The 20th FIFA World Cup kicks off today, and while ardent soccer (futbol?) fans will be ripping in to strategy, casual viewers will enjoy a beautiful game and all its beautiful style. Here are the most noteworthy jerseys (often referred to as “kits” across the pond) you’ll see during your month-long display of hooliganism.
1. The Netherlands Given their age and short tempers, the Dutch won’t likely reprise their runner-up position from the last World Cup. But as always, the orange is unmistakable. In 2014 the brilliant hue shows up again, thanks to a minimal design by Nike, with some venting on the side to help the players “breathe” (or whatever they’re advertising it as nowadays).
2. Croatia If the Dutch orange is the most attractive, the checkered white and red of the Croat kit comes in at most unique. Checkerboard jokes aside, the shirt are ripped straight from the country’s coat of arms. For the prideful lot, this is the jersey for you.
3. Italy Italy’s kit carries on with its trademark masculinity. Designers at Puma (revealing their penchant for stretching the truth) say tread marks stretching across the jersey give players “micro-massages” around vital muscles. If the well-groomed gentlemen of Italy appear to be taking a surprisingly casual approach to their game, we’ll know why.
4. Ghana The team responsible for our last two World Cup exits brings modest style to their 2014 kits. A mostly all-white shirt gets a sudden burst of culturally appropriate Technicolor at the collar and sleeves.
5. Australia Considering this is an away jersey, I'll make an exception. Collared jerseys are in vogue in 2014, and some of the tournament’s most popular teams—the U.S. in particular—have them. Australia does too, but it swaps the gleaming whites for a deep, introspective blue and contrasting yellow collar.
Because not all these kits are necessarily flattering, here are the five worst:
1. Costa RicaThere’s a Flock of Seagulls thing going on with that weird geometric shape. I’m unsure if this is better than the 2013 kit, which may have inflicted irreparable damage on the country’s soccer reputation.
2. CameroonSensory overload.
3. Germany Save for that cool emblem and native sports apparel manufacturer logo, there’s nothing German about this kit. I suppose you can make a case for the different reddish stripes that make up what looks like a breast plate, but they’re more like different tones of an amber lager (hey, beer! That’s German!).
4. Belgium They do a better job than Germany with the same color scheme on their flag, but that’s not saying much. The crown is completely unnecessary. To a largely ignorant world stage, perhaps a bar of chocolate would’ve been better.
5. England It’s bland and predictable, but notice the Nike swoosh. I have a bone to pick: For a decade, my grandma shipped me the latest and greatest England kits tailored by Umbro, a British sportswear company. They did great work, and I typically break out one of the jerseys once a week. Nike recently bought the rights to provide England with kits until 2018 in the second most lucrative deal (France and Nike are first) at the World Cup. Umbro won’t be at the 2014 World Cup, and because of that, England and their corporate counterparts receive my wrath in the form of fifth (read: worst) place.
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