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Thursday, June 10, 2010
World Cup uniform preview, Part 4

By Paul Lukas
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It's been quite a week here at Uni Watch, as we're now on our fourth consecutive day of World Cup soccer coverage. Our previous installments have covered the teams in Groups A and B, C and D and E and F. Today we wrap things up with the eight teams in Groups G and H.

But before we do that, a few additional notes:

• This weeklong series would not have been possible without Uni Watch readers Doug Mulliken, Michael Orr, Kent Green and Patrick Runge, who volunteered to provide the team-by-team commentary that a certain uniform columnist was too soccer-clueless to come up with on his own. Major, major thanks to those four gentlemen for their generosity and expertise. It's been a pleasure working with all of you.

Uni Watch
• Yet another reader, Brad Mielke, is in South Africa right now and will be Uni Watch's official on-site World Cup correspondent, filing uni-related dispatches on what the players are wearing, what the fans are wearing, what the vendors are selling, and so on. Look for his reports here on Page 2 beginning next week.

• If you're more interested in some of the compression fabrics and other technological innovations in this year's World Cup kits, there's good coveage of that in this article.

• Umbro, which manufactured the English taem's uniforms, recently embarked on a fun project in which they painted each English player's uniform number on a building in his hometown. Check it out in this slideshow.

• World Cup design extends beyond the uniforms, of course -- there's also the matter of the soccer ball itself. There's a great interactive page tracking the ball's design history here. Meanwhile, this year's ball is already becoming a point of controversy.

• You don't have to be an ESPN columnist to appreciate some of the tremendous advertising posters ESPN has come up with to promote its Cup coverage.

• Speaking of posters, this calendar/schedule thingie is pretty cool, no?

With the housekeeping out of the way, here's our panel of experts with their final team-by-team rundown of uniform assessments.

GROUP G

Brazil (home, away/change, third)

Doug: I'm not overly impressed by Brazil's set this year. Yes, it's the most famous shirt in the world, blah-blah-blah, but this version is a step down from four years ago. I really dislike the dot-matrix pattern Nike has used on the away shirt, and both shirts have an unnecessary shoulder stripe that almost suggests adidas' three stripes, which doesn't make sense for Nike's flagship team. Grade: B-

Michael: Five-time champions Brazil seem to be one of only two teams with three uniform choices for this World Cup (the other is Honduras), although it's not clear whether the black third shirt will actually be available for on-field use or if it's just a Nike gimmick to sell more replicas. Either way, the traditional yellow and blue home kit is a fine set, highlighted by the wonderful green stripes around the white socks. The change kit features an interesting dot matrix design while retaining the traditional blue look that has served them well in the past. Grade: A

Kent: From their style of play to the styling of their kit, the Seleção always look great. The home is simple and outstanding, with nice accents like the shoulder stripes and side dots. And I love the blue away, but I'm always a sucker for the dot effect. Even cooler is the sexy black alternate, although it likely won't be seen in the Cup. I love when teams shake up things while holding onto their heritage. Grade: A-

Patrick: It's pretty hard to screw up a classic like the Brazil kit, and Team Swoosh managed to avoid doing so. I'm fine with the green stripe down the shoulder, especially since it's echoed on the side of the shorts. I love the base color of the away kit, and I think the explosion of ellipses actually works pretty well -- a worthy experiment. I'd rail about the naked money grab that is the never-to-be-seen third kit, but that's like complaining when a lion eats a gazelle. It's just what Nike does. Grade: A

Ivory Coast (home, away/change) Doug: I'm profoundly conflicted here. The home kit is too plain, while the away kit is probably my favorite shirt in the whole competition. Similarly, the new badge is pretty rad, but the old badge was my favorite in world soccer (it was shaped like the country!). I've always liked orange, so I can't complain too much about the nondescript home shirt, but the away is a work of art. I hope its worn against Brazil -- it would be like watching "Yellow Submarine" with vuvuzelas. A-

Michael: The orange home shirt is a fantastic look, despite the elephant on the shoulder. The change shirt's combination of horizontal stripes on the front and solid sleeves and back looks a bit strange, but the color pattern is a nice one. B+

Kent: Why's everyone down on the elephant? It's a friggin' elephant; it should be prominent! It spices up the simple look of the shirt. And Puma nailed the away. The lovely green/orange stripe work makes for the best of Puma's Africa templates (in the World Cup, that is; it's a shame Angola didn't make the cut), although I agree that it's a little weird to pair the striped front with the solid back. A-

Patrick: The home kit goes a step too far with Puma's shoulder knockout design, making the elephant design too big, too distracting and almost cartoon-ish. But the away kit is my favorite of Puma's knockout designs. The horizontal striping, the gold trim on the large white stripes and the paintbrush-style green and white blend between the stripes -- it all looks sharp. B-

North Korea (home?, away/chage?) Doug: Be honest: You half expect to see North Korea trot out in military-issue khakis, right? Actually, that would be better than what we've seen so far. D

Michael: In soccer, as in everything else, the nation no one knows anything about is North Korea. It wore all-white against South Africa in a friendly this spring (the sleeves were sort of Kim Jong Il-esque), but no information has been released about what it'll wear for the Cup. Recently, it wore this all-red outfit in a friendly against Greece, although that kit does not appear to have been made by Legea, which is supposedly handling the team's kits for the Cup. So once again, the North Koreans keep us all guessing. C

Kent: Vendors say they're having trouble finding North Korean kits. Is this an elaborate ploy to create instant collectors' items? According to a quote toward the end of this article, the home kit will be white and the away will be red on red (insert communist joke here). I like the asymmetrical striping on the right arm, but it's a bit much on the sides and shorts. D (unless this is being read in the glorious motherland of North Korea, in which case A+++)

Patrick: It appears the world knows more about North Korea's clandestine nuclear program than about its World Cup kits, which just shows the North Koreans have their intelligence priorities straight. C

Portugal (home, away/change)

Doug: Portugal switches between red and maroon for its home kit, and I like what has been done using red this time around (although the red dots inside the green chest band remind me of Nike's baseball sleeve pox). Everyone should love they away shirt, though. If it looks familiar, that's because something very similar was worn by Chelsea and Mexico in the 1970s. It was rad then, it's rad now. A+

Michael: Probably the most striking pair of kits in the Cup, it's a nice set that takes advantage of Nike's simplicity and doesn't go overboard with the individual details. A

Kent: Portugal's home is sweeter than one of the country's famed dessert wines. It's aesthetic perfection, with bold colors and a simple design. Even the sizing tag is fantastic, as it matches the country's flag. I appreciate the bold design of the away, but I just can't get behind the stripes. A-

Patrick: A great set. The away kit is particularly ballsy when you realize that the uniform number goes right in the center, yet the numberless replica shirts still look awesome despite the blank space in the middle. A+

GROUP H

Chile (home, away/change)

Doug: I've never liked Chile's red shirt and navy shorts look, in part because Brooks blatantly copies other brands when it comes to uniform design. All is not lost, however; when Chile wears white shorts, it looks great. Too bad the all-white away kit is so bland. C+

Michael: Chile is the only nation wearing Brooks uniforms this year. Neither option is particularly inspiring, and there's potential for disaster if the Brooks marking appears on the back of the shirts. B-

Kent: Neither Chilean kit impresses, especially with the horrible Brooks wordmark on the lower back. One thing I do like is the inscription "Con el futbol todos ganamos" on the inside of the collar, which translates to "With soccer we all win." True 'nuff. C-

Patrick: Pretty nondescript. One thing I want to address: the badge. If your shirt is the same color as a large element at the end of the badge (like the red in the flag and the home shirt), would it kill you to put a border of some kind on the badge so you can see where one begins and the other ends? B-

Honduras (home, away/change, third)

Doug: It's a shame Honduras dropped the classic "Big H" it wore during qualifying, but I like all three of these, especially the striped one. The fade design across the chests could have been cool if it had been used to highlight the badge and not the brand. Smart marketing, but unfortunate design. B-

Michael: Of the several strange concepts in this year's World Cup, none is weirder than Honduras' blue-white-blue fade plastered across the chest. What a joke. The most unfortunate part is that Honduras had fairly good-looking outfits in qualifying. Why Joma went off the deep end for the World Cup is a total mystery. D

Kent: The worst overall look in the Cup. Placing the country crest front and center feels clunky, and the fade effect in the logo strip overdoes things. Why does the home white need the extra blue details, and why does the blue away have the black pinstripes? Get rid of the clutter, Joma. Having lived in Costa Rica, I've noticed that Latin Americans dig busy kits, so maybe I'm guilty of imposing Euro/U.S. cultural aesthetics. Still, these don't work for me at all. F

Patrick: Nice to see that kit manufacturer Joma qualified for the World Cup. Oh wait, that's Honduras? Who could tell, what with the fade design focusing all the attention on the manufacturer and not the team. The sad thing is that I like just about everything else on these kits, but it's all overshadowed by the brand promotion. D- Spain (home, away/change)

Doug: Spain has switched between royal and navy in recent years, but I think the royal, which is being used this year, looks better with the red and gold. I really like the switch to red socks, too. Meanwhile, the away kit is characteristically stylish -- classic Spain. A+

Michael: As reigning European champions, the Spaniards have a standard of success to live up to on the pitch and in kit design, and they've certainly delivered on the latter front. If you don't think socks can make a difference, think again. Bottom line: This team intends to look as good as it plays. A

Kent: La Furia Roja should be furious about their home kit. The light blue shorts and accents don't mesh with the rest of the kit, and this is another team with TechWeb problems on the back. But I love the dark-blue away. The crest leaps out thanks to the dark background color, and for once, adidas gets the back of a shirt right. Note the "RFEF" on the rear collar, which stands for Real Federacion Española de Futbol. B+

Patrick: Ka-pow. Spain did very well to move away from 2009's overly busy look. I love the royal blue shorts, and the red socks give the whole kit a great balance. The striping on the away kit is really sharp, and of course the away socks are pretty awesome too. A+

Switzerland (home, away/change)

Doug: The Swiss occupy an interesting middle ground. They didn't get the fun template Puma used for the African countries, but they also didn't embarrass itself like the Italians. They don't have a cool pattern in their shirt like the Uruguayans, but they do have one of the cooler badges in world football, with the initials of the soccer association in both German and French. The whole thing reminds me of a cheap Swiss watch: It works fine but isn't particularly special. C+

Michael: Switzerland has a long heritage of neutrality, so it's appropriate that it has one of the most neutral kits possible. Hideous? No. Interesting? Also no. C

Kent: Please, Switzerland: Play with your home shirts untucked. The flag "belt-buckle" effect on the shorts looks ridiculous. It's the worst of several bad details, including the weird white accent under the home collar, too many symbols on the chest and superfluous red piping on the away. C-

Patrick: The Swiss badge is certainly one of the most confusing in world soccer, and the idea of simplifying the kit to allow the badge to stand out kind of works for me. The Swiss really love their flag, though, as it appears along with the badge on both shirts and on the waistband of the home shorts. The home socks help push this set from uninspired to just interesting enough. B-

Paul Lukas may not know much about soccer, but he knows what he likes. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.

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