National Anthems: The Music of the World Cup

National Anthems: The Music of the World Cup

by Jordan Pearson (2013)

Edited by Hector Morales, Jesús Hidalgo, Paige Newhouse, and Bridget Willke (2015)

A Clash of Nations

International soccer is a nationalist spectacle. Two teams representing two nations come together to compete, often carrying the baggage of history between the two nations. We saw a prime example of this in the 2012 Olympics when South Korea played Japan. After the match, Korean player Park Jong Woo held up a sign, advocating the Korean claim on an island- a dispute that continues between the countries. (For a detailed analysis of the event and its ramifications, check out Jun Yoon’s post.) Park was not awarded his Bronze medal with the team (though he got it later) and was sanctioned by FIFA for his inappropriate politically motivated action.[1] However, there is one time during international play that FIFA allows an act of explicit nationalism- the playing of each country’s national anthem.


The World’s Music

Playing the national anthem before a World Cup match is the pinnacle of nationalism. For 60-90 seconds, all the world’s attention is focused on the country, the players representing it, its flag, and its fans. The national anthem is representative of the country’s ideals, goals, history, and future aspirations. It embodies what it means to be a citizen.

Before each World Cup match both teams line up at centerfield and the national anthem from each country is played. An instrumental version of the anthem is played and it is customary for fans and players to sing the words. Here the clip of the National Anthems from before the US-England game in the 2010 South Africa World Cup (You can tell its 2010 from the vuvuzelas before and after the anthems).

Does it matter?

How important is the national anthem? Just weeks before the 2010 World Cup, Germany’s national soccer team lost public confidence not for losing their captain to injury, but for a lack of national pride.  Simply put, many players on the ethnically diverse team did not sing the national anthem at friendly matches prior to the big event, upsetting many German spectators. Many questioned these players’ patriotism and if they had what it takes to represent Germany on the international stage. With some support from the coach and German Football Association, players convinced the public that they were very patriotic and proud to play for Germany, regardless of whether or not they belted out the national anthem prior to matches.

Interestingly enough, this debate continued leading up to the 2014 World Cup. Many Germans argued that players should sing the national anthem even if they had multicultural backgrounds, as it would show that Germany, today a nation of immigrants, is united. Other nations faced similar debate. Roy Hodgson, England’s national team manager, insisted on his players singing “God Save the Queen” to show their pride in England. [2][3][4]

The Anthems

We heard each country’s national anthem at least three times during the World Cup. That’s why I compiled a list of all the hymns that were played in the tournament and added the original lyrics with a translation in English.

You will also find my personal thoughts about the meaning of each anthem regarding the representation of what a “nation” is. Each hymn highlights a particular characteristic of its respective country. Sometimes, it emphasizes the geographical beauty of a territory or narrates part of the national history, while in a few cases it tells us about what values the nation underscores as part of its identity.

I hope that you find this information helpful and I look forward to your comments!

Here is a link to each of the pages, sorted by 2014 World Cup group.

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Côte d’Ivoire, Japan

Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, Korea Republic


Here is a list of all the countries in the 2014 World Cup, linked to their group page.









Costa Rica

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)











Korea Republic












[1] Yoon, Jun. “South Korea vs. Japan, a rivalry like no other.” Soccer Politics/The Politics of Football. Duke University. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

[2] Fuhrmans, Vanessa and Laura Stevens. “For German Soccer, a Lyric Debate.” The Wall Street Journal. 3 June 2010. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

[3] Spoerr, Kathrin. “Sollten alle deutschen Spieler die Hymne singen?” Die Welle. 26 Jume 2014. Web. 1 March 2015.

[4] McNulty, Phil. “World Cup 2014: England players told to sing anthem.” BBC Sport. 1 June 2014. Web. 1 March 2015.


How to cite this article: “National Anthems: The Music of the World Cup,” Written by Jordan Pearson (2013), Edited by Hector Morales, Jesús Hidalgo, Paige Newhouse, and Bridget Willke (2015),World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date)). 


14 thoughts on “National Anthems: The Music of the World Cup

  1. Angel Garza Reyna

    Excellent read! I really liked the hyperlinks that elaborated to unanswered questions that arose as I read. The videos were nice as well; however, I disagree when you say: “It embodies what it means to be a citizen.” Not all supporters of a national team are citizens of that country. A foreign national may be a more die hard fan than a citizen from X-Country.

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  3. Dan Linehan

    That’s correct, there is a FIFA anthem, and FIFA has stipulated that it is to be played as the teams leave the tunnel and go on to the pitch. The rule book of the 2014 World Cup is interesting reading including a rule that the UN flag is to be flown inside the stadium within clear view of the VIP box.

  4. Austin Ness

    Hey, this looks like a great guide to all of the anthems for the World Cup teams. I’m part of the group working on the Players to Watch from each country – do you think that we could link to the group pages at the bottom of each profile? It would be a nice way to connect our projects, since ours are the only two I can think of off the top of my head that cover all 32 teams. Anyone wishing to learn about a team could read a profile on an interesting player before listening to the team’s national anthem – a great way to prepare for watching the World Cup next summer.

    Your page looks great so far and I can’t wait to read through all of it. I consider myself a huge soccer fan, and I’ve always noticed that the players all treat their national anthems slightly differently.

  5. Peter

    Nice project. The UEFA Champions League also has its own anthem, of course. As do many clubs.

    For this project, it might be interesting to include videos of the anthems being played before international matches to get a sense of how soccer fans of different countries perform their culturally specific patriotism and sporting nationalism.

    At most sporting events in the U.S., for example, the Star-Spangled Banner is a somber ritual with everyone standing stiffly toward the flag, caps off, only a few singing. But at South African stadiums it is often a joyous experience when people put their arms around each other and treat it as a celebration, a carnival of togetherness (I documented a bit of this in this YouTube video:

    On South Africa’s fascinating anthem and its relationship to sporting nationalism, see Chris Bolsmann’s chapter in *Africa’s World Cup.*

  6. Laurent Dubois

    Hi — This is shaping up beautifully! It’s going to be a great page. Some formatting issues in your country list, it seems, though?

  7. Jordan Pearson Post author

    That is a great idea! I had not heard of a FIFA anthem either. I will look into it and see what I can find. I’ll try to work it into this page, but it may end up being a separate post.

  8. Balser

    In my research I just came across that in 1994 FIFA sanctioned its own anthem that they play before all FIFA sponsored events. Maybe you’d want to include that too, since many people (including myself) didn’t know this existed.


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