World Cup kits
With just four months to go until the big kick-off in Russia, it's officially time to start getting excited about the 21st edition of the greatest show on earth. Nearly half of the 32 World Cup participants have released their kits ahead of the tournament, and as you might expect it's a mixed bag.
Fear not, however, for FourFourTwo is here to sort the delightful from the dire, with this slideshow ranking all 15 of the jerseys unveiled so far.
Some minimalist kits work a treat and it’s certainly true that less is often more, but it’s hard to shake the nagging feeling that something’s missing from Egypt’s offering.
Previous shirts have featured hieroglyphics in a nod to the nation’s rich history, but this kit is bland and generic. Russia 2018 is Egypt’s first World Cup appearance in almost 30 years, so it’s a shame their return to the competition hasn’t been marked with a bolder design.
Sorry Switzerland, but we’re not keen. The wavy pattern running through the shirt is supposed to reflect the nation’s mountainous terrain, but we reckon one of Puma’s designers was doodling during a telephone conversation.
The understated logo on the left is a big plus, but the Swiss’ good work in that regard is quickly undone by glancing at the other breast, which features an outline of Haris Seferovic dragging a shot wide from 10 yards.
Didn’t expect that, did you? Spain have tended to play it safe when it comes to kits in the last few years, but this is a drastic departure from the predominantly-red-with-a-few-splashes-of-yellow top we’ve grown accustomed to.
It’s a shirt influenced by the one La Roja wore at the 1994 World Cup, but the blue and yellow parallelograms simply look untidy and out of place. The kit has also sparked controversy over in Spain, where some have claimed it resembles the 1930s Republican flag.
As Senator Joseph McCarthy might say, there's a lot of reds down this end. Russia have ditched the darker scarlet of recent years and returned to the hue associated with the Soviet Union teams of the 1970s and 1980s.
While that’s undoubtedly a positive as far as we’re concerned, there’s very little else to get excited about. The hosts could have made a real impression ahead of a tournament in their own back yard, but instead came up with one of the dullest designs released so far.
Fair play to Sweden, who have decided to simply release a carbon copy of every single kit they’ve worn in the past.
That might not be strictly true, but there’s very little to differentiate this jersey from any of the others the Scandinavian nation have pulled on in years gone by. While there’s nothing wrong with sticking with the tried and trusted, a little more adventure wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Mexico’s dark green jerseys are always a welcome alternative to the usual World Cup mush of blues and reds, but in our view their 2018 release isn’t anything special.
Adidas clearly wanted to avoid the monotony of a one-shade jersey, yet it’s hard to see the point of the protruding, lopsided bar graphs. The rest of the design is sharp, though, which earns Mexico a few points in mitigation.
We can’t quite make up our minds about Germany’s uniform, which may well be the Marmite of 2018 World Cup kits. The “geometric print” is influenced by the shirt die Mannschaft wore during their frankly awful triumph at Italia 90, but the black and grey lines don’t do much for us.
It’s also a slight turn-off that there’s no reference to the country’s flag or two of the colours within it, which is rare for World Cup jerseys which aren't Dutch.
It’s back to basics for England after a controversial dabble with blue sleeves last time out. This is a smart design featuring two particularly neat touches: the red shirt number underneath the Nike swoosh, and a very tidy collar.
Yet just as fans have grown frustrated at the Three Lions' failure to progress beyond the quarter-finals in recent tournaments, they haven’t done enough for anything more than a top-eight finish here. Frankly it’s a little uninspiring and is somewhat overshadowed by the superior training top, which is reminiscent of England’s kit at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
The inaugural world champions will be flying the sky blue flag once again this summer, with a smattering of black found on the collar and in the Puma logo.
There’s also a graphic print in the centre paying homage to both the Sun of May in the country’s flag and the Sol de Atlantida monument, which is located 30 miles along the coast from Montevideo. But you knew that.
Argentina nearly didn’t make it to Russia, the two-time world champions requiring a Lionel Messi hat-trick in their final qualifier against Ecuador to get over the line.
Thank goodness they did: not only do we get the chance to watch the Barcelona star strut his stuff on the grandest stage of all, we’ll also be able to gaze wistfully at one of the most classic kits in international football – captured here by Argentina's 15-feet-tall photographer.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first: Belgium’s kit looks like something you’d wear in the warm-up before putting your actual jersey on, and the badge is just too central and too low for us to get on board with.
Apart from that, though, this is a really sleek shirt featuring red and yellow diamonds which bring back memories of Euro ‘84. If it makes Eden Hazard happy, it’s good enough for us.
Yes, yes, yes: we’ve only got good things to say about this Japan jersey. Unlike many of Adidas’ other designs, this shirt doesn’t hark back to a particular kit from the 1980s or 1990s.
Instead, it's supposedly modelled on the pattern of traditional samurai armour. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if future releases drew inspiration from this gorgeous piece of uniform.
If you squint at the iconic red sash hard enough, you’ll be able to make out Teofilo Cubillas bending an outside-of-the-foot free-kick into the top corner of Scotland’s net at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.
Need we say more? Peru’s jerseys have always been among the most evocative in the game, and this one’s no exception. There’s an odd gold strip on the shoulder, but at least Umbro didn’t unduly tamper with the overall idea.
Colombia have underwhelmed since a James Rodriguez-inspired unit entertained the masses in 2014, but they could be back with a bang this summer if their kit is anything to go by.
Trying to incorporate yellow, red and blue into the same shirt is far from easy, unless you work in a circus, but Adidas have pulled it off brilliantly here. It’s a throwback to the top worn at the 1990 World Cup, although we doubt any of the current crop will be able to wear it as well as Carlos Valderrama.
A landslide victory for the Nigerians, whose 2018 offering may even belong in the conversation of best ever World Cup jerseys. Green doesn’t always work well as a predominant kit colour, but the shade used here is perfect and the dashes of white in a zig-zag pattern is something we don't think we've seen before.
Manufacturers Nike sought to “tap into the attitude of the nation” with their design, and this doozy does the trick in stunning fashion.
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