Critics called it the "best ad ever," but many fans are rueing Nike's World Cup spot as the tournament enters its final stages. Nearly every soccer player prominently featured in the lavish "Write the Future" ad had an extremely poor World Cup campaign, leading to a great deal of only half-facetious speculation about whether the commercial had "cursed" its superstar protagonists. "Not one of its stars has played anything like the beautiful game," says Asher Klein in The New York Times, and many of them crashed out in the group stages — "does that spell out a curse?" Yes, it does, says Richard Whittall at Yahoo Sports. The ad "ripped through the chances of almost every one of its featured World Cup hopefuls," and even some of the "ad's non-footballing celebrities" have been affected. Here's a look at the carnage:
Country: Ivory Coast
Can be seen at: 0:03 — 0:30
The curse strikes: The Cote D'Ivoire striker almost didn't make the World Cup at all, after fracturing his arm shortly before the tournament began. But even with the Chelsea star playing, his team "collapsed in the group stage." An injury-hampered Drogba scored just one goal in the World Cup.
Can be seen at: 0:10 — 0:45
The curse strikes: The Italian defender is shown in the ad heroically saving a goal with a backflip kick. If only he had shown such skill on the actual field — Cannavaro's typically stingy "past-it Italian defense" let in five goals in three games, and the world champions failed to get past the group stage.
Can be seen at: 0:45 — 1:44
The curse strikes: The striker failed to score a single goal in the World Cup, and "barely ventured into the German area" during England's 4-1 defeat in the knock-out stage. As predicted in the ad, the British tabloids have ripped him to pieces. Our "so-called talisman couldn't even control the ball," said the Sun's Steven Howard. "What an embarrassment."
Can be seen at: 0:56 — 1:27
The curse strikes: The sensational meltdown of France's World Cup squad barely needs repeating, but Ribery was also accused of soliciting sex with an underage prostitute before the tournament even started. The winger could not inspire his team beyond the opening stages in South Africa.
Can be seen at: 1:41 — 1:44
The curse strikes: Even star tennis players aren't immune from the curse. Shown briefly playing Rooney at table tennis, Federer lost his No. 1 world ranking soon after the Nike ad premiered, and narrowly avoided a humbling first round defeat at Wimbledon last week.
Can be seen at: 1:50 — 2:12
The curse strikes: The curse struck the A.C. Milan star early — he was dropped from the Brazilian World Cup squad in May.
Can be seen at: 2:12 — 2:58
The curse strikes: The Portuguese striker may be the only soccer player not to have been afflicted by the curse... so far. Ronaldo broke his scoreless international run during his team's 7-0 drubbing of North Korea — but Portugal's game against Spain this afternoon will determine whether or not he has truly escaped unscathed.
4.27PM update: Portugal lost, and the curse has claimed its last victim.