormal in the way in which they ready themselves.

The great and good are not averse to getting caught up in battles of the mind, with some of the biggest names in football having adopted some questionable superstitions down the years.

Here skysports.com takes a look at a selection of the most infamous rituals to have infiltrated dressing rooms across the globe, with all those involved of international calibre.

Paul Ince

The self-proclaimed 'Guv'nor' was always the last out of the tunnel for any of the teams he played for. He would also wait until the very last moment before pulling on his shirt. It is not entirely clear what this was supposed to achieve, as it just made Ince look like he was late arriving and had not had chance to get changed.

Laurent Blanc

At the 1998 World Cup, commanding centre-half Blanc and slightly eccentric keeper Fabian Barthez indulged in regular bouts of man love. Before each game, Blanc would plant a smacker on the bald pate of Barthez, believing this would bring good luck. The fact that France went on to take the crown on home soil suggests they had a point!

Steven Pienaar

Many players undertake religious rituals before games, while numerous sides now form pre-match huddles before the action gets underway. South Africa offered a new twist on this approach in the opening game of the 2010 World Cup, with Pienaar crouched in the centre of the circle while his team-mates placed their hands on his head and bellowed out words of encouragement at each other.

David James

Goalkeepers are renowned for being a bit crazy and England international James is no different. His approach to the game has always been far from normal, and his latest pre-game ritual is no exception. Jamo has taken to prancing around trying to catch an imaginary ball as he prepares for action, claiming that he is going through all eventualities in his head. Why he can't just use a real ball remains a mystery.

John Cruyff

Dutch master Cruyff is among the greatest players to have every played the game, but it appears he got a helping hand in his climb to the top. Would he have been as good had the football gods not responded to his pre-match superstitions? While turning out for Ajax, Cruyff would slap his goalkeeper Gert Bals in the stomach and would spit his chewing gum out in the opposition half of the field. Obviously this routine, and not his ability on the ball, was responsible for making him a legend!

Bobby Moore

England's World Cup-winning skipper from 1966 had an odd habit when it came to getting kitted out for action. He would insist on being the last player to put on his shorts, and would often take them off again if one of his team-mates decided to change theirs or play mind games with him.

Gary Lineker

One of England's finest goalscorers rather surprisingly never practised shooting in the warm-up. Lineker was of the opinion that he wanted to save his goals for the game and was not prepared to waste his energy before kick-off. The goal-poacher extraordinaire would also swap his shirt at half-time if he failed to find the target in the opening 45 minutes.

Raymond Domenech

France's oddball coach has made plenty of headlines for his rather unconventional selection policy. Domenech has admitted to often picking players based on their star signs, with Robert Pires once overlooked for being a Scorpio. As someone who has never been able to win over a sceptical French public you would have thought that he would have been keen to avoid giving them any more ammunition to throw at him - but obviously not!

Adrian Mutu

Mutu will not have much opportunity to play out his pre-game ritual any time soon, as he is currently serving a second ban for drug-related issues, but that might be a good thing. The Romanian is said to wear his underpants inside out while playing as he believes no harm will come to him if he dresses in such a way. Strange - not a lot else you can say about that really.

Shay Given

There must be something about Irish goalkeepers, as legendary shot-stopper Packie Bonner used to carry a piece of clay from Gartan in County Donegal in his glove bag wherever he went. Continuing that trend, current Republic of Ireland number one Shay Given ensures that he has a vial of Holy Water in the back of his goal whenever he takes to the field.

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