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So, who'll get to score off the pitch as well as on it during this World Cup?

By Jamie Merrill

Forget the fantastic goals and put the comical cans of spray paint to the back of your mind. The real story coming from the Brazil World Cup is going on behind closed doors. It's not about yet another Fifa corruption, though, but about which players are, er, scoring off the pitch.

More goals have been scored in the opening days of the competition than at any previous World Cup, but the world's media have been speculating breathlessly about another kind of scoring: which teams' managers are, shall we say, restricting strenuous nocturnal stamina-training activities.

There are no hard and fast rules about whether players should be allowed to have sex during tournament periods, but some managers are being very firm about their sexually restrictive policies, while others are happy to let nature take its course. We do know that the Italian team, which vanquished England last Saturday, were permitted to enjoy the company of their wives and girlfriends in Manaus the night before their 2-1 victory. Of course, the same was true of the England camp, though, so the Italians had no unfair advantage there.

As an aside, for a time gullible fans were able to take cheer from a breathless Daily Star "exclusive" which "revealed" that England fans could now relax, as the arrival of "sexy" Colleen Rooney would "perk up" her husband Wayne's performance on the pitch, after he fired "blanks" against Italy.

The Spanish and Germans are allowed to play away from the pitch throughout the four-week festival of football, but are forbidden from indulging the night before any game, so it's unlikely that it was a night of passion with his wife, Lisa, that inspired striker Thomas Muller to score a hat-trick on the pitch against Portugal.

Oddly, the Costa Ricans have a restriction on sex only until the second round of the tournament, while the more traditional Nigerians are allowed to bed down only with their wives, not their girlfriends. In contrast, the Brazilian and Mexican players have been told to fill their boots, as long as it's not too acrobatic. One can only assume team coaches must be putting in all-night shifts outside bedroom doors to enforce a missionary-style-only policy.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's the romance-friendly French who have perhaps the most trusting policy, allowing a sexual free-for-all as long as the frequency, type and timing of activities don't get out of control. Apparently, the team's former doctor says that sex is "relaxing" for the players, but there's a stern warning that it shouldn't become an all-night activity. Most scientists tend to agree with him, too, with numerous studies finding sex before sport has few, if any, ill-effects on the players' game.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina manager obviously hasn't seen those studies, though, and he's instigated a total sex ban. It's the same story for the sex-deprived players of Russia and Chile. Perhaps they've taken inspiration from the ancient Greeks, who believed that preserving a man's sperm was essential to creating the required aggression for public performance.

What footballers and elite athletes get up to at sporting competitions has ignited media feeding frenzies before. In 2006, the England camp was called a "circus" by Rio Ferdinand after manager Sven Goran Eriksson allowed celebrity wives and girlfriends, such as Victoria Beckham and Cheryl Tweedy, to accompany the squad. Four years later, Fabio Capello was much stricter in South Africa – not that it did much good on the pitch.

As for the elite stars themselves, most have (sensibly) stayed silent about the intimate details of their sexual exploits, but back in the 1990s Linford Christie, the British sprinter, famously said a romp the night before a race made his legs feel like lead. That wouldn't do for a quarter-final clash.

George Best disagreed, arguing that sex the night before a big game wasn't a problem.

Wisely, he did draw the line at sex on a match day, though, saying that "I certainly never found it had any effect on my performance. Maybe best not the hour before, but the night before makes no odds".

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