The World Cup of Shirts 2018

It’s that magical time of year again when the great and good of the global game head to a far-flung country with a dubious human rights record to play sub-par football after an exhausting domestic season – and they move Coronation Street to daft timeslots. The FIFA World Cup 2018 (brought to you by McDonalds, Coca Cola, and Novichok) is but a few weeks away!

With most of the important squad questions already answered (though whether Kim Jin-Su or Park Joo-Ho get the nod at left back for South Korea has me somewhat distracted) it’s time we turn our attention to the most important issue – what will our heroes be wearing?

Following the traditional World Cup progress (group stage then straight knockout) I have chosen the undisputed best shirt on display in Russia.

Read on to reveal more…

Group A



Hmmm, the three stripes along the torso rather than the sleeve is “interesting” and the black trim looks a little harsh on a round neckline. Surely the Greatest Player of All Time Ever™ (Liverpool FC fans everywhere) deserves better than this? An inauspicious start to our competition (like a Russia vs Saudi Arabia fixture).



Russia have had some great kits in recent years but this is just a little bland from the hosts. In days gone by this may have been emboldened with a CCCP across the front. [Insert joke about expecting to see that return by 2026. #satire]


Saudi Arabia

Here we go! Crisp, white, elegant – with a lovely shade of green for collar detail (mind you, I’m not sure about faking a collar). Decent bird of prey on the badge (looks like it’s sporting a mullet, mind) – qualifies in second behind…



Very nice. A cool sky blue with Sun of May detailing to add some beauty to the shithousery of Diego Godin, Jose Gimenez and Luis Suarez. The two-time champions go through in first place.

Group B


Right, so Iran haven’t actually released their shirt. They just rock up at Sports Direct the day before and mass purchase a batch of plain training kits – and some Donnay sweatsocks (five pairs for £3) – then iron the national team badge onto them. Probably. Have some 80s gold instead. Disqualified.



Adidas have delayed the release of Morocco’s shirt due to concerns about forgery. But I imagine it’ll be red with some amount of green in it. It could’ve run Portugal close but seen as I can’t see it then I won’t know. Disqualified.



“Default! The two sweetest words in the English language!” Isn’t there something about red and green not being seen together? Anyway – it’s not too bad despite the flagrant disregard for the rules of fashion (that I picked up from a Beck’s advert years ago). Second place due to lack of competition.



Excellent effort! Looks like it could have been worn at any tournament from 1982 onwards. Keeping the badge simple and colour co-ordinated with the manufacturer branding. Iconic three stripes on the shoulder (where they should be!) and the 80s boot-bag geometry print elevates this above others in a tournament where around a third of the teams are playing in red.

Group C



Very, very nice. Are we sure that this isn’t the Aussie rugby kit? (quick google search) Right, we’re fine. I love it. Rich gold and camo green, the shoulder detail reminds me of a walkabout in the outback whilst duetting the theme from Home and Away with Dani Minogue… This would be romping into the next round in any other group. Alas, Group C is this tournament’s Group of Death.



Hummel! I didn’t know they were still going. The Danes rocking up with a kit straight out of the 90s. The badge looks as if it belongs on a bottle of expensive, incredibly strong beer, and the white “keep two chevrons apart” design on the shoulders is suitably understated. Can we not just send everyone through from this group? We can’t? Sorry, Denmark.



France just do not wear bad kits to international tournaments. Ever. This is no exception. The only reason it’s going through as runner up is because…



Just look at it! It’s got a sash on it! No kit has ever been made worse with the addition of a sash. It’s a thing of beauty and tops the group against stiff competition.

Group D



Lovely. Argentina is a hard kit to make a mess of, admittedly, but this is a particularly good effort from Adidas. It takes top place in the group.



They were so close to nailing this! When they first cracked out the checkerboard design on the world stage at Euro 96, a 12 year old me instantly fell in love with it. The collar-less look and block red sleeves are nice touches, but that hazy/mirage look means only a second place finish.



As an Englishman living in Scotland, it’s only in recent years that I’ve discovered what a large following the Icelandic football team has outside of their own borders. Whenever I talk with the natives here on matters relating to international football, I’m almost always certain to find somebody who’s a fan of the Strákarnir Okkar (thanks, Wikipedia). However, even Glasgow’s most die-hard Icelandic supporter would be hard-pressed to wear this as an aesthetic choice. The pointillism sleeves being the most obvious cause of offence. I’m not bitter, though. Honest.



This is going to split opinion isn’t it? It reminds me in equal parts of THAT iconic Dutch kit (which is good) and a bag of chocolate lime sweets (which is very, very bad). The zebra chevron shoulders aren’t helping the case. 10 points for innovation but, ultimately, it’s not for me.

Group E



It’s yellow. It’s got green trim. It’s made by Nike. It wouldn’t be a World Cup without it. But there’s too much competition in this group to stick with tradition. Sorry lads, but at least it’s not a 7-1 thrashing in your own national stadium…


Costa Rica

Lovely New Balance effort with some sweeping detailing reminiscent of the suspension wires on a modern bridge or the roof of the Imperial War Museum in Salford. However, it’s the badge that’s clinching first place – all red, blue and gold swirls – like a Union Jack birthday cake in a blender at a jewellery smelters. Stunning.



Understated, and all the better for it. Nice wide-set round neck like an English 60s club top. It’s just a shame that this traditional offering is in a group with two “extra” shirts (down with the kids, right? #YOLO – are they still saying that?) that work perfectly. Unlucky to miss out.



Looks like an ordinance survey map of a Swiss ski resort and has the national flag (a personal favourite of mine) on it. Both of these are good things. Second place.

Group F



Excellent effort. A monochrome take on the beautiful 1990 West Germany effort with a splash of gold added by flaunting their status as holders. Topping this group.


South Korea

All red (nice shade that, too), collarless, tiger on the badge. Yes – this progresses in second.



There’s something about this shade of green that doesn’t appeal to me. The colour of a doctor’s waiting room carpet or the jelly stuff in the middle of one of the glass air-freshener prisons that your gran probably has in her bathroom. Could be the most personal reason for ditching a shirt – but this is my competition! Add your own in the comments…



I usually like a Sweden shirt – yellow and blue go well together, but this leaves me cold. I’m not taken by these stripes along the torso rather than the sleeves and with Zlatan retired, it doesn’t even have the biggest cult of personality in football to elevate it. You can decided for yourself if that’s a typo.

Group G



I love this. Like a cycling jersey designed by Pringle. I’m not usually a fan of a central badge but that geometric design frames it nicely. Plus, Toby Alderweireld’s going to look like a clean-shaven Begbie in it. Qualifying in top spot.



No Peter Saville crosses on the sleeve, no St George’s slash across the shoulder (which gave a Zangief from Street Fighter 2 look), no (admittedly very cool) graduation gown detailing – as in the 80s Admiral effort. Nike keep it simple with Three Lions on a shirt and a star that must weigh heavier and heavier with each passing design. Really rather nice.



A man, a plan, a beautiful collar-less effort from hipster favourite; New Balance: Panama. That’s a palindrome. I was genuinely torn between whether this or England got the nod for second place. I ended up flipping a coin. England won. Incidentally, did you know that before the introduction of penalty shoot-outs in 1978, knock out World Cup games would be decided by a coin toss after extra time? It never came down to that. Interesting if true…



Sometimes there’s such a very fine line between beauty and the mundane. The England shirt is white with a slight red trim to the collar-less neckline. The Tunisia kit is white with a slight red trim to the collar-less neckline and sleeves. The England shirt is going through in second place, the Tunisia kit is instantly forgettable. I asked my fiancée for the name of an ugly celebrity sibling to illustrate this point. She gave me Luke Hemsworth (brother of Thor and J-Law’s cuckolded fella from The Hunger Games) – so Tunisia are being represented by this absolute munter. Poor bastards.

Group H



Another solid retro effort from Adidas – reminds me of the old Arsenal JVC away kit from the Michael Thomas game at Anfield. There’s just something about the black stripes on that yellow background that screams lemon French Fancies – the worst of all the French Fancies.



This is beautiful. Like some 80s sportswear picked up for obscene prices at a Tokyo thrift store – a Japanese flag (amongst the coolest national emblems) above their FA badge (which is a tripedal crow controlling the ball – with its third leg, naturally), we could pack up this competition and hand over the title now if they’d gone with the traditional Adidas “flower” emblem. Finishing top of the group, and it’s not even close.



Excellent badge, nice fade effect across the front, and I’ve decided – I’m not a fan of that fake collar effect. Either add or collar or don’t, lads. Vital points lost in a close group.



Taking the wide-necked look of the Serbs, the green trim of the Saudis, the badge motif detailing of the Uruguayans (this time with a bloody great lion on the chest, no less!) and sporting another beautiful crest – seriously, it looks like the cover of a compilation album that I’d have bought as a student. Taking second place here.

Round of sixteen

Uruguay vs Portugal

Stick Ronaldo in a bin bag and he’s still going to look like an Adonis, whereas this could be styled by Hugo Boss and Suarez is still going to look like dear Ratboy. However, in this house we abide by the laws of fashion! Red and green to be seen no further in this competition. Uruguay cruise through.

Spain vs Saudi Arabia

Spain. No contest. Especially not since my change of heart on fake collars.

Peru vs Croatia

Ah, my new love against my childhood sweetheart. The sash against the checkerboard. Time has not been kind to the Croat design, the lines – once so firm and defined – now fuzzy and faded. And besides, Peru have a sash! If you love something let it go. Sorry, my sweet Croatia, Peru go through.

Argentina vs France

The old masters. Be it Adidas or Nike, Umbro or Le Coq Sportif – they turn out in beautiful clobber. I’m giving it to Argentina this year – though it’d take extra time.

Costa Rica vs South Korea

That Rican badge really is hypnotic. They sleepwalked through this fixture without me noticing.

Germany vs Switzerland

As much as I like that ringworm pattern on the Swiss kit, that German effort is nailing the modern classic design. Germany by a nose.

Belgium vs Senegal

The Belgians are taking this just because my dreams are haunted by a gang of 90s casuals bearing down on me clad in it. Also, I only got 50p for that reggae compilation album on

Japan vs England

Patriotism be damned; that Japan shirt should be hung in a gallery. 52 years of hurt, chaps.

Quarter finals

Uruguay vs Spain

Spain. Next!

Peru vs Argentina

Heritage be damned! Look at the sash!

Costa Rica vs Germany

A beautiful badge and a deep crimson is all well and good, but Teutonic fashion is edging this. On penalties. Because I haven’t pulled that cliché yet.

Belgium vs Japan

Danny Dyer and pals will just have to lay down arms and sob in the face of such beauty. Like the soldiers at the end of Paths of Glory. See, ma; that film degree didn’t go to waste after all!

Semi finals

Spain vs Peru

Not to start sounding like the Reverend Ian Paisley, but just look at that sash!

Germany vs Japan

Even instant modern classics can’t top the Japanese shirt steamrolling into the final. As a side note, have you ever noticed that these two nations have particularly extreme tastes in pornography? My hypothesis is that it has something to do with shame and the national healing process after heavy defeats in World War 2. Whereas neutral Switzerland’s pornography is very bland. But curiously well-funded.

Third place play-off

Spain vs Germany

Germany. A review as half-arsed as this match deserves. Does anybody watch the Third Place game?


Peru vs Japan

Now, there is a sash (a f*cking sash!) but there is also true beauty. The sash is mesmerising but that Japan shirt… it’s Japan’s trophy.

Behold your champion!

Paul “Coco” Schofield


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