Reader, I confess: I know little about football. I know that a corner is a good thing if you want a goal. I know that Neymar is good, too. But my pitchside inexperience has shown itself in my ranking among 'the lads' World Cup fantasy FIFA league: a paltry 8th out of 10 participants.
But I do know about haircuts. I've written about them extensively. I even used to have one. And, as we gaze upon the world stage, the greatest show on Earth, there's a vast collection of lids that evoke a strong reaction from even the most ardent non-football fan (a tradition among footballers, or so I'm told). Here's a list of the most notable haircuts at this tournament, ranked from best to worst.
1| Ruben Loftus-Cheek, England
Like the average IQ score of a Love Island contestant: simply does it. Ruben Loftus-Cheek's close, tight crop is one of the most classic in the book—even if we did only see it for all of three seconds during the Tunisia game.
2| Tomoaki Makino, Japan
Period drama Sicilian mafioso with a bone to pick, or Japan's reserve center-back? We'll let you decide—and print this image out to show your barber.
3| Diego Costa, Spain
Standard quiff, sure, but behold Diego Costa's beard: such volume, such luster, such masculinity. If beards could talk, this one would gently ask "do you need a hand with that suitcase, love?" right before he humiliates you in front of your significant other by picking up the entire luggage trolley with one hand.
4| Karim Ansarifard, Iran
Nothing standout, sure, but Ansarifard's settled for something solid here: the classic mid-length sweepback. It says: I'll take your daughter out for a date, and I'll leave it at least five dates until I phase her out entirely. It says: I work in middle-management in the city, I'm a good crack, but you won't catch me out at 3 am doing the witching hour round robin on WhatsApp because I've got a Barry's Bootcamp in the morning. It says, in short, that you're a pretty standard dude. In the best possible way.
5| Sergio Ramos, Spain
Now we know what you're thinking: What is Sergio Ramos—destroyer of Mo Salahs, terminally spurious tackler—doing in the upper echelons? Well gentleman, the Spanish defender has earned this solely on the merits of most improved. The wet-look gel shoulder length monstrosity, the brain surgery undercut, the Pebbles of Flintstones fame topknot—all of it now gone, replaced by a haircut that is far easier on the eye, if not a touch "look at my girl again, and I'll make you eat that f*cking beer bottle."
6| Mario Gómez, Germany
Courtesy of Mario Gómez, normcore has hit football. The short back and sides, while a classic, has become the homogenous cut of any man roughly under the age of 30. Neat, efficient, tidy, and totally inoffensive: the equivalent of Angela Merkel's filing system, color coded in all of her favorite shades of beige.
7| Aleksandr Samedov, Russia
We like a bit of salt and pepper. In fact, it's encouraged, especially when the likes of Russia Aleksandr Samedov has wisely eschewed the Just For Men. But you know what'll steer "silver fox" into "mid-life crisis" quicker than you can say Sylvester Stallone? A smattering of wet-look gel and a '90s boyband cut, that's what.
8| Valon Behrami, Switzerland
And to think of the Swiss as a bunch of conservative fence-sitters! Here's the national midfielder Valon Behrami, proud of a peroxide lid with just enough natural growth to show that he's still a professional footballer and couldn't possibly have time to be sat in a Geneva salon all day getting his roots touched up. He's a man, after all! Sadly, Behrami is two years too late to the resurrection of bleach. Blondes may have more fun Behrami, but blondes have already been done.
9| Dries Mertens, Belgium
Like Behrami, Mertens is ranking low thanks to the old peroxide. But he pips the Swiss to the poorly barbered post because of effort—or lack thereof. Mertens has tried to go blonde, but clearly couldn't be asked to read the instructions properly and washed it all off 10 minutes too early. The result? Overcooked pastry, with a side of McDonald's burger meat.
10| Anibal Godoy, Panama
Panama: not exactly known for their footballing prowess, and apparently just as inept at the old wigslash. We refer you to Anibal Godoy. In addition to looking like the sort of guy that sells meat down your local, the cockatoo cut has seen a very modern, very edgy refresh thanks to added tramlines. No thank you.
11| Ramin Rezaeian, Iran
Ramin Rezaeian was a man who had it all. And by all, we mean a long, swept-back lid that'd make even Timothée Chalamet green. Then he had to spoil it all with a bastardized take on the mohican (if that's at all possible), with added height and a full fringe because we can't have nice things anymore.
12| Luka Modric, Croatia
The forehead barely-there band: wasn't good on Beckham in the '90s, wasn't good on college girls that listened to a Klaxons album once in 2007, is most certainly not good now. Must do better, Luka Modric. Much much better.
13| Neymar Jr.
Superstar, supernoodle: Neymar Jr. takes the cake once again for the most offensive haircut in the World Cup. Now where to start. Is it the toussled bleached curls that are crying out for a drop of hydration? Is it the extreme fade last seen on a Fresh Prince-era Will Smith? Or is it the fact that, despite a comical salary, the Brazilian striker still settles for an aesthetic on par with a Eurovision winner in Republic? The beautiful game. Sure.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.