After the 1998 World Cup the Argentina Football Association unexpectedly struck a deal with Reebok to produce the national team’s kit. The resulting shirts were somewhat ugly, and not at all in keeping with the South Americans’ tradition of simple, stylish uniforms. They even had navy shorts! So it was with some relief when I discovered Argentina had reestablished their long partnership with adidas just in time for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea.
I first noticed the change in a February friendly played in Cardiff. The shirt had a black V-neck collar and there was a wide white trim on the hem of the shorts. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was merely a stop-gap kit: by the time Argentina played Germany in April they had a completely new strip, one that matched the template adidas was introduced for the World Cup. The shirts were equipped with what adidas was calling “dual-layer” technology, meaning that a thinner layer of fabric was sewn into the inside of the garment, supposedly to keep players muscles warm. The numbers were a quirky italicized font, with tiny NFL-style holes.
The kit was certainly simple, perhaps overly so. The black shorts bore the usual three white stripes, while the socks were bereft of trim altogether. Oddly for Argentina, the V-neck collar and sleeves were blue (as opposed to white).
Despite boasting a squad packed with attacking talent, Argentina crashed out of the World Cup at the first hurdle for the first time in forty years. They started well enough, a Batistuta header enough to earn a 1-0 win over Nigeria. But against England they succumbed to a David Beckham penalty, leaving them needing a victory in their final group game against Sweden. They only managed a draw.
Argentina wore their home kit just once in Japan, in the defeat to England in Sapporo. Four years earlier England had changed and lost. Beckham once again made the headlines, but this time the boot was on the other foot.