By: Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato
It’s a jungle out there, and in this year’s World Cup, footballers are jockeying for a seat at the top of the food chain. While some bring brute strength to the table, others have adapted with speed and cunning. For these athletes, it’s survival of the fittest—just like in the Amazon.
To celebrate the 2014 World Cup, we’ve created a list of footballers who remind us of jungle animals. Do you see the resemblance?
I Got the Moves Like Jaguar
Junior Diaz is the World Cup’s fastest player with a 22 mile-per-hour sprint. The Costa Rican defender played in five matches and ran about 35 miles on the field in this tournament as of Tuesday.
Still, Diaz is no match for the jaguar, which can run about twice that fast. These formidable beasts are the largest cats in the Americas, and they have an appetite to match. Jaguars eat large mammals like deer, peccaries and tapirs. They also snack on birds, turtles and fish.
Suarez Bites Like the Bullet Ant
Bullet ants are the world’s largest ant, growing up to an inch long. These nasty denizens of the rainforest floor can both bite and sting,injecting victims with a powerful neurotoxin that causes muscle contractions and a burning sensation. They’re dubbed “bullet” because being attacked by one feels like getting shot. (See also “Top 5 Strangest Rainforest Animals”)
Luis Suarez may not look like a bullet ant, but his bite is just as potent. Nicknamed “The Cannibal,” Suarez was suspended last month for biting another player during a game. The Uruguayan midfielder leaned over mid-play and clamped his pearly whites on Germany’s Giorgio
In the Amazon, bullet ants are traditionally used during local coming-of-age ceremonies, where young men have to endure multiple bites and stings to secure a place within the community. And while Suarez’s bite might not pack the same punch as a bullet ant, it could have serious health implications. The human mouth contains hundreds of strains of bacteria—some of which don’t hurt their hosts but can be fatal to others.
The Naked Truth About Croatian Footballers
The Croatian football team caused a stir when photos of them relaxing naked by their hotel pool circulated the Internet. Two photographers hid in the bushes while the squad lounged in the buff and quickly sold the resulting photos to media outlets. Angry that their privacy had been violated, the team refused to give interviews to World Cup reporters.
Luckily, the Peruvian hairless dog is much less self-conscious about its nudity—its picture adorns artifacts from the Moche, Inca, Chancay and Chimu peoples. The ancient breed is affectionately called the “Peruvian Inca Orchid.” Prized for its heat-radiating skin, many locals prefer cuddling with their canines to hot compresses or heating pads. (You can cuddle up in one of our rainforest villas.)
These bald dogs get flack in a society accustomed to fuzzy pooches. Peruvian hairless dogs are often strong contenders for the World’s Ugliest Dog competition. Do their human counterparts on the Croatian team match suit? You’ll have to decide for yourself.
Tim Howard and the Poison Dart Frog
The U.S. goalie Tim Howard wears a bright green jersey that reminds us of a poison dart frog. These gorgeous creatures come in many different colors besides green, dotting the rainforest with splashes of gold, copper, blue and red. Their bright coloration is a warning that tellspredators to back off—or suffer the toxic consequences. Poison dart frogs ooze poison from their skin that can maim or even kill their attackers. (If looks could kill… These exotic amphibians would slay us.)
There are several species of poison dart frog that carry their eggs and tadpoles around on their backs—just like Howard carried the U.S. team through the country’s first two matches. During the U.S. versus Belgium game, Howard made 16 saves—the most ever recorded during a World Cup game.
Want to see more jungle animals? Check out our tours of the Amazon with Rainforest Expeditions.