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 By Nick Miller

World Cup Willie, Striker and Ciao: Best World Cup mascots

Martin Ainstein undergoes an unforgettable experience in Moscow as he visits the Russian Cosmonaut Training Center during his tour of World Cup host cities.

This article has been edited and originally appeared on ESPN FC on June 7, 2014.

From the cuddly to the surreal to the conceptual art projects, the World Cup mascots down the years have been a rather mixed bunch.

Here are 10 of the best ...

10. Footix, France 1998

If you want to read into this type of thing, the mascot for the 1998 World Cup seemed to symbolise the sort of positive thinking that France needed, and eventually rode, to win the tournament. After all, they hadn't been involved since...

Manchester United target Fred has been influenced by Brazil's greats

ESPN FC's Man United expert Mark Ogden discusses the likelihood that Toby Alderweireld, Fred and Alex Sandro move to Old Trafford this summer.
Alejandro Moreno and Shaka Hislop question Jose Mourinho's positive outlook after Man United's loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup final.
The ESPN FC panel rate the success of Jose Mourinho's time at Manchester United and discuss his relationship with Paul Pogba.
ESPN FC's Shaka Hislop delves into rumours surrounding Neymar, Willian, Anthony Martial and more in Transfer Rater.

With Manchester United eyeing a deal for Fred, here are five things to know about Shakhtar Donetsk's 25-year-old Brazilian international midfielder:

1. He scored his first goal against his hero Ronaldinho

Fred is a holding midfielder nowadays, but started out as a left-back at Atletico Mineiro in his home town of Belo Horizonte. Upon moving to Internacional of Porto Allegre at the age of 16 in 2009, he was used as a winger and playmaker at the academy, and unsurprisingly Ronaldinho was his ultimate...

 By Michael Cox

Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone top our best managers for 2017-18

The Exploding Heads reveal their end of season awards which include Ironic Banner of the Year, Manager Unveiling of the Year and more.

With the 2017-18 club football season at an end, we asked Michael Cox to rank the top 10 managers after another gripping campaign. Which tacticians are thriving and succeeding around the biggest clubs and best leagues?

1. Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)

After the disappointment of not winning the European Cup with Bayern Munich and an underwhelming first campaign in English football, 2017-18 confirmed that Guardiola remains the most exciting, methodical and innovative coach of his generation, taking...

Cristiano Ronaldo: 33 reasons to love or hate the 33-year-old

Editor's note: This piece has been updated since Feb. 5, 2015, when ESPN FC celebrated Ronaldo's 30th birthday.

If you're like me, you have a love-hate relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo. So what better way to celebrate the 33-year-old's greatness than to list the 33 reasons to love, or hate, CR7. Warning: Some things below cannot be unseen (in a good and bad way). 

Love Ronaldo 

If it wasn't for his vain celebration in the Champions League final after scoring his penalty vs. Atletico...

 By Tony Evans

Liverpool's Andrew Robertson hoping to mimic predecessor Alan Kennedy's heroics vs. Real Madrid

ESPN FC's Mark Ogden takes an early look at the Champions League final and assesses Liverpool's chances of winning their sixth UCL title.
The FC boys debate whether or not the SPI projection gives too much credit to Liverpool over Real Madrid.

Andy Robertson has become a cult hero at Anfield. The 24-year-old has made the transition from being a squad player to one of the team's mainstays in the second half of the season. His vigour, athleticism and appetite for the game have given Liverpool a much more solid look at left-back.

Robertson can get forward, too. He provides balance and width. The Scot is one of the campaign's success stories.

The season did not begin so well. Robertson started just two of the first 14 Premier League...

How 'Messi and Friends' led Northwestern's all-time leading scorer to chase his dreams in Iceland

Matt Eliason's dream of playing professionally appeared to be over, until a chance appearance in a friendly with Lionel Messi changed his life.

Thierry Henry laconically flicks a cross toward the penalty spot, to where Matt Eliason is waiting to chest it down. Cushioning the ball perfectly into the air, Eliason throws his body back and catches the falling ball sweetly, as his leg whips around over his head. The net bulges. On the other team, Lionel Messi can only look on in wonder.

If it sounds like a your-name-here dream for the Matt Eliason character, it was, sort of, though in many ways the reality of what followed that fantasy moment...