West Germany 1990, Denmark 1986, England 1966

Best XI: The finest football kits the World Cup has ever seen 

For fans across the globe, the colour, excitement and sheer sensory spectacle of the World Cup was the watershed moment when their youthful interest became a fevered obsession.

Every 4 years our planet comes together to watch 4 weeks of drama played out on grass and we know that come July 15th, history will have been made in Russia as magnificent new memories are burned onto our retinas.

Iconic international football shirts of yesteryear have become part of our sporting culture and Adidas have signalled a return to individual bespoke designs rather than the functional uniformity of recent tournaments with their kits for Russia 2018 holding a decidedly retro feel.

There is of course a link between glory and romance as the colours we remember are often worn by the players like Pele, Cruyff and Maradona who inspired the next generation of World Cup heroes.

So before we take the road to Nizhny Novgorod, here’s a nostalgic run down of the finest 11 sets of kits the World Cup has ever seen.

USSR 1966

CCCP, 1966, Lev Yashin, World Cup, Football, Kits, Soccer, Black, USSR

This summer’s hosts kick-off the selection with their Soviet era shirts.

Right down to his leather gloves, Lev Yashin’s all black goalkeeping kit made him look like a KGB hitman sent to England to strangle the opposition’s attacking threat.

Yashin’s heroics between the posts earned the “Black Spider” a reputation among the all-time greats whilst his teammates wearing the unsubtle “CCCP” across their chests looked every inch a Red Army.

England 1966

England, 1966, World Cup, Bobby Moore, Football, Kits, Soccer, Wembley

In blood red shirts emblazoned with Three Lions and ten red roses, England etched their names onto the Jules Rimet Trophy under Wembley’s Twin Towers.

A scene unsullied by corporate sponsors where Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, the Charlton brothers & Co wore the change colours of red rather than white as they added a new date to the history books for schoolboys to learn by heart.

The stuff of legend, a shirt for champions.

Brazil 1970

Brazil, 1970, World Cup, Pele, Football, Kits, Soccer

Mexico 1970 brought the beautiful game to the world in Technicolor for the first time.

Beamed into homes across the globe by satellite, the yellow, green, blue and white of Pele, Jarzinho, Carlos Alberto, Rivelino, Gérson and Tostão became instantly recognisable as Brazil captured a planet’s imagination.

Football has never looked so good.

Peru 1970

Peru, 1970, World Cup, Red Sash, Football, Kits, Soccer

The diagonal red sash of Peru’s shirts will make a return to this year’s World Cup for the first time since 1982.

La Blanquirroja have essentially worn the same kit since 1936, the design apparently inspired by school playground matches where two teams could be distinguished by a sash worn from shoulder to hip.

Reminiscent of South American giants River Plate, this effort broke the block colour mould as Peru reached the quarter-finals in 1970 without a yellow or red card to besmirch those famous colours.

Holland 1974

Holland, 1974, World Cup, Cruyff, Football, Kits, Soccer

Arguably the greatest side never to have won the tournament.

The 1974 tournament was the only time Johan Cruyff played in the World Cup finals and he famously removed one of Adidas’ 3 stripes from his sleeves as he had his own commercial deal with Puma.

The Dutch may have lost to hosts West Germany but for Cruyff at least, the Total Football example set by the brilliant Oranje on how to play the game was more important.

“Yeah, but maybe we were the real winners in the end,” he told the Guardian. “I think the world remembers our team more.”

Italy 1982

Italy, 1982, World Cup, Paolo Rossi, Football, Kits, Soccer, Espana, Italia

Four time winners Italy will be sadly missing from the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

The 1982 incarnation was the perfect Italian strip complete with trim in national flag colours and was one of the last to show players’ efforts in the form of sweat on the shirt.

The Azzurri side of Rossi, Zoff, Tardelli and Gentile were deserved winners in Spain ’82 having overcome 1978 champions Argentina, a Zico and Socrates inspired Brazil, before defeating West Germany 3-1 in the final.

Denmark 1986

Denmark, 1986, World Cup, Laudrup, Football, Kits, Soccer, Mexico

The Danish Dynamite team featuring Michael Laudrup, Jan Molby and Jasper Olsen had the world at their feet and seemed to be genuine contenders as they smashed 9 goals and beat finalists West Germany on their way to topping their group at Mexico 86.

You could say that like another great Danish export, they were streaky as they succumbed to a 5-1 last sixteen defeat to Spain.

That Denmark team has since developed a cult appreciation, thanks in no small part to the flair of Hummel’s innovative shirt of two halves.

Argentina 1986

Maradona, 1986, World Cup, Argentina, Football, Kits, Soccer

Diego Armando Maradona broke English hearts in Mexico with a mixture of cunning (ahem) and genius on the way to inspiring Argentina’s second title.

The sky blue and white striped shirts are among football’s most easily recognisable and this Le Coq Sportif number for La Albiceleste featuring breathable mesh like material, makes the list ahead of other Argentine efforts for the fact it was a world beater.

West Germany 1990

West Germany, 1990, World Cup, Italia 90, Football, Kits, Soccer,

The ribbon of colour so good even sworn rivals stood back in admiration.

Months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, this break with the functional, if monochromatic teutonic strips of the past is often declared the greatest of all time and was certainly fit for the World Champions.

The “Turin Green” of the semi-final penalty shootout victory wasn’t too shabby either.

Croatia 1998

Croatia, 1986, World Cup, Suker, Football, Kits, Soccer

The chessboard Croatian sensation originally came to prominence at Euro 96 but it was 2 years later that one of the great international designs made its bow on the global stage.

Dark horses Croatia won many admirers at France 98 finishing 3rd with a squad including Prosinečki, Šuker, Boban and Bilić. Exciting and fluid to watch, they surprised Germany 3-0 in the Quarter finals before bowing out to eventual winners France.

France 1998

France, 1998, World Cup, Zidane, Football, Kits, Soccer,

Adidas went retro as they served up this world-beating beauty for hosts France in 1998 as a throwback to their 1984 European Championships winning shirts.

Baggy and slightly OTT in a way that was perfectly fine at the time, this France shirt was one of the last gloriously individual designs before manufacturers began to concentrate more on their creations’ cut and ability to wick away sweat than their colours.

The tricolour of blue, white and red was wonderfully deconstructed for Zidane, Blanc, Desailly and Petit as they memorably stuffed favourites Brazil under a Parisian sunset.

Make a substitution!

For reasons of variety, there’s only room for one kit per country on this list hence why there’s nothing beyond 1998.

Which strip needs to be on this list and which should be removed from the field of play?

Let us know in the comments below!

6 thoughts on “Best XI: The finest football kits the World Cup has ever seen ”

  1. Most exciting things about this World Cup is Peru’s return. Need more sashes in football. Palace can’t have all the fun.

  2. The fourth official has notified me of a couple of substitution requests on Twitter and Facebook.

    #1 – Mexico proving popular with Jorge Campos home made Keeper shirts, Aztec style 90s and the 2014 Adidas electric lightning bolt shirts all suggestions.

    #2 – The Dutch ’78 kit preferred to ’74 by one reader. The 1978 tournament described as the “absolute pinnacle” of World Cup shirt design.

    #3 – USA’s 1994 away kit (white stars on blue denim). According to one tweet, the shirt is the “greatest of all time.”

    #4 – France 1998 looking tired and one suggestion that their number should be held up.

    In terms of the best? Lots of love for Brazil and Peru from 1970 as well as my personal favourite, Germany 1990.

  3. Never really liked the Croatia 98 one; it reminds me of a tablecloth blowing away from a washing line. My favourite World Cup kits are all from ’78; but as Peru, Holland, Italy and Argentina are already represented here, I’d have to go with Scotland’s blue/blue/red strip they wore (to no effect, sadly) against Peru and Iran.

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