“NO. It’s rounder.”

Ever since Kettering Town took to the pitch against Bath City on 24 January 1976 with “Kettering Tyres” emblazoned across the front of their shirts, sharp men in sharper suits have been trying to concoct ingenious new schemes through which to capitalise on the popularity of the game. While some have been more successful than others (Blackpool’s 2011/12 sponsorship deal with Wonga.com was worth a measly £500k, ironically about the yearly interest on a loan of a tenner from that particular website) there has been ever-increasing opportunities to do so; with the advent of Sky Sports in 1990, the birth of the FA Premier League two years later and the reinvention of the European Cup as the UEFA Champions League, advertising agencies everywhere lost their shit at the prospect of interrupting our pre-match build-up and half-time analysis with aspirational interpretations of the game, designed to trick grown men into thinking a £150 pair of boots will make them play like Zinedine Zidane, or at least Roy Makaay. It certainly worked on myself as a fourteen year-old and after many, many Saturdays working for Pete/dad I was the proud owner of a pair of the beauties below; I just wish that the advert had warned me that by wearing a pair of white football boots worth over a hundred pounds I had condemned myself to three years of hurdling knee-high challenges and abuse from the parents of opposing centre-backs. At least I learned some new words, I suppose.

Throughout the mid-nineties the football commercial developed, culminating in the birth of the tournament advert, a concept pioneered by Nike prior to the 1994 World Cup. The football equivalent of Hollywood’s summer blockbusters, the immediate aim of these short films was to turn the anticipation of each World Cup of European Championships into profit, however as Nike and Adidas fought harder for supremacy with each passing tournament the adverts became increasingly ambitious, artistic projects with a budget that would send Danny Boyle crazy and the effect was in many ways inverted; the pre-tournament fever of the fan fed off the advert, rather than the other way around. Often innovative, occassionally works of art in their own right and sometimes just downright bewildering (Oliver Kahn on a moped, anyone?) we have selected our pick of the battles in the advertising war between Adidas and Nike for you to relive, in a desperate attempt to forget about our catastrophic Euro 2012 campaign, take our minds off the Portugal match this evening and reinvigorate our passion for tournament football. Thanks to the wonders of technology, you can even vote for your favourite if you like.

Adidas

World Cup ’98 – Predator Accelerator

This completely over the top advert was the first aimed directly at the pre-tournament market, featuring Paddy Kluivert outsprinting an explosion thanks to those funny boots with bits of rubber stuck to them.

Euro 2000 – Predator

David Beckham inflates hundreds of footballs in the back of a truck driven by Zidane and Del Piero; the mischievious trio then join Kluivert to let the balls loose onto the streets of Belgium and Holland, with hilarious consequences.

World Cup 2002 – Footballitis

This truly baffling advert features some top quality acting from Raul and Fabian Barthez as they are treated for Footballitis, otherwise known as “World Cup Fever”.

Euro 2004 – The Road to Lisbon

In my mind, this is how footballers actually travel to major international tournaments; Zizou and Beckham are joined by Michael Ballack, Oliver Kahn, Patrick Vieira and, erm, Roy Makaay as they make their way to Lisbon on mopeds, stopping along the way to get owned by some Portuguese kid.

World Cup 2006 – Dream Team

A group of children begin to pick teams for a match soon to take place in the street, only for one annoying little shit to ruin the whole thing by picking professional players from around the globe. The most bewildering aspect of this commercial is not how these superstar footballers came to take part in a children’s game of street football dressed in full kit, but that the kid with the first pick chooses Djibril Cisse over Zidane and Kaka. What an IDIOT.

World Cup 2010 Adidas Originals – Star Wars Cantina

Although not strictly a football commercial, this Adidas Originals ad released during the last World Cup cannot be ignored – Beckham, Snoop Dogg and Daft Punk re-enact the cantina scene from Star Wars. “Well I don’t like you either, fool.”

Nike

World Cup 1994 – Good vs Evil

While not strictly a tournament advert, this advert cannot go without mention as it was probably the first blockbuster commercial of it’s kind, in which Eric Cantona and his team containing Paolo Maldini, Luis Figo, Ian Wright and Jorge Campos are transported from the Colosseum in Rome to hell, where they take on a team of demons. “Au revoir” indeed.

World Cup ’98 – Brazil Airport

Nike went back to basics for this pre-France ’98 commercial, enlisting Hollywood director John Woo who contraversially decided that sticking the Brazil squad in an airport with a few balls would be enough to make one of the greatest football commercials of all time. It was.

Euro 2000 – The Mission

Featuring a crack team of footballers including Figo, Edgar Davids, Lillian Thuram and Pep Guardiola attempting to steal a football, this advert includes the immortal line from Louis Van Gaal when Oliver Bierhoff argues that “It’s just a ball”. A truly classic advert that for months afterwards had everybody in the playground attempting Davids’ trick at around 1 minute 10 seconds with disastrous results. Broken bones everywhere.

World Cup 2002 – The Secret Tournament

In this commercial directed by Terry Gilliam (12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas), the world’s elite players get together on a huge oil tanker for a secret ‘first goal wins’ tournament, with a surprise guest appearance from Eric Cantona as some kind of footballing Willy Wonka. Consider my mind blown.

Euro 2004 – Ole Football

In an attempt to return to the format that served them well in 1998, this time Brazil and Portugal decide to sack the game off in favour of playing in the tunnel. Nobody knows why and quite frankly, nobody cares.

Euro 2008 – Take It To The Next Level

This innovative advert shows life from the perspective of a footballer, from being scouted at non-league level by Arsene Wenger to stepping up to take a crucial free-kick in the 2008 European Championships. Directed by Guy Ritchie and featuring music from The Eagles of Death Metal, the accuracy of the portrayal is astounding – we even receive a smack in the face from Marco Materazzi.

So there you have it, the (pre)tournament football commercials that we consider to be the best of the last two decades. Please feel free to vote for your favourite below and if there are any that you feel deserve a place in this list that we have forgotten to mention, please do let us know.

Thank you to anybody who voted, we hope that you have enjoyed watching as much as we have and that your excitement has validated our irrational love for what are essentially commercial tools. For now we’ll leave you with the following Nike commercial, released shortly before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. While not strictly a football commercial, this montage of legendary athletes from the past decade set to “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers undeniably gets the heart beating a little faster. I really hate it when adverts have the power to do this to me, although I long ago resigned myself to the fact that I’m a sucker for a montage; I’ll most likely black out soon and wake up tomorrow surrounded by two-hundred pairs of running shoes.

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