croatia vs denmark

watching croatia v denmark WC2018

The knockout stages of the Russia 2018 World Cup started yesterday. The first game was ridiculous, with France winning 4-3 against Argentina, Messi dropping his head while 19 year-old Mbappé turning up the speed. Kylian Mbappé, by the way, was born AFTER France won the World Cup in 1998. Incredible. Messi on the other hand just stood there after the final whistle, while various people came and tried to hug him. Portugal v Uruguay was a tighter affair with some good football – that cross-field pass from Cavani to Suarez, so that Suarez could cross it back for him to head home, was a thing of utter beauty, bettered only by Cavani’s superb second goal. I felt bad for Portugal, and of course out went Cristiano Ronaldo. I like Ronaldo, and particularly love the way he pulls his shorts right up when taking a free kick. This morning, we got up early again to watch Spain vs Russia. These early morning get-ups are getting old fast. I interspersed iot with watching the Formula 1, the Austrian Gran Prix, and somehow contrived to miss the best bits of both events. We did watch extra time, and of course the penalty shoot-out, and to our surprise Spain lost. Now I had originally predicted Argentina to win the World Cup, if you saw my long posts with all the kits, and that obviously didn’t work out, so I switched my prediction to Spain. Mystic Pete strikes again eh. So just to be safe and guarantee an England victory on Tuesday, I am predicting Colombia will win the World Cup, definitely for sure, they are gonna do it. Ok, so for today’s second game I parked myself on the couch and watched as Croatia and Denmark battled it out for a 1-1 draw. I sketched from the couch – see the picture above. In the distance you can see our paper mosaic flags. When a team is eliminated the flag is taken down. Above the TV, the official World Cup poster. And on the couch next to me, the Berlitz Engelsk-Dansk dictionary which I bought in 1995 ahead of my summer picking strawberries in Denmark. Yes I would wake up at 4am and pick strawberries on a farm in southern Funen, so you might say this isn’t the first time I’ve been up early rooting for Denmark. In the end it came down to a battle of the keepers, and though the Danes had the heroic Kasper Schmeichel, son of the Great Dane Peter himself (in case you missed it when the commentators mentioned it like a thousand times), the Croatian goalie saved one penalty more, and Modric and friends go through to meet Russia in the quarter finals. And I got another living room sketch out of it. It’s so hot these days I’m not sketching outside much.

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World Cup 2018: the group stage

Group stage kits WC2018

So, the Group Stage of the World Cup is over. This chart shows each of the kits worn in those first 48 games. As you can see, red v white is popular. Almost every team wore both of their kits at least once. Some wore different combinations than expected; Colombia wore white shorts twice for some reason, rather than blue, and then blue shorts with the blue away rather than orange. France wore three combinations, none of which were blue-white-red (they will wear that in the next round against Argentina though). England looked good with the old navy shorts back. THAT Nigeria kit got a single outing before they went back home. As predicted, Croatia wore their away kit more than the home kit. That Mexico away kit looked bloody good in real life. The kit combinations were a bit bizarre – I had thought that colour-blindness was being taken into consideration, I know that UEFA have directives, but the fact that the first game was red (Russia) vs green (Saudi Arabia) means that they weren’t taking this into account at all (not sure why the Saudis couldn’t wear white). The games have been great – every team has scored and there have been some super exciting games, especially the finale of Sweden v Germany. Some hilarious moments, such as Michy Batshuayi kicking a ball into his own face in celebration, and that Iranian player whose name escapes me who tried to do a flip-throw but ended up with a sad roly-poly. Argentina were bad, Messi looks so downhearted, while Cristiano Ronaldo is well up for it, and a hat-trick against Spain is pretty impressive. Kane is top scorer so far, his last goal being being scored while he was at a cafe reading a newspaper and eating a croissant, when a ball bounced off the foot of his table and over the line; he will take it. VAR has been fun, controversial but on the whole pretty correct. My favourite thing now though is when players go down, they don’t wave imaginary cards now, they make the imaginary tv screen sign. As for my predictions, well I don’t think Argentina will win now, but they made it through. Germany didn’t top their group, unless you put their group upside down (I still can’t believe they are out), while Sweden were definitely no bottom-of-the-groupers, and nor were Japan. Croatia have been a big surprise. Ok, so the next round is up. I predict that Argentina will beat France and Portugal will beat Uruguay, to set up the Messi v Ronaldo quarter-final. However Ronaldo in the Uruguay game will get booked and will miss it. England will struggle against Colombia but will make it. England will of course just win the World Cup, that is obvious, now that Germany is gone nobody can stand in the way, right? No, Spain will win it, proving that to succeed, you just need to sack your coach one day before the biggest tournament in the world. Brazil look alright. I have no idea who will win it, but maybe this year it will be someone new. Regardless folks, after this very very exciting World Cup so far, get ready for the 0-0s and penalty shootouts because they are coming.

never mind the balalaikas

watching the world cup
I hope you are enjoying the World Cup. Here I am in my living room, watching Russia beat Egypt 3-1, the big World Cup poster hanging above my TV. On the wall to the right I have all of the flags on the wall arranged by group, mosaics made of paper, my son and I made many of them for the 2014 World Cup, he didn’t help me make any of the new ones though. I like this World cup, I’ve had a lot of 5am wake-up calls for kick-off, but World cups in their early group stages are still full of hopes and maybes, before the rot sets in. Still some room for excitement and apathy. Soooo…my pre-tournament tip of Argentina winning it? Yeah, they drew 1-1 with Iceland and lost 3-0 to Croatia. I think Argentina’s formation was one big sad face, Messi’s certainly was. Time to break out the “Don’t Cro For Me Argentina” headline. (“Messi Argentina Taken to Cleaners.” “Hrvat’s Going On?”). No 0-0s yet, thankfully, but 1-0s aren’t any more exciting. Goals can be overrated, a good contest is much more fun. I’m glad England won their opener, Harry Kane doing what he does. I feel bad for the North African teams all going out early though. Oh yeah, Tunisia aren’t out yet, but they have Belgium next and the Belgians are looking good. I could go on, but I have had two very long pre-World Cup posts already. I’m enjoying this Russia World Cup, teaching us all a bit more about Russian geography, and the hosts have had a good start, less Russian bots and more Russian boots. The TV studios backing onto Red Square with St.Basil’s in the background look amazing. I had a pen-pal from Moscow when I was a teenager, so many years ago. I remember going to see the Hunt For Red October when I was about 14, and not enjoying it, I left before the end because I was bored. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Big nuclear explosions probably. Maybe there were a few last-minute goals I missed, I don’t know. I never watched it again and don’t want to, I like the mystery of not knowing what happened. Also, I don’t remember anything that happened during the movie anyway. It was no ‘Back To The Future 3’.

The Russia World Cup, part one: Ronaldo, Messi, and that incredible amazing Nigeria shirt

“The World Cup starts next week!” I said last week to an American I know. I know quite a few Americans, what with living in California, and most of them are actually quite into the game they call soccer. Soccer by the way is a term that came from England, not America, being shorthand for ‘Association Football’, as opposed to ‘Rugby Football’ which the public school boys still call  ‘rugger’. By the way, my American friends, in England ‘public school’ is what we actually call our private schools. If that sounds odd to you, well you call bums ‘fannies’ so I think we are about even. Anyway this particular American just gave a ‘yeah, so what’ type of facial response. Ten or fifteen years ago I might have taken this as normal but these days, I know so many Americans who are so into the game that they look forward to the World Cup almost as much as I do, so indifference is more unexpected than it used to be. And then I remembered – the USA aren’t in it this year. This is a big deal. They don’t have a team to root for. They might like another country for family reasons, or because they have the best shirts or the coolest players (all reasons I myself use, after all my team – Tottenham – is never in the World Cup) but it isn’t the same. America has gotten used to having a team on the biggest stage. Not a successful one, but they are there. It will be strange this year. No USA. No Holland. My own preferred team of Ireland (family connections, and historically my main supported national team) are not there. Even Italy are not there, mamma mia! Italy! It’s just not the World Cup without Italy. It’s like Christmas without the Sound of Music, or New Years Eve without endless Top 100 List Shows on Channel 4. It’s like a World Cup build-up show not making reference to Gazza’s tears. Still, I wouldn’t rule them out, dark horses, they always start a tournament late and so on. I am excited. I love all the flags, all the anthems, all the dodgy haircuts, the Panini stickers, the nostalgia for 1990 or other random World Cup we complained about at the time, but most of all I love the kits. For me, 1994 was one of the best World Cups for kits, but this year is looking like the best one since then, mostly because many of the Adidas kits are taking inspiration from that era. And so, as I do every big football tournament, I am going to do a run-down of every team along with an MS-Paint-drawn version of the kit.

If you come here for the sketches, well I still have plenty of those I am still scanning, so stay tuned. That said, this has been the least sketchingest year, compared to last year which was the most sketchingest. And that isn’t even a word. Ok, there are 32 teams in 8 groups, I’ll do 16 teams each post for 2 posts. Let’s start with Group A, which contains this year’s World Cup hosts, Russia.

GROUP A

RUSSIA

RussiaThere was controversy when Russia was selected, but that was largely because (a) England wasn’t selected and (b) Qatar was selected at the same time for the 2022 tournament. The biggest country ever to host the World Cup to the smallest. Despite current political climates, Russia is a much more traditional choice for World Cup host than a country that has never come close to the competition (cough cough Qatar), and has a long and storied World Cup history both as the USSR (Lev Yashin, Igor Belanov, Oleg Blokhin – oh yeah those two were Ukrainian, but still, played for USSR) and post-Soviet Russia (Oleg Salenko, and you know, some other people). Now the great Soviet teams played in, you guessed it, red, but the first post-Communist Russia teams played in white shirts – blue shorts – red socks, the order of the Russian flag. After a while they decided that the Soviet era was something to harken back to, so reverted to rich red shirts, and this continues with the current kit, in brighter red with white trim. It is a reminder of the Soviet kit from the late 80s, not the one they lost the Euros in, but the one they wore when they won the 1988 Olympics Gold Medal (2-1 vs Brazil, who had Romario in the team). The Soviets played well up front, they had a good perestroikers. Ok, Soviet era pun alert. This is one of Adidas’s retro feeling designs this summer and it is pretty nice. The away kit is strange, it has a graphic I do not understand. I want teams to do well based on their kits and this one should get them out of the group at least. They might not beat Brazil in the final this time though. From what I hear the team are pretty rubbish. However, I do think they will somehow get out of the group stage, if only so that Mister President has someone to support. PREDICTION: 2nd in group, out in Round of 16. KIT: 6/10 Home, 6/10 away.

EGYPT

EgyptThere is always a Group of Death in the World Cup, but Group A isn’t it (unless it’s in a kind of James Bond spy thriller kind of way). Egypt aren’t going to win the World Cup, but it is surprising that they haven’t been at the tournament since 1990, given that they are often one of Africa’s best teams, frequently winning the African Cup of Nations. This time they have the Liverpool star Mo Salah, coolest player in the world, though he is in a possibly-shoulder-dislocated state thanks to pantomime villain Sergio Ramos. This is also the Group of Easy, with only Uruguay likely to prove a challenge on the field. I would love Egypt to do well, however I think the hosts Russia will have the Host’s Bounce and edge them to 2nd place. Egypt play in red, with a white away kit just to be different, but the Adidas shirt this year is remarkably plain considering the company’s other offerings. Just lots of little red squares, what has that got to do with the Russia World Cup. I can’t offer anything like the ‘Perestroikers’ pun for Egypt, Pyramidfielders maybe. I’d like to go to Cairo someday, my mum went years ago and loved it, but she said the traffic is insane. PREDICTION: First Round exit. KIT: 4/10 home, 3/10 away.

SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi ArabiaNeighbours of Egypt, across the Red Sea, the Saudis were last in the World Cup in 2006, but the one I remember most was 1994, Saeed Al-Owairan, scoring that amazing goal against Belgium. That was brilliant. Honestly I have no other things to say because it’s the only thing I remember about Saudi Arabia at the World Cup, other than they usually have really boring kits. This year Nike are providing the boring kit. Well, we say boring, you might say plain and simple, classic, no nonsense, stylish. Ok, then you can say that. My ten year old son knows more about Saudi football than I do though, as one of his friends from the country supports one of the big club teams, and he has played as them in FIFA. For me, it’s all Saeed Al-Owairan, that goal was better than Maradona’s, the sort of goal you see on the schoolyard, not on the telly at the World Cup. That by the way is the sort of cliche you see in the schoolyard, not on the telly. Actually no it’s exactly the sort of thing they say, and maybe it’s not a cliche but it’s plain, simple, stylish. PREDICTION: First Round exit, bottom of the group. KIT: 2/10 (both)

URUGUAY

UruguayUruguay will win this group, no question. They should win all of their games, Egypt in the first match being their toughest opponent, but by the time they face Russia they will already be through and so will probably not worry too much about that game, given that they will play either Spain or Portugal in the next round. Suarez will probably not bite anyone this year, but if they face Spain I foresee an exciting clash with Sergio Ramos. Cavani would have a shot at top scorer this year if he manages to do hat-tricks in the groups, because I don’t think they will get past Spain or Portugal. You never know with this team though. Their kit is nice, another Puma effort, with a large detail showing the ‘Un Sol Para Atlántida’ monument (which is an homage to Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró), across the belly. The away kit is plain, another simple white change shirt, the typical sort you get at World Cups. PREDICTION: Top of the group, out in Round of 16. KIT: 6/10 home, 4/10 away.

GROUP B

PORTUGAL

PortugalCristiano Ronaldo. As always until his memory fades and the world changes and the Great River has washed the World of Men into the Sea, we have to talk about Cristiano Ronaldo when we talk about Portugal. Growing up, until the likes of Figo and Rui Costa and Paulo Sousa came along the rule was you had to talk about Eusebio, Portugal never matched anyone like Eusebio. Well the same is now true of Cristiano, and it’ll be a long time until we see another one of him. Love him or hate him (and I do think the ‘hate him’ crowd are a little bit unfair on him), he is an absolutely phenomenal player. That overhead kick he scored this year in the Champions League was spectacular. There are very few current players who can jump like him. Sure he is all about CR7, he loves to rip off his shirt and show us his abs, and he clearly spends a lot of time on his hair, but lads, he’s worth it. He has received the Ballon D’Or an incredible five times. Yet even he has a nemesis. I don’t know if you have heard but there is another player in the world who is arguably even better. I’ll not give any spoilers away but he is also playing in this World Cup, for a different team. This may even end up as the final World Cup of these two historic Titans of the game and I expect them to still be the big talking points (much to Neymar Jr’s annoyance no doubt), though I don’t think they will end up meeting. Cristiano got Euro 2016, while the Other Guy has never won an international trophy. Portugal however might not have it in them to go all the way this time. Ok that is enough going on about Cristiano Ronaldo. So Cristiano, who are you wearing? “Well I’m wearing a Nike template.” It is pretty standardized stuff, a little disappointing at this World Cup, but it is a classy shirt. I wish the shorts had been white. The away kit is interesting with a bunch of tiny green crosses, which according to the marketing “represent the amount of crosses that go into the box before anyone other than Cristiano will score from them”. PREDICTION: I think they will come second to Spain, play Uruguay in the next round, and lose to France in the quarter-finals. Sorry Cristiano. KIT: 6/10 home, 6/10 away.

SPAIN

SpainSpain are one of the favourites, for sure. I think they might be able to win it. They should top their group, though it is not an easy group and has two local derbies for them (Portugal and Morocco). However I can’t quite put their current group of players up there with the 2010 champions. If they win the group their passage to the quarters should be a breeze given how weak the non-Uruguay teams in Group A are. They might meet Argentina in the quarters though and that could mean Madrid vs Barcelona’s star, whose name I will not mention yet. Anyway enough about the football, get to THE KIT. It’s lovely, but only because it is based loosely on the 1994 kit, an adidas template used by Spain among several other teams (France, Strasbourg) which I just adored. Brings back good memories. I was going to buy this kit, because it is tradition for me to get one team’s World Cup shirt each World Cup (let’s see, in 2014 I got France, in 2010 I got England away, in 2006 I got USA, in 2002 I got Ireland, in 1998 I couldn’t afford one, in 1994 I got Ireland, and in 1990 I would only wear Spurs shirts). However I wear red so much less, so I went for another shirt this year. The away kit is interesting, it has a detail reminiscent of adidas shirts from between 1988 and 1992, like a blend of USSR 88 and Arsenal away 92. I think it falls a bit short with the vermillion/orangey trim though. PREDICTION: Top of the group, but out to Argentina in the quarters (even as I write it, I know it not to be true and Spain will likely beat them). KIT: 8/10 home, 6/10 away.

MOROCCO

MoroccoI remember Morocco from England’s group in Mexico 86, and have had a soft spot for them ever since. I love it when they put in a bid for the World Cup, which they have done yet again this year (it’s their fifth one I think?). Also Casablanca is one of my favourite films. I don’t know much about their team, although one of my favourite players from the 90s was born in Morocco (though he played for Spain), Nayim, he of the Half Way Line. This kit this year is bog-standard adidas template stuff, nothing special, just in their classic red shirts and green shorts. The away kit is white but the template with the red up top is really stylish, so they get extra points for that. I think they will relish playing against neighbours Spain and Portugal, in the ‘Pillars of Hercules Derby’ (I just made that up, is it actually called that?). However, like the red shirts from Star Trek, they will fall early in the first act. (Yeah I know most of the teams in this group wear red shirts). PREDICTION: Bottom of the group, home early but will unexpectedly win the bid for 2026, annoying Donald Trump quite a lot. KIT: 1/10 home, 4/10 away.

IRAN

IranIn the last World Cup they had this Uhlsport kit (I think it was Uhlsport) with an Asian Cheetah design and this year they have switched to another adidas template, pretty bog-standard. I’ve said this twice now. In 30 years time they will probably look back at these templates and go oh that was a classic wasn’t it, remember those templates, so cool and clean and classic, a bit like how we look back at some of the less interesting 1990 World Cup shirts now, like retro masterpieces. Iran are a decent team. They were unbeaten in the Asian qualification groups, only letting in 5 goals in 18 matches. Consider that my AYSO Select U10 team recently let in 99 goals in 29 matches and you get an idea for how good that record is. They are a little unfortunate to get Spain and Portugal in their group because otherwise I’d give them a shot. PREDICTION: Third in the group. KIT: 1/10 home, 1/10 away.

GROUP C

FRANCE

FranceThe French are many people’s favourites to win it this year. They have a young squad, exciting players like Pogba and Mbappe, and it is now 20 years since Les Bleus lifted the golden ball of custard aloft in the Stade de France; I wonder what Zidane is doing now, wonder if he is still winning trophies. I think they will go far as well, but alas, like the armies of Napoleon (you know this headline is coming, brace yourselves tabloid readers) they will fall at the last in Russia and be forced to take the long march home. Yes I am saying they will get to the final and lose to Argentina (or maybe Germany, more realistically). I am saying they will beat Brazil in the semis (again probably not realistic). Their kit is in the new Nike template but with the addition of a totally necessary little button on the collar. It’s pretty modern looking. I love that they will again have the classic white shorts and red socks, because they will only wear those once until FIFA says, look France please just wear all blue, we can’t handle more than one colour, thanks dudes. The away kit has a lot of people excited, with the little red and blue marks all over it, but to me it looks like a shirt you’d wear as part of your supermarket staff uniform. PREDICTION: Top of group C. Winners against Nigeria. Vanquishers of Portugal, Conquerors of Brazil. Unlucky against Argentina; they’ll lose the final.  KIT: 7/10 home, 5/10 away.

PERU

PeruMemories of 1978 are pretty distant for me now. All I can say is that I probably ate cat poo and definitely scribbled in a lot of my brother’s Beano comics. So I don’t really have the nostalgia for the Peru team of that time (Teofilo Cubillas, the great red sash on white, a really-convenient-for-hosts-Argentina 6-0 defeat against Argentina). I do remember the Baddiel and Skinner ‘Phoenix from the flames’ episode though. Peru were the very last team to qualify for this year’s World Cup, beating New Zealand in a play-off. They have such a good kit, everyone says, remembering not this one but the 1978 one. It is a Classic of World Football, no doubt, because it is slightly more inventive than simple white or red shirts. The kit this year is made by Umbro, their last one by the British firm (and the only Umbro kit of Russia 2018), and it is a decent effort, with maybe a trim or two too many. The away kit is almost a reverse. However just seeing that sash will bring back floods of 1978 memories to a bunch of people from a certain generation, or maybe they will suddenly want to drink a can of Red Stripe. I would love to see them go through but I think Kronenbourg and Carlsberg will lead the group. PREDICTION: 3rd in the group.  KIT: 5/10 home, 5/10 away.

DENMARK

DenmarkHave I told you all that I love Denmark? Well I love Denmark. You probably haven’t scrolled down this far. I might just talk about strawberries for this post. You won’t read this bit anyway. This whole thing is really just for myself, my future self, to look at in years to come and say, haha look at how my mind worked then, wow I was dumb. I don’t know. I get dumber as the years go by. So does the rest of the world though so at least I am finally following trends. Denmark, I spent a summer there picking strawberries in 1995. Anyone who knows me rolls my eyes like George McFly’s kids when he talks about the Enchantment Under The Sea dance, even though I didn’t dance or meet my wife there, nor punch Biff in the face. I do remember the absolute love of the Dannebrog that the Danes have, and also of the 1992 European Champions team (they were the current champions at the time as well). And strawberries, many ugly strawberries. This Danish team is good because they have Christian Eriksen, one of my beloved Spurs players. The kit is really stylish, with a barely visible X across the middle to remind us of the Danish royal guards (like on the biscuit tin). It is the little hummel chevrons though that make this retro, they are designed as a reminder of the 1986 style. Very subtle but I love it. PREDICTION: 2nd in the group, knocked out in the next round by Argentina.  KIT: 7/10 home, 7/10 away.

AUSTRALIA

AustraliaThe Socceroos are more regulars now than wannabes, increasing the English language quota at the World Cup now that the USA and Ireland have stopped qualifying (not to mention Scotland and South Africa, and well it’s been a while for Wales, Northern Ireland and Canada, though New Zealand came close). Lots of other countries speak English though, but this year the most widely spoken language (official language of most countries in the World Cup, not number of speakers) is of course Spanish (8 countries), followed by Arabic (4 countries). French is next (France, Belgium, Switzerland, Senegal), and then English with 3 countries having it as an official language (England, Australia and Nigeria). Australia play in a golden yellow with a dark green trim, just like their far more famous rugby union team. I love it when countries have kits that are different colours than their flag, which I have always felt to be a boring way of choosing a kit. Italy for example playing in azure blue, the colours of the House of Savoy; the famous Dutch oranje (orange); Germany’s traditional white home shirt and green away shirt; Malaysia’s distinctive yellow and black; Japan’s classy Samurai Blue;  New Zealand’s All Whites (or All Blacks for rugby). This year’s Nike kit has a distinctive design on the arms; my pixelated drawing makes it look like zebra stripes but it really is nothing like that, it was the best I could do in MS Paint doing each pixel by hand. The away kit is dark green with a light green flash going up and another going down, for some bloody reason. PREDICTION: Bottom of the group (or ‘top’ if you look at it from an antipodean point of view).  KIT: 6/10 home, 5/10 away.

GROUP D

ARGENTINA

ArgentinaI know they aren’t a great team this year. I know the likelihood of them winning the World Cup is slim. But they have a certain player who may be having his last chance to show us if he is the best player of all time.  His name is MESSI. If he helps Argentina win it, he will finally have reached the plateau that Maradona sits on. Messi is no individualist. He is a team player, because everyone likes him more and so we have to say that. Do I really believe he will inspire them to win this time? Yes, I believe it, and even as I write I know my belief will be dashed against a solid dull defensive display from the first solid dull defensive team they play. But we need this! If we want those World Cup dreams, we NEED this. We needed it last time. Do you even remember the Germany team that won it last time? The guy who scored the winner, Gertcha I think he was called, isn’t even coming this time around. Ideally, an ideal world cup final in an ideal world would be Argentina v Portugal, to act as the final chapter in the Messi – Ronaldo story. It is the perfect movie finish and we will not get it. But I still dream. I was 10 when Maradona and Argentina won it in 1986, my son is 10 now. Also, they have some of the best kits. I adore this year’s home shirt, which is a reminder of the early 1990s (when they last won something…), but with a cool graphic design in the stripes. Plus it’s nice to see the black shorts back but again, you know FIFA, they’ll make them wear white shorts. The away kit though is my favourite of this World Cup (except for maybe Nigeria). It’s black and a total retro beauty, but I can’t quite figure out which old Argentine it is based upon. I am hoping it is the one they will wear when beating Germany in the semi-finals (unless Germany wear their extraordinary retro away kit). I actually bought this kit on Saturday. PREDICTION: 1st in the group, fantasy champions overall. Messi-anic.  KIT: 9/10 home, 10/10 away.

ICELAND

IcelandCan you believe Iceland, getting to the Euros, then getting to the World Cup? Plus they have 3 for 2 on chicken kievs right now, bargain. Yeah, everybody loves Iceland, and their viking claps (vikings were well known for getting together and doing big handclaps), and that bloke who looks like Thor (God of Thunderclaps), and of course my main man Gylffi Sigurdsson, who looks like Kevin Bacon, who might be one of the Avengers, I don’t know. Iceland have the means to do it, and get into the knock-outs, but I think they will heroically fail this time, but only because I like Nigeria’s kit more (and I want to predict an African team doing better than round one). The Iceland kit is made by Errea, whose shirts I have been a fan of for years, but has a pixelated volcanic lava style design on the upper arms. PREDICTION: 3rd in the group, and we remember the claps for decades to come.  KIT: 5/10 home, 5/10 away.

CROATIA

CroatiaThe Croats have made their famous red and white checkerboard kit with bigger squares this time, though the back is just plain old white, but with red arms. FIFA I think hate that they want a checkerboard kit. They and UEFA hardly ever let them wear it at tournaments (because most teams play in either red or white; boooorinnnng) so they often have to stick with the blue away kit. This year the away is black and blue and looks pretty cool. Given the blue shirted opponents in the group (plus Nigeria whose kit is like WOOOOW) I think we should see more of the home kit, but not much more. I think despite Modric they will go out early. “Don’t Cro Home Too Soon”. “Don’t Cro Fro Me Argentina.” “Yugo Out Early.” “Balkan-trol Lets Croats Down.” I’m clutching at straws here for headlines, or should I say “Zagrebbing at straws”. Ok enough, I am going to Split. Unless Croatia come up with a goal in the Dubrovnik of time. PREDICTION: 4th in the group. “Straight home, as the Cro flies.” KIT: 6/10 home, 4/10 away.

NIGERIA

NigeriaOh come on. We have a winner. Nigeria have had good kits before but this one is insane. It’s such a fun design. The green is lighter than usual, then there is the black on the arms, it has a total 90s reminder about it. Remember that team from the 94 World Cup (that was by the way my favourite ever Nigeria kit), Amokachi, Amunike, Oliseh, Okocha, celebrating by grabbing the goal net and yelling, I watched that on my tv in my bedroom late at night. I would have loved this kit, but I cannot pull it off. I’m a pasty freckly redhead. I am not worthy of this shirt. It is an instant classic and for that reason, I really want them to get through the groups. Sorry Iceland with your special on Findus Crispy Pancakes, sorry Croatia with your Daily Star sub-editor wishlist of headlines, it is Nigeria who will go through alongside Messi’s Boys. The away kit is dark green and a bit simple but necessary, like having something healthy after a massive ice cream sundae. PREDICTION: 2nd in the group. Winner of all the kit competitions. KIT: 10/10 home, 5/10 away.

If you are still with me, stay tuned for Part Two…

the kits are alright (part 3 of 3)

The World Cup Final is upon us. The semi-finals were a little unbelievable: Brazil, oh Brazil. Didn’t I say, “keep the white shorts“? Didn’t I say that? I think I did. “Those white shorts look better Brazil, they’re lucky, don’t change back to blue!” Brazil wore their proper combination of yellow / blue / white, and…um…. let’s say the last time Brazil suffered a home World Cup humiliation, in 1950, they wore their once-traditional white shirts…and never wore them again. It’s safe to say their 7-1 defeat to the Germans (a scoreline which flattered Brazil) was a little bit more humiliating, given their galactic history since the Maracanazo against Uruguay. Maybe it’s time to change to, I dunno, all green or something. Germany wore the nicer of their two kits, the black-and-red Flamengo kit, but I think they could have run around in big frilly Victorian dresses and still score at least four goals. And then there was Argentina vs Holland, the polar opposite. I got very excited when I saw Holland in orange shirts and white shorts, against Argentina in their proper black shorts with the blue and white striped shirts. They looked right, finally. Unfortunately it was a match so boring, not even the proper-ness of the kits could rescue it. Who won again? I don’t care.

And as we prepare for the final (Germany against who was it again?), an all-Adidas, all-wrong-shorts affair, here is my run-down of the rest of the World Cup kits. I promise to post some of my recent out-and-about sketches very soon, but the World Cup month is nearly over, and boy will I miss it. I’m sure you won’t!

THE WORLD CUP KITS: PART THREE

  • MEXICO: (Adidas) mexicoMexico’s kit is a winning design this time around. Mexico have had some crazy outfits in the past (not to mention the fluorescent day-glo highlighter pen costume of their 1994 goalie, Campos), but this one has little lightning strikes on the home shirt, and little zigzags all over the red away shirt. No plain white shirts, no not-well-thought-out black shirts, just classic and unique designs. My son was a big fan, so I got him the green one, and it’s a really nice top, very well cut both front and back. Mexico were unlucky to go out.
  • NETHERLANDS: (Nike) netherlandsOrange is the new Orange. This is a very simple design from the Oranje this time around, nothing interesting but it is clean and thankfully not all one colour, with the white shorts (though all-orange was worn three times, which I think looks a bit too much like a Tango-taste-sensation, Tony). The proper outfit eventually came out against Argentina in the semis…ah yes, they lost that on penalties. The away kit got a couple of outings, an all-blue number in varying shades, which was bloody difficult to reproduce in MS Paint, I do hope you appreciate that one. This was forever be the kit worn when Robin Van Persie scored that header as they destroyed Spain.
  • NIGERIA: (Adidas) nigeriaOne shade of green isn’t enough. Two shades work much better. Nigeria have a mixed kit history, their best in my opinion being the 1994 home and away outfits. This is a decent effort, in the current Adidas template of choice, with a unique enough colour scheme. Nigeria played pretty well in the end and it was a shame to see them go out, but France just had a better kit. Not that quality of kit is what sees a team through (cf: Germany in the World Cup Final, if they wear white). From the TV screen though this shade is conveniently football-pitch-coloured. The away kit is all-white, I suppose.
  • PORTUGAL: (Nike) portugalRonaldo Ronaldo Ronaldo Ronaldo. If only. This was a very do-not-adjust-your-sets design from Nike (remember when you had to adjust your sets? Ah, the olden days) in two shades of red with a little green trim. I preferred the one they had at the last World Cup, the red with white shorts and green socks, but they were just so abject in this one that they did not even get a chance to wear their white and navy away kit, which is a shame as it was very nice. This is how England’s kit should have looked. Now, both this one and that one are in the out-first-round bargain bin.
  • RUSSIA: (Adidas) russiaI’ll first talk about the away kit, whose design is based upon how Yuri Gagarin (I think, or it may have been that dog Laika) saw the Earth from space. Funnily enough this is the same view Germany got of the field when they played against Brazil, miles and miles of space. I think it’s one of the nicest shirts at the tournament, though a bit disappointed it doesn’t come with big space helmets. The first shirt however is back in the USSR. Well, it would be if the USSR ever wore shirts like that, which I’m pretty certain they didn’t (preferring a more communist shade of red with a white trim and CCCP across the shirt; FIFA probably wouldn’t approve of that now). Nice try, Russia. They did move back to all-red a few years ago when they decided the Russian-flag-inspired white-blue-red wasn’t really their thing. I wonder what they will go for when they host the next World Cup. Hopefully a different manager, who actually likes football.
  • SOUTH KOREA: (Nike) south korea Korea’s kit was a pretty decent effort from Nike, which gave the effect of a French schoolkid wearing a backpack. That is a reference to when I was a teenager and you could always tell the foreign exchange students by the way they wore their backpacks, ie, with both straps. English schoolkids always wore backpacks with just one strap, as though it was so uncool to have both straps on. The away kit goes for what I can only think is a reference to a hitherto-unknown sub-culture who wears two backpacks one-strap at a time.  That must be pretty uncomfortable. It’s a tidy short though that would have looked nice on England, but alas both are now in the gone-home-early bargain bin.
  • SPAIN: (Adidas) spainOh dear. End of an era. Don’t mess with tradition Adidas, it never, ever works (except for Germany and Argentina to name two completely obvious exceptions). Ok, so Spain ditched their blue shorts, and plumped for a golden rather than yellow trim. They are the reigning World and double-European champions after all. They can do what they want, even include little pinstripes all over the shirt (what is it with that this World Cup?). But I mourned the loss of blue shorts in this design. Not for long though, as they’ll get them back next time no doubt. Now here’s a thing, Spain had three kits this World Cup, played three games and wore all of them. Their black second kit, a striking Chelsea-esque design with an ‘electric yellow’ trim (what is it with ‘electric’ yellow, electricity is blue*, or white, you have got a very funny electric company if your electricity is yellow) (*ask David Bowie if you don’t believe me) was apparently too dark for their opening match against Holland (who play in orange, but in that match they played in blue, I’m so confused) so FIFA told them to make a white kit, not available in the shops. This white one has little pinstripes too. Spain, the intergalactic-everything-champions, were the first team out. End of an era? Yes, but they’ll get the blue shorts back, and the good players too.
  • SWITZERLAND: (Puma) switzerlandRed home, white away. What do you want? It’s Switzerland, it’s what they do. They aren’t going to suddenly go all experimental and mess about with tradition and add whole new swatches. Or Swatches, for that. But don’t be deceived into thinking this is a boring kit. Those white stripes down the side actually open up to reveal a whole array of camping knives, tin-openers, nail files, corkscrews and other obvious cliches. No I actually like this shirt a lot, it’s pretty neat and timeless without being boring. 
  • URUGUAY: (Puma) uruguayThe collar of La Celeste’s famous sky blue home shirt looks as though a bite has been taken out of it, can’t imagine who’d do that. Yes there really is only one thing that can be talked about with regards Uruguay in this World Cup isn’t there, and it’s such a shame because they could have been so much better. They did well to get out of the groups after all. The Puma kits were pretty nice, with a cool little Uruguay flag-inspired bit on the arm. “Bit on the arm?” Oops, slip of the tongue there.
  • USA: (Nike) USAUSA! USA! Livin in America, coast to coast, across the nation. This World Cup, with its heroic team of endless tryers and its superhuman goalkeeper, has been massively popular over here in my adopted home. It’s funny that nobody will remember the home shirt, which they wore more often, but the Captain America-like away kit (maybe it’s more Iron Patriot) became an instant classic after their opening victory against Ghana. At Soccer and Lifestyle this shirt sold out very quickly, and I regret not getting it now. The home shirt is very stylish, like a polo shirt, one of the nicest they’ve had in a while. I live in America. I feel good.

And so that is that. Thanks for sticking with me this far. Oh, you didn’t? Well never mind. It’s back to nice sketches of little downtown buildings very soon. For now, there’s a World Cup Final to watch.

shirty business (part 2 of 3)

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WORLD CUP FOOTBALL KITS: Continued…

And so after another pause in posting (due this time to moving house) I return with more from my run-down of all the kits from all the teams at this spectacular-except-for-the-quarter-finals-which-were-rubbish FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014. There will be ten looked at here, then another ten which I will review at the end of the tournament. Before I go on though, a few points about kits so far…

  1. Brazil keep wearing white shorts with yellow shirts. This is due to FIFA’s paranoid ruling about ‘contrasting colours’ which is utter nonsense if you ask me. If it confuses referees when a team wears blue shorts with a yellow shirt then perhaps you need to select better referees. When they wore white shorts against Columbia, who were kitted out in red shirts with very dark navy shorts, the referee seemed to be completely blind to such things as serious career-threatening fouls but heaven forbid Brazil wear their proper outfits. Three times in this tournament, in Brazil’s home tournament, have they been made to wear this ‘off’ combination, they who have the most recognizable kit combo in world football. It is to the point where, in years to come, what people will remember is not the ‘classic’ kit but the wrong kit. At least in the semi against Germany they should wear the proper combo – except of course Germany will again wear white shorts, and again, everything is wrong. Wrong, wrong wrong. At least Southampton are back in red and white stripes.
  2. No, that’s it, that’s my main point.
  3. Actually back to this point on kit combos, would it have really been so confusing for France to wear white shorts with their navy shirts and red socks, and for Germany to be the ones to change into their now-not-official black shorts? Come on FIFA, that looks RIGHT. I’m surprised FIFA don’t have a ruling on national anthems not being too similar as well, and national flags cannot be waved that have too many contrasting colours, so perhaps countries need FIFA-endorsed versions perhaps in the colours of FIFA-sponsors. Ok, rant over. YEAH RIGHT…read on for more ranting.
  • ENGLAND: (Nike) englandOh dear. Look, England were Umbro for a very long time and that was good. Some shirts were a little underwhelming, but on the whole they were unique and fairly stylish. Last year they switched to Nike after Nike sold Umbro (which they’d bought a couple of years earlier with the intention of taking all of their contracts from them and driving them out of business – which thankfully they have failed to do). Their first Nike shirt was very plain with a round navy collar – and navy shorts. This has been followed less than a year later with an even plainer white shirt with a much plainer collar and FIFA-friendly white shorts. Design-wise it’s almost exactly the same as my old school team kit, minus the scratchy fabric but with just as much “hoof it away!” tactics. England did therefore look rather like the 1987 first-year Edgware School team, who may have at least put in a better showing than this rabble. The plain-ness of the shirt ws supposed to be inspired by England’s football history (you will note the big empty space all over the shirt). If you look very closely though, you will see tiny little pinstripes. The red kit has them too but they never got a chance to wear that. And of course, the kit (as they all are these past couple of years) way more expensive than the last ones. At least they were, before an early exit means you will probably find them in the bargain bins, while Nike prepares to bring out another, with slight variations, for like 500 quid each. 
  • FRANCE: (Nike) franceAnd then Nike comes up with far and away the BEST kit of the tournament. So good in fact, I just had to buy it. Allez les bleus! I must say that while Adidas and France seemed so natural for so long, during their waning years the French Adidas shirts were looking ever more desperate. As were the on-field antics of the team. When they switched over to a nice, clean Nike outfit it was like a breath of fresh air. This now is their third one so far, and their best, a classic rugby-shirt style top in navy blue, white shorts and red socks. Rugby is very popular in France so this feels pretty natural. The away kit has the mariniere look but with muted grey hoops. The FFF have also gone for the more olden-days badge reminiscent of the Just Fontaine era, making this look more like an old Tottenham shirt. And it feels really nice to wear as well. I’ve never been a massive fan of L’Equipe de France, but I used to avidly read France Football when I lived over there and I love this kit so much. So it’s time to dust off the Johnny Halliday song from 2002 and sing, “Allez Les Bleus, On Est Tous Ensemble!” Though unfortunately, they never got to wear the whole ensemble, being made to wear navy shorts with the home shirt each time at the World Cup. As Del Boy would say, “Cordon Bleu!”    
  • GERMANY: (Adidas) germanyDon’t get me started. Oh alright then. We go from the bland England non-kit, to the amazing super-kit of France, to the downright falsch of the Mannschaft’s 2014 kit. I go on about the colour of shorts as if the global economy depends on it but there are very few absolute unchanging constants left in world football. As we’ve seen, the Brazilians have had to suffer the indignity of white shorts with yellow shirts. Oh the shame! Spain as we’ll see are in all red now, no more lovely blue shorts. But Germany…Germany must be white shirts, black shorts, anything else just isn’t Germany. It just isn’t right. Das ist nicht cool. So when Adidas announced Germany would be in all white? Ich don’t think so! but it gets worse. All white, with a massive three-types-of-red chevron. There is a slight golden band but it looks pretty clear, this is a red and white with a bit of black Germany. Not a good kit at all. In my opinion the worst that the DFB have ever had (and I’m a big fan of the crazy 1994 kit). As for the away kit…I prefer traditional green and am sceptic of black and red away kits for Germany, but this one is actually lovely. A nice button-up collar-less neck, but the black and red hoops are actually a Brazilian reference – an homage to the great club Flamengo, Brazil’s most popular team, and that rescues this kit. Sehr toll.
  • GHANA: (Puma) ghanaI do like Ghana’s kit. Made by Puma, who have been producing some incredible individual African kits over the past few years, this is another which blends in Ghana’s colourful culture with the classic white kits of the famous Black Stars, so popular during the 1960s hey-day. Ghana have had a great if aging group of players for a while now and I’ve wanted to see them progress in world football, but this year it was not to be. Their home kit though has colourful touches on the collar, and a nice patterned red away kit.
  • GREECE: (Nike) greece“Meh.”  Greece used to wear all blue as their first kit, but after winning the Euro 2004 tournament they switched to all-white. An imaginative decision. This is a decent kit, I suppose, nothing to write home about, it just “is”. Greece never spends any time at all thinking about their football kit design. And yet in all this it still looks a great deal more exciting than England’s. You might say design-wise this isn’t too far from my lovely France kit? Yet in truth it feels a million miles away.
  • HONDURAS: (Joma) hondurasThe only Joma kit at the World Cup, thankfully. Remember when Honduras had those nice blue and white stripes? We need more stripes in world football. Well they don’t have them any more. Not an awful kit, maybe more detailing than Greece’s effort and I like their big Rimmer-esuqe ‘H’ badge, but it’s all very underwhelming. It’s a bit like being at a festival and there being two or three epic bands, but you have to stand through a bunch of utter dross which does little other than sober you up thinking, why do I even like music? It’s just dull repetitive noise coming from an amplifier. Kits like this make me feel like that.
  • IRAN: (Uhlsport) iranThe word on this kit was that it apparently shrinks. Made by Uhlsport, the Iranian officials apparently could not bring too many with them to Brazil and asked their players not to swap them, but due to a defect in the design they apparently got smaller as they got wet – not great for sweaty Brazil. Well, I didn’t see much evidence of that, and despite them being by Uhlsport – which reminds me of UHL milk, in that it’s not as good as normal milk but doesn’t go off for weeks – these are actually decent designs. They both incorporate the rare Asiatic cheetah, to highlight the plight of this endangered Iranian species (whose population is, um, shrinking).
  • ITALY: (Puma) italySkinny is the word! When these were first modeled by Balotelli, Pirlo and so on, they really showed off their highly toned masculine frames. Made by Puma, the home shirt has a nice cut and a thin collar, with little flashes of the Italian flag amidst the lighter blue of the Azzurri. The away kit has nice pinstripes. Perhaps it needed bite-proof shoulder pads as well. Or maybe it is just a really tasty shirt?
  • IVORY COAST: (Puma)  ivory coastOrange isn’t unique to the Dutch. The Ivorians of Cote D’Ivoire – aka the Elephants – have a plain orange outfit with some little orange details on the shoulder, a design which is repeated in the green away kit. They get a white third kit, a many teams do, in case FIFA start crying that they can’t tell the difference on their ancient black and white TVs.
  • JAPAN: (Adidas) japanAnother of Adidas’s more unique designs (except for the ubiquitous three stripes down the arms), this ‘samurai blue’ kit, the classic colour of the Japanese team, is also complemented by flashes of hot pink. You can’t see it but on the back there is what looks like a swipe of pink paint. The Japanese sun of the war flag is surrounding the badge in blue. Nice kit, I like it. The away kit is a rather luminous ‘electric yellow’ which would have been pretty easy to spot, if they’d been in the tournament long enough to wear it.

kits out! (part 1 of 3)

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WORLD CUP 2014 FOOTBALL KITS

As you may be acutely aware I rather like football shirts. Way more than I even like fire hydrants, which is saying something, I know, but it’s true. Every season I eagerly await news of any new kit release, clicking on links to reports of what Partick Thistle’s away shirt might look like, nodding appreciatively when teams like Nantes announce a new deal with Umbro, or shaking my head at the width of stripes on a new Milan jersey. The World Cup therefore is as much about the kits as it is about the players – I know more about the kits, for one thing (whereas I barely recognised half the England team, though that guy up front with the big mop of hair looked familiar, Dwayne Rodney I think he was called). So here is a helpfully-unillustrated run-down of the kits of each team at this year’s World Cup. Non-kit-enthusiasts, look away now (my next post will be a nice urban sketch I promise).

Before I start, here are some kit stats:

  • BRAND WITH MOST TEAMS (GROUP STAGE): Nike (10). Followed by Adidas (9), Puma (8) and Burrda, Joma, Lotto, Marathon, and Uhlsport (1 each) – no Umbro this year!
  • BRAND WITH MOST TEAMS (ROUND OF 16): Nike / Adidas (5 each), followed by Puma (4), Burrda and Lotto (1 each)
  • BRAND WITH MOST TEAMS (QUARTER-FINALS): Nike / Adidas (3 each), followed by  Burrda and Lotto (1 each). Bad luck Puma!
  • MOST PREDOMINANT HOME SHIRT COLOUR: White (9)*, then Red (8)*, Blue (5)*, Yellow (4), Green (3), Orange (2).  *Croatia are red/white, so I didn’t include but are arguably predominantly red; Argentina have blue stripes but are definitely more white this year.
  • MOST PREDOMINANT CHANGE SHIRT COLOUR (WHETHER WORN OR NOT): White (14), followed by Blue (8) and Red (6)
  • COUNTRY WITH MOST KITS: Spain (3), and they wore all of them. Brazil have a third too but will not wear the black one.
  • COUNTRIES WITH ALL-ONE-COLOUR HOME KITS (official, not the matchday FIFA-enforced variants): 17 (out of 32). 9 are all-white.

And now for my thoughts on the countries. I’m going to give this to you in three parts. It will be alphabetical. And all of the kit illustrations are mine, created in old-school MS Paint…

PART ONE:

  • ALGERIA : (Puma) Les Fennecs (Dalgeria 2014esert Foxes) have been one of the popular teams in this tournament, and I like their kits. Simple design but with a nice shade of green trim, which from the TV viewers point of view makes them blend in with the pitch. Puma kits tend to be more form-fitting these days so muscular physiques show up more. Some very muscular players in this World Cup too. In Algeria’s green away kit they look rather Hulk-esque.
  • ARGENTINA : (Adidas) argentina 2014Controversial. For the first time ever, Argentina have decided to go with white shorts instead of black as their official home shorts – as have Germany, as you’ll see. Sure they’ve been made to wear white shorts before (1990 World Cup I think) but it was not the official combination. Still…it doesn’t actually look bad. The home shirt (with it’s black trim!) looks nice, the blue stripes being graded lighter at the bottom to apparently make them look like a flag in the wind (what?). But lack of black shorts? Controversial. I’m surprised Maradona hasn’t gone on TV saying it’s a Malvinas-based conspiracy by FIFA and the Sunday Mirror. I suppose we can blame Adidas. They’ve done this a few times this World Cup, as you’ll see. I love that graded blue away kit though, one of the top five in this cup.
  • AUSTRALIA: (Nike) australiaDecent 1st kit, with a yellow top reminiscent of one Brazil had recently, with dark green Shorts, and – excitingly – white socks! This is a big deal. Fans had campaigned for years to have white socks again, after more than two decades. And you think I’m crazy about these things. Well done Nike. The 2nd kit is nice, dark blue with gold trim, always a winning combination for me. The collar is very retro, 70s-esque. Think Prisoner Cell Block H.
  • BELGIUM: (Burrda) belgiumLes Diables Rouges have had some nice kits in the past, and Burrda have have some questionable kits. Burrda… it sounds like something Taggart would say in his tough Scottish growl. “Aye, there’s been another Burrda”. They’re a Swiss company apparently. These kits are alright. The massive crown motif is different. At least they are unique, no other Burrdas at this World Cup, or any. Black change kit a little zany, plus a yellow third kit based on the home shirt, all have that round Belgian flag collar which is nice. Allez les Belges!
  • BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: (Adidas) bosniaFirst World Cup for Bosnia-Herzegovina, who were previously in a Legea kit, but they obviously decided last minute that Legea were too non-league for them and switched to Adidas, who to be fair quickly gave them a template you’d probably find in the non-league. Boring. But World Cup kits aren’t always interesting.  Not like I devote hours and hours of my time to them or anything…
  • BRAZIL: (Nike)brazil It’s Brazil, what do you want? Well blue shorts for one. Twice in this tournament they have turned out in non-trad white shorts with the classic yellow shirts. That is WRONG! This is BRAZIL! Most recognizable combination in history. So, home kit is not bad, collar’s a bit “meh”, not much else to the design, nothing unique to say “this is our World Cup! We are spectacular!” The blue 2nd kit has nice detailing, though I prefer a white collar. For some reason they have a black 3rd kit (or is it dark grey?) which they won’t wear, which is a shame because the shorts have peculiar multi-coloured horizontal stripes. Which is not something you see every day. Now…the question is, if Brazil get to the final and lose in yellow, will they retire it? When they lost to Uruguay at the Maracan in 1950 they wore white, their usual colour. It was such a tragedy they swore not to wear white shirts again, and then had a competition to choose a new combination. The winner was yellow shirts, green collar, blue shorts and white socks. So I ask you, will they change kits again if they lose? Not likely!
  • CAMEROON: (Puma) cameroonThe Indomitable Lions have one of the most vibrant kits at this cup, with a very busy pattern that has their nickname repeated throughout. It’s just a shame the team were not as busy on the pitch. I’m surprised Puma didn’t make nice long pockets on the shorts for the players to safely stash their bonus cash. The yellow second kit has the same pattern, while the white 3rd kit was, let’s face it, a bit hopeful. Cameroon have a fun kit history though, always good for some innovation. Remember the full bodysuit one with the lion-claw slashes on the side? And who can forget the sleeveless top from over a decade ago, that looked like a basketball top, which FIFA said they couldn’t wear at the World Cup. They had to sew on black sleeves. Shame, it was a classic.
  • CHILE: (Puma) : chileChile have been one of everybody’s favourite second teams (along with Mexico, Algeria, and about half a dozen or so others), and their Puma kit is very decent. That collar looks like it’s going to be round and then in the middle it’s like, oh hello, pointing downwards. The collar on the away kit probably got worried it was too low cut and so added a little bit extra beneath it. Sorry, they’re not that interesting, I’m grasping here. But they are decent, and the home is one for the hipsters to wear on their Saturday morning kickaround before going to the barbers for a tattoo and eating a latte on their organic wind-powered bike.
  • COLOMBIA: (Adidas) : colombiaOk Colombia, we have to talk. Listen, everyone’s happy you’re such a great team now, even without Falcao, but your kit combo just jars a little. It’s the white. It’s those sloping lines. I used to like the old yellow Umbro kits with the blue shorts, Carlos Valderrama, Faustino Asprilla, and who can forget the goalie Rene Higuita with his metalist’s hair, long runs up the pitch and his scorpion kicks. However, I have a feeling this kit will grow on me considerably, and with a good World Cup it could be one to remember. In thirty years time adidas or whoever will be making their shirts then (under armour or someone) will be bringing out kits to look like this one. A future retro classic.
  • COSTA RICA: (Lotto): costa ricaNice to see Lotto having a kit at the World Cup. Actually it would be if it were one of those kits from back when Holland had them, 1994, around then. These days Lotto kits are a bit of a mess. Costa Rica has that wavy bizarro-Peru thing going on and the collar seems to stop then start again several times. Yet, like the team, I kinda like it. It kinda works. No 1990-era lucky black-and-white stripes from them this time, though they seem to have adopted their white kit as being ‘lucky’ this time. FIFA will be pleased.
  • CROATIA: (Nike): croatiaBefore every international tournament kit release season I say to myself, I’m going to close my eyes and imagine what Croatia will do, will it be red and white squares for home with a blue away kit that has those red and white squares along the trim? Oh yes, that again. Home kit is nice, but I prefer more white than the red on the sleeves, but what do I know. Apparently their first kit in 1990 had the red sleeves. Not too much you can do with an already memorable design so they keep it simple. I for one, in this age of attempted homogenizing international kits, am glad this kit exists. With blue socks (as they wore in the opening match) it works even better. 
  • ECUADOR: (Marathon) ecuadorA sunny kit, made by Marathon who are an Ecuadorean company which is very nice. The change kit is just a reverse. Another for the hipsters, though they didn’t make it out of the group stage this time around. Nice little sun element around the badge. Not much else to say really, it’s flag-coloured.

Phew! Join me for Part Two, which will come when I’ve drawn more kits…