World Cup 2018: The best England World Cup songs of all time

Harry Fletcher

Sales of flags and facepaint are through the roof, grown men are filling up their Panini sticker books and office sweepstakes are in full swing. It can only mean one thing — the nation has caught World Cup fever.

It’s that magical time every four years where fans park themselves in front of the telly for an entire month and unite behind England as they try one again to replicate the heroics of 1966.

It’s also the perfect time to get in the spirit of the tournament by revisiting the best World Cup anthems to grace the charts down the years.

There’ve been some absolutely inspired efforts released in support of England, as well as a fair share of absolute shockers (Dizzee and Corden, we're looking at you).

As England get their tournament underway, these are the best World Cup songs of all time.

5. Ant & Dec - We're On The Ball (2002)

The early 00s were a heady time for English football. The team had its first foreign manager ever in Sven Goran-Eriksson, they were lighting up qualification for the 2002 World Cup and the birth of the ‘golden generation’ had begun. Nothing ever came of it of course but for a while it was pretty exciting and We're On The Ball encapsulated that optimism perfectly. The song is a classic of its kind but it loses a few points for being factually inaccurate: the line “Beckham to Heskey/Heskey to Owen/5-1!” suggests that it was Owen who got the fifth goal in England’s famous 2001 win over Germany. However as every English fan and pedant will tell you, it was actually Heskey that scored the final goal of the game. That being said, We're On The Ball is worth celebrating on the strength of Ant’s Sven impression in the video alone.

4. Spice Girls feat. England United - (How Does It Feel To Be) On Top Of The World? (1997)

Some of Cool Britannia’s biggest players collaborated on 1997 effort (How Does It Feel To Be) On Top Of The World?. The Mersey twang of Ian McCulloch’s vocals sits nicely against the Spice Girls’ lush harmonies, while members of Space and Ocean Colour Scene also play their part. It lacks the euphoric, sing-a-long quality of some of its contemporaries but it’s a finely crafted, sophisticated piece of songwriting, which doesn’t try too hard to shoehorn football references into the lyrics. All in all, it’s a breezy Britpop favourite which has been unfairly overlooked down the years.

3. Fat Les - Vindaloo (1998)

Keith Allen teamed up with Blur's Alex James and pioneering artist Damien Hirst to put together one of the most nonsensical but utterly brilliant World Cup anthems ever released back in 1997. What started out as a bit of fun became a huge hit, with Vindaloo reaching number two in the UK charts. The accompanying clip famously spoofs the street-walking video for The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony the video. This time though bemused Londoners are swapped for sumo wrestlers, generic Frenchmen and Little Britain pair Matt Lucas and David Walliams, who make blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances. The overblown clip and the nonsensical track itself are pretty ridiculous, yet they somehow sum up the excitement and excess of Britain in the 90s better than anything else.

2. Baddiel, Skinner & Lightning Seeds - Three Lions '98 (1998)

All the joys and frustrations of being an England supporter are encapsulated in this, a true classic from Skinner, Baddiel and the Lightning Seeds. Hearing Three Lions sung at football grounds is a spine-tingling experience and it remains one of the very best-written songs of its kind. It just misses out on top spot, not least because Jürgen Klinsmann led the Germany squad in a rendition of the song after raising the trophy in ‘96 — a moment that still rankles even two decades later. However, while there could be many more years of hurt in store before England lift the World Cup again, you can guarantee fans will be singing Three Lions when they do.

1. New Order - World In Motion (1990)

While there’s a novelty appeal about the other anthems on the list, there has never — we repeat never — been a cooler World Cup song released than World In Motion. The track stands shoulder to shoulder with New Order’s greatest tracks, featuring the kinds of Hacienda floor-filling beats and unforgettable melodies that made them one of the best bands of their era. Throw John Barnes rapping into the mix too and you’ve got the recipe for the best World Cup song of all time.

The video is a work of art in its own right too. We see a fresh-faced Gazza doing keepy ups in the video, wearing England’s stunning Italia 90 kit and looking ready to set the tournament alite, before Barnes — kitted out a pair of ludicrously short shorts — unleashes his flow and offering some invaluable tactical insight (remember lads, there’s only one was to beat them and it’s around the back). All in all, it’s enough to make you fall in love with England all over again.