From England to France to Spain, the pressure of playing the most popular sport in the world on its biggest stage apparently is taking its toll on some the best players and nations as the tournament enters only its second week.
As reported by The Associated Press and Reuters:
Following the team’s surprisingly lackluster 0-0 tie with Algeria on Friday night, an English fan eluded security, invaded the team's changing room and fired off a derogatory insult at superstar David Beckham before walking out.
Ten minutes earlier, British royals Princes William and Harry had been in the rooms visiting the players.
"Luckily it was after the princes had left, 10 minutes after," said Beckham, the former England captain who is not playing as he rehabilitates from an Achilles tendon injury.
"Obviously it has been blown out of proportion. The actual fan literally just walked in very casually and just said something to me and then walked out. There was no scuffle, there was no aggression at all. He didn't comment on the performance."
During the game, English star Wayne Rooney – who has failed to score in seven straight games – blasted many of the 25,000 England fans who jeered the players, telling a TV camera, "It's nice to see your own fans booing you."
Rooney later apologized for the outburst.
English media have been even tougher on the team, which in its first match tied the United States 1-1 and now is in danger of not even reaching the next round despite being among the favorites to advance far into the tournament.
The tabloid Sun, never a publication to pull its punches, let rip with a variation of a famous Winston Churchill quotation from World War II on its back page.
"Never in the field of World Cup conflict has so little been offered by so few to so many," thundered its headline above a photograph of England's players shuffling off the pitch Friday after a performance in Cape Town that ruined World Cup parties across England.
"Rooney in a rage ... his team in a stew," said Matt Dickinson in The Times. "No wonder you were booed off Rooney," added a headline in The Sun.
"Toothless Three Lions limp to a bore draw ... and stand on brink of early exit" said the Daily Mail.
"Woeful England at point of no return," said The Times which used a full page photo of midfielder Frank Lampard apparently biting his nails on the front page of its sports section with a headline stating: "Be afraid. Be very afraid"
"Cape Fear" claimed The Sun's inside spread alongside a photograph of a raging coach Fabio Capello.
The Daily Telegraph's sport section was headlined "Shambles" while the Guardian's choice of words summed up the mood of the majority of people who watched England on television, "No spark, no spirit, no hope" it said.
The Daily Express simply screamed "Useless!" on its back page.
French star Nicolas Anelka was thrown off the team after getting into a heated exchange with coach Raymond Domenech and refusing to apologize.
The Chelsea forward reportedly made obscene comments to Domenech at halftime of France's 2-0 loss to Mexico on Thursday.
Anelka confirmed he had an argument with Domenech — but said that it was meant to stay within the team.
"I indeed had a heated conversation with the coach, but it happened within the confines of the changing rooms, between the coach and me, in front of my teammates and the staff," Anelka told the website of France Soir newspaper. "That should never have come out of the changing rooms. I don't know who can benefit from that, but repeating these kind of things certainly doesn't help (the team)."
The episode is another blow to a French team that made the World Cup finals in 2006 but is on the verge of being eliminated from the 2010 tournament after a listless draw with Uruguay and the Mexico loss.
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas is not distracted by the on-field presence of his television presenter girlfriend and is fully focused on his job, according to teammate Raul Albiol.
Casillas, who is in a relationship with Sara Carbonero, a Telecinco reporter covering the World Cup, was criticized for allowing Switzerland to score the only goal in Spain’s 1-0 loss on Wednesday.
He had to explain himself in a live interview with Carbonero immediately after the match, and the defeat prompted a British newspaper to suggest her presence at games was a distraction for the Spain captain.
In her video blog published on Friday (http://blogs.telecinco.es/elvideoblogdesaracarbonero/), Carbonero did not mention the controversy, instead focusing on Monday's match and predicting Spain would beat Honduras.