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The best and worst football mascots

By Paul Gittings, CNN
  • The 1966 World Cup saw the first competition mascot named "World Cup Willie"
  • Willie, a lion dressed in a union jack outfit, proved a commercial success
  • The Euro 2012 mascot for the competition in Ukraine and Poland has just been unveiled
  • CNN takes a look at the best and worst mascots from major football tournaments

(CNN) -- The mascot for the 2012 European soccer championship co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine has been officially unveiled: a pair of footballing brothers wearing the jerseys of each nation.

Critics might say that UEFA and its design company Warner Bros. have hardly displayed originality, because the mascot for Euro 2008, co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland, was twin brothers "Trix and Flix."

But love them or hate them, the spiky-haired pair will doubtless make a small fortune in memorabilia and associated sales for the 2012 organizers and Europe's ruling body.

The use and marketing of commercially-designed mascots at major football competitions began in 1966 for the World Cup held in England, who beat West Germany 4-2 in the final.

Flushed by that success, the "World Cup Willie" mascot proved an immediate hit and helped swell the coffers of the English Football Association, so it was inevitable that the innovation was here to stay.

But while Willie is acknowledged to be a creative masterpiece, particularly for its time, others have been panned by the critics.

CNN has compiled a football team's line-up of them to compare the best and the worst in our photo gallery.

Feel free to add your own contributions in the comment box below.

1. World Cup Willie (1966 World Cup, England)

The first, and some people say, best of all football mascots, although the choice of United Kingdom red, white and blue for the lion's outfit, when the tournament was hosted by England alone, was in retrospect a strange decision.

2. Tip and Tap (1974 World Cup, Germany)

The 1974 hosts kitted out two boys in the white shirts of the national team, emblazoned with the initials WM (Weltermeisterschaft) -- which is German for World Cup. Although it has the look of a hastily-drawn cartoon, it brought good luck to the hosts who beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the final.

3. Jerboas (2011 Asian Cup, Qatar)

Next year's Asian Cup of Nations in Doha has a whole family of mascots. Jerboas are a rodent found in the desert in that area, which does not inspire confidence in the overall concept.

4. Footix (1998 World Cup, France)

The cockerel, a national symbol of France, was a natural choice for a mascot -- and by the end of the competition it was crowing very loudly as the hosts upset Brazil 3-0 in the final.

5. Zakumi (2010 World Cup, South Africa)

"Zakumi is a jolly, self-confident, adventurous, spontaneous, and actually quite shrewd little fellow. He loves to perform and always follows his instinct and intuition, yet sometimes has the tendency to exaggerate a bit," said the blurb on FIFA's official website. Love him or hate him, he made a lot of money for football's world governing body, whose revenues now top $1 billion per year.

6. The Spheriks (2002 World Cup, Japan and South Korea)

Apparently the first computer-generated mascots, the Spheriks were an acquired taste and appeared to be based on Pokemon figures which were popular at the time.

7. Striker (1994 World Cup, United States)

The American public, who clearly adore dogs, voted for the loveable animal which, like World Cup Willie, wore the red, white and blue of the hosts. Some might say it proved a pup.

8. Benelucky (Euro 2000, Belgium and Netherlands)

It's always a problem for co-hosts of tournaments to design mascots or logos which can fit both national identities. The clue to this mascot is in the name. Benelux countries Belgium and the Netherlands put on the 2000 European Championship. An odd mix of a lion with a devil's horn and tail.

9. Pique 1986 (1996 World Cup, Mexico)

The Mexicans were awarded the competition -- only 16 years after their 1970 staging -- when Colombia pulled out. The mascot has a last-minute look to it and, designed in the shape of a jalapeno pepper with a mustache and sombrero, reinforced a national stereotype.

10. Trix and Flix (Euro 2008, Austria and Switzerland)

The androgynous twin brothers did not confine themselves to on-field activities. They also appeared in an animated music video by Shaggy, who penned the official song of Euro 2008 "Like a Superstar." Neither the mascots nor the video lived up to the name.

11. Yet to be named (Euro 2012, Ukraine and Poland)

The public can vote for the names of another set of mascot brothers on UEFA's official website. The result will be announced on 2004.