It’s that time again. Back by popular demand (to be precise, two people), it’s time for our quadrennial report of all the team shirts that will be on display at the upcoming World Cup. As ever, the menu is overwhelmed by items produced and designed by the twin behemoths of the sportswear universe, Adidas and Nike. Whether they have been using their market domination to the benefit of the sartorial elegance of international football, however, is something of an open question.
They are joined by Puma, who seem to have signed a contract with almost the whole of Africa, and a couple of smaller manufacturers such as Joma and, flying the flag for dear old Blighty. Also, you may notice that one of the competing nations is missing. North Korea have reportedly signed a deal with Legea, but there is no sign of their shirt as yet. Perhaps they believe that buying a replica shirt is an act of bourgois imperialism. But anyway, with our tongues planted firmly in our cheeks, on – in something approaching alphabetical order, with the show. Click on the links to see the offending items.
Algeria: Puma have kept it almost nice and simple for Algeria’s home shirt, which is white and, as its major embellishment, features a fennec fox on the right-hand shoulder, the fennec fox being the national animal of Algeria.
Argentina: Clean and simple is the key for the Argentina kit, made by Adidas, although the sky blue epaulettes on the shoulders have concerned some purists. Still, Adidas, who, as we shall see, are capable of creating a football shirt atrocity or two, have got it right for Argentina.
Australia: Australia are in their second successive World Cup finals, and again Nike are responsible for their kit this summer. The white strip across the middle seems a little superfluous, and the shirt also features up to two hundred ventilation holes on the side – whether these will be necessary in South Africa, where it is winter, we shall have to wait and see.
Brazil: There is still a degree of concern over the amount of control that Nike seems to hold over the Brazilian football team, but at least they seem to be getting the shirts right, although this one features more ventilation holes and the green stripe on the shoulder feels a like a step too far. As with the rest of Nike’s collection, these shirts are made from recycled polyester, which has apparently saved thirteen million plastic bottles from landfill.
Cameroon: Eight years ago, Cameroon were forced to wear shirts with black sleeves after FIFA barred their sleeveless shirts, and Puma, who still manaufacture their equipment, have gone for the relatively understated look, though these shirts are described as “contoured to deliver a snug body”, which roughly translates as “skin-tight”, which will be nice for those amongst us that enjoy a muscular torso.
Chile: Breaking away from the pack, Chile have gone with a design made by the American sportswear brand Brooks, who are making their World Cup debut this year. It’s a plain and simple design, and the accompanying advertising claims that they were “tailored and weaved by my old grandma”, which we believe may be a fib.
Denmark: There is something fundamentally wrong about Denmark wearing a shirt that isn’t made by Hummel. Still, Adidas have made a reasonably good fist of this shirt for them, including stripes across the middle that some may even interpret as a tribute to Hummel.
England: A billion and one words have already been written about the new England shirt, which is a beautiful plain white shirt, and some remain unhappy that it may be leaning a little too closely to the “leisurewear” market. Our biggest criticism comes with the jettisoning of the traditional navy blue shirts in favour of white ones, which is wrong, wrong wrong.
France: Adidas have been making shirts for France for forty years, now, but this will be the last World Cup for now for this long-running partnership which ends next year as the FFF have decided to go with Nike from 2011 until 2018. Again nodding to the 1998 World Cup winning shirt (which, in turn, was based upon the 1984 European Championship winning shirt), some have claimed that Adidas are deliberately sabotaging it with their last shirt for France, but it would be more appropriate to throw some criticism at the FFF over their “stylised” reinterpretation of the team’s badge.
Germany: Whilst France have jumped ship, Germany reamins on board with Adidas and are rewarded with a nice, elegant design which features thin stripes in the colours of the German flag running below, underneath and above the badge. The only problem with this shirt is the massive gaps (presumably left blank for pictures of Sepp Blatter’s face or somesuch) on the sleeves.
Ghana: A missed opportunity for Puma with Ghana. The badge on the shoulder is present and correct, but this shirt should really have been bold and gone for a huge black star rather than the washed out, grey star that sits there in its place. Other than that, this is standard Puma apparel.
Greece: Adidas have kept things simple again for Greece, who have opted for plain white shirts for this tournament. Two pale blue, boomerang-style lines have been added as well, for reasons that are probably best left with the designers.
Honduras: Honduras are back in the finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1982, and they have gone with a shirt design from Joma, whose other sponsorship deals include Watford, Wycombe Wanderers and Leicester City. In a World Cup in which many of the manufacturers are playing things safe, Joma have gone a little crazy, with go faster stripes down the side and a massive faded stripe across the breast.
Italy: How difficult can it be to get an Italy football shirt wrong? Well, Puma let us count the ways with this number, featuring the face of an angry robot on the front and a collar which, if it is pointed towards the sky, resembles a star, apparently. And if you think that’s bad, just wait until you see the goalkeeper’s kit.
Ivory Coast: Another from the same Puma cake-cutter for Ivory Coast, whose great differentiator is the startling luminous hue of orange that they have long sed for their shirts. The animal on the shoulder is, of course, an elephant, again from the team’s nickname.
Japan: Japan are paired up with Adidas again for this tournament, with this blue number which has a hint of the Chelsea shirt from last season about it. It also has an elegant design which is rather spoilt with an ugly, red block under the chin. The flag is a nice touch, though.
Mexico: It’s Adidas for Mexico this summer, with the three colours of the national flag making up their shirt. As non-descript as they come, though Mexico will be worth watching for the frankly bonkers red shirt that their goalkeeper will be wearing.
Netherlands: Orange and black, or orange and white? This seems to have been a question that has been vexing manufacturers of the Dutch kit for some time, now. Adidas preferred white, but Nike seem to prefer the orange and black that was so beloved of the team during the 1970s. This kit will be worn with black shorts.
New Zealand: Non-afficianados may be troubled by the fact that New Zealand wear all-white rather than all-black (indeed such differentiation from their more celebrated rugby playing cousins seems to be part of the culture of the team), but Nike have at least kept things pretty simple with their kit for this World Cup.
Nigeria: Another kit from the Adidas template collection for Nigeria, who may be wondering why they didn’t allow their kit to be made by Puma. At least it would have had a massive eagle on the shoulder. The best that can be said for this is that at least the designers got to leave work early that day, which must have been nice for them.
Paraguay: One of the few teams to be playing in stripes in this tournament, have also chosen Adidas, but with slightly more success. It could have done without the red sleeves, but the stripes on the chest are nice and chunky and it is reassuring to see a shirt with a proper collar.
Portugal: Nike have decided to go with a combination that will confuse the colour blind. The red and green is, of course, traditional for Portugal, but is it really necessary to combine the two in a stripe across the chest that looks as if, from the right distance, you may be able to see a sailing boat in it, in the style of those once fashionable “magic eye” pictures.
South Africa: It’s a big tournament for the host nation, but Adidas have chosen to play it safe with a simple yellow and green shirt, which is set apart from the rest by the appearance of what appears to be yellow and green leopardskin on the collars.
Serbia: Serbia finally make their World Cup debut in their own right with one of the more distinctive shirts of the tournament. The massive white cross plastered across the middle of it is, for those of you that were wondering, the country’s coat of arms, which also appears on the shirt’s badge.
South Korea: This year’s South Korea shirt are most notable for the extravagant quasi-chevron that adorns the front of it. It’s made by Nike, who were super-secretive about the designs of the shirts in the first place. They also contain, you guessed it, ventilation holes.
Slovakia: It’s the first time that Slovakia has, in its own right, made the finals of a major football tournament, and how has Adidas seen fit to mark the occasion? By grabbing something off the peg and sewing a badge onto it, by the look of it. There really isn’t much else to say about it but that.
Slovenia: Slovenia, meanwhile, have gone for Nike and have come up with this peculiar number, which has, depending on who you listen listen to, either got a mountain range or the sales graph of a struggling stationery company printed across the front of it.
Spain: The current European champions have also opted to keep it simple and, while the blue lumps around the collar and sleeves are slightly distracting, the combination of red and yellow is bright and vibrant without crossing the line into being lurid.
Switzerland: Not being African, Puma were unable to simply print a picture of a large animal on one shoulder and call it a wrap and, consequently, seem to have got stuck in two minds over what they were trying to achieve here. The Swiss shirt has two collars and two badges. A small barrel of brancy around the neck would have been a nice touch.
Uruguay: The Uruguayans have gone for a Puma shirt too, again with a combination of different collars (that leads one to wonder whether they had actually been told that you really only need one) and a shirt which is dotted with miniature representations of the sun that sits in the top left-hand corner of the country’s flag.
United States Of America: The United States ordinarily have amongst the best shirts of any team at the World Cup finals (with the notable exception of 1994), but Nike have fallen slightly short here. A bold sash across the middle of this shirt would have been a very striking design, but this merely looks as if someone has thought of doing it and then rubbed it out with an eraser. As with so many of the other entrants into this year’s tournament, the change shirt is much better.
And that, you’ll be delighted to hear, is that. Don’t forget, you can keep up with everything that we are doing for this World Cup on our special South Africa 2010 page, and there will doubtless be some scathing satire going down via our Twitter feed. Coming up tomorrow, a crisis of conscience over being English that has been brought on by (quite literally) a rash of absolutely appalling World Cup themed songs, and on Wednesday some predictions for the finals themselves.