Category: 2000s

Argentina 2002

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.

arg02 shirt

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.

arg02 badge

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).

arg02 bati

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.

Argentina 2010

When Argentina unveiled their new kit for the 2010 World Cup, the first thing keen observers noticed was that the design of the shirt was a clear nod to that worn by the South Americans the last time they won the tournament in 1986. Though it wasn’t the first time adidas had referenced a celebrated shirt from the modern era (see France’s 1998 update of their Euro 84 shirt), it was unusual in that Argentina’s kit in ’86 was produced by the French company Le Coq Sportif. But the decision did have a strange logic to it. After all, Argentina’s coach in South Africa would be none other than the man who had captained them to victory twenty-four years earlier, Diego Armando Maradona. Though Maradona wouldn’t be wearing the shirt himself this time, presumably the thinking was that if his Argentina team wore a similar kit to that worn in the sunshine of Mexico, this year’s tournament would perhaps have a similar outcome.


To casual fans the 2010 shirt may have appeared like any other worn by the albiceleste, but there were several details that evidently drew from its iconic predecessor. The first of these was the simple crew neck collar: Argentina had only worn V-necks, fold-over collars, buttoned collars and modern variations of the same in recent years. Likewise, for the first time since the mid-nineties there was no black trim on the shirt. Perhaps the most noticeable similarity to the ’86 shirt was the AFA badge, set on a bold blue background that had been absent since 1991. Rather than be placed over a blue or white stripe, the badge itself was positioned over the point where the two stripes meet, just as in ’86.

argentina_2010 diagram

Attention had even been paid to the stripes’ sequence and arrangement, with white being chosen for the central stripe (a rarity outside the ’86 tournament). Even the shirt’s fabric was a modern update on the breathable airtex material originally used to beat the heat in Mexico. While the ubiquitous adidas branding dictated somewhat the design of the sleeves, and the classic Argentina numbers were long gone, adidas had done a fine job at updating a classic. In practice of course, the kit bore little resemblance to ’86. The players’ shirts would become inevitably tarnished with the modern-day clutter of front numbers and sleeve patches, while the beautiful gold embroidered badge used on commercially available replica shirts was replaced by a plastic heat-pressed version (I still don’t understand this, but I’m sure adidas would claim it makes the shirt half an ounce lighter). In addition, temperatures in South Africa were considerably lower than they’d been in Mexico, causing several players to opt for a long-sleeved “Techfit” version of the shirt.


Maradona had drawn criticism for his squad selection prior to the tournament. Many were surprised to see Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso miss out at the expense of less experienced players, particularly since both had been instrumental in achieving a historic treble for Inter that season. He’d also kept faith with aging midfielder Juan Sebastián Verón, now in the autumn of his career at Estudiantes. Argentina got off to a positive start in South Africa, winning all three of their group games. Fans looked to new number ten Lionel Messi to inspire the team, but the Barcelona star was outshone by his teammates. Defender Gabriel Heinze headed the only goal against Nigeria, then Gonzalo Higuain grabbed a hat-trick against South Korea. A number of first-choice players were rested for the final match with Greece, where two Martins — defender Demichelis and veteran striker Palermo — got on the scoresheet.


Argentina faced Mexico in the second round, in a match that saw two peculiar changes to their kit. The first was a discreet white outline that had been added to the shirt numbers, presumably to maximize their clarity, although it barely made any difference. More obvious was Argentina’s unprecedented and inexplicable choice to wear blue shorts and socks with their home shirt, a decision no doubt enforced by the latest FIFA edict regarding colour clashes. The match itself was overshadowed by a refereeing controversy (one of several in the tournament). Thanks to replays broadcast on the giant screens in Johannesburg it was clear to everyone in the stadium that Tevez’s first goal was offside. But the goal stood, and Argentina went on to score twice again through Higuain before Tevez sealed the win with a screamer from long range into the top corner.


Germany now awaited Diego’s men in the quarter-finals in a game packed with historical subtext. Argentina had lost to Germany on penalties at the same stage four years earlier, while Maradona had defeated West Germany to lift the trophy in ’86, only to lose to them in the final four years later. Their 2010 meeting had none of the drama of those matches, as Germany ran out comfortable 4-0 victors. It was an unfortunate and perhaps cruel end for Maradona, who had thrown himself into his new role with the same passion and desire he had exuded as a player. It was clear from watching their matches that Argentina’s player-coach relationship was unique. Maradona garnered not just the requisite respect from his players, but something rather approaching adoration, such is the level of idolatry that his legend demands. Prowling the touchline, arms folded or nervously stroking the grey streaks in his beard, at times it seemed that not being out there with his team was too much for him to bear. I often wondered if he had his playing kit on underneath his bulky grey suit, just in case a chance presented itself.


The AFA chose not to renew Maradona’s contract after their quarter-final exit, sparking a bitter row between the dismissed coach and the association’s national team director Carlos Bilardo, whom he branded a traitor and a liar. Bilardo coached Maradona at two World Cups, and maybe he knew already what the rest of Argentina learned in 2010: that their God is just a mortal without a ball at his feet.

argentina_2010 details

Colombia 2014

Though Colombia had not reached the finals of the World Cup since 1998, the team arrived at Brazil 2014 as many people’s dark horses. The reason was that over the last two or three years Los Cafeteros had produced a crop of exceptionally talented players that had begun to make names for themselves across Europe. The first of these was Radamel Falcao, who after enjoying Europa League success at Porto had joined Atlético Madrid in 2011, now coached by Diego Simeone, who had worked with the striker as a youngster at River Plate. Falcao won a second successive Europa League title in 2012 but left the club the following summer to join Monaco, where a knee injury in a Coupe de France game threatened to keep him out of the World Cup.

While neither Jackson Martinez nor Teófilo “Teo” Gutiérrez would quite fill the void left in the absence of Colombia’s star striker, both could be a handful for defences. But it wasn’t just up front where Colombia looked strong. Tricky winger Juan Pablo Cuadrado’s career had taken him to opposite ends of Italy, first at Udinese and then Lecce, before settling in Florence, where he’d become a key member of Vincenzo Montella’s exciting Fiorentina side. Even the defensive players, Zapata, Zuniga and captain Yepes, had several years experience playing for top clubs in Serie A.

Colombia’s most promising talent was their young number ten, James Rodriguez. The midfielder had also joined Porto as a teenager, before following Falcao to Monaco. At twenty-two, Rodriguez was already considered one of South American football’s top prospects, having been nominated as the successor to Colombian legend Carlos Valderrama — by none other than Valderrama himself.

The man handed the task of harnessing all this creative talent was the Argentina José Pekerman, who’d led his own country to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2006. Colombia had finished behind Argentina in qualifiying, yet found themselves among the eight seeded teams for the World Cup draw. Consequently, they were joined in their first round group by Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan. On paper it looked a relatively easy proposition, but fans were wary of suffering a repeat of 1994, when Colombia had been tipped by Pelé to win the competition, only to lose their first two games and suffer a humiliating (and ultimately tragic) exit.

Fortunately, 2014 would prove a far more joyous tournament. Colombia won all three of their group games, scoring nine goals in the process and impressed audiences with their skillful attack-minded football, not to mention carefree celebrations. James Rodriguez lived up to his potential early on, finding the net in every match, but truly fulfilled his promise in the second round against Uruguay. At Rio’s Maracana, this all-South American clash was Colombia’s sternest test yet, but Rodriguez had found his form at just the right time. For his first goal, he controlled the ball with his chest before volleying into the top corner from outside the box. It was undoubtedly one of the goals of the tournament, and recalled that of another Rodriguez — Maxi — for Pekerman’s Argentina against Mexico in 2006.

colombia james 10

In the second half Rodriguez doubled his side’s lead with a tapped in finish from close range. Neutral followers were delighted to see Colombia progress at the expense of Uruguay, who’d won few friends for their performances or behaviour in Brazil. Now Rodriguez and Co. faced the hosts in Fortaleza, who themselves could be considered fortunate to have got through their second round tie with Chile. For the first time, Colombia were forced to wear their red and navy away strip, a change with which their entertaining World Cup run came to an end. Two goals by central defenders (Thiago Silva and David Luiz) settled the contest, but Rodriguez still found time to get his sixth goal of the tournament from the penalty spot, thus maintaining his record of scoring in every game and ultimately earning him the Golden Boot. Though the match was overshadowed by Zuniga’s foul on Neymar which ended the youngster’s World Cup, at full-time Rodriguez was consoled by his opponents and applauded for his fine performances in Brazil.

Colombia’s wholly enjoyable displays in Brazil coincided with an unprecedented new kit. Unlike most national teams, Colombia have changed their home colours with unusual frequency. Between the 1930s and 1980s the team sported sky blue, white, navy, orange and red shirts before finally settling on the current yellow in the early 1990s. In 2014 adidas unveiled a new shirt with a navy diagonal sash, into whose design was incorporated a sombrero vueltiao, the traditional hat of Colombia and one of the symbols of the country. The new kit also saw the abandonment of the traditional tricolore strip, Colombia instead reverting to white shorts and socks. Oddest of all was the inclusion of a hashtag — #UnidosPorUnPais — located on the back of the shirt just below the neck. While team slogans and motifs have been incorporated surreptitously onto shirts for a few years, this was the first instance I’ve seen of social media directly infiltrating kit design. Having finally witnessed a player excel at the World Cup with my own name on his back, naturally I couldn’t resist picking up a yellow “JAMES” shirt to add to my own collection.

colombia_shirt 2
colombia_shirt details

Italy 2000

The 1990s had not been kind to Italy. While the national team had continued to reach the latter stages of major tournaments, they had been thwarted by penalty kicks in the three successive World Cups. The new century did not quite promise a new beginning, but it certainly signaled a new look. Italy arrived at Euro 2000 sporting an innovative kit design that proved highly influential. Made from a figure-hugging blend of polyester and spandex, Kappa’s “Kombat” shirt accentuated the wearer’s physique, lending players an added degree of athleticism while supposedly preventing defenders from resorting to the cynical tactic of shirt tugging.


The shirt was a lighter shade of blue for Italy, more akin to Napoli than the national team. Other unprecedented details included deliberately exposed stitching and the repositioning of the three stars (for each World Cup win) to the sleeve, where the inclusion of the Kappa logo represented another novelty which is quite commonplace today. Upon its launch the revolutionary kit was surrounded in hype and speculation, and fans were initially skeptical about the idea of their heroes parading in skin-tight soccer uniforms. As it happened, the shorts and socks remained fairly conventional, while Italy’s style conscious set of internationals opted for wearing their shirt a size too large, providing them with a decidedly more comfortable fit with which to face the rest of Europe’s elite. With its retro badge and spare design, the shirt itself had a sort of modern simplicity, which at the time was a breath of fresh air following the anything-goes approach to kit design that had borne some truly garish results in the 1990s.

italy 2000 albertini2

Coached by former World Cup-winning captain Dino Zoff, Italy boasted an exceptional squad going into the tournament, despite having lost first-choice goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Inter striker Christian Vieri, who’d netted five goals at France ’98. Their understudies proved more than capable: Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero and Filippo Inzaghi all grabbed goals as Italy advanced to the semi-final. In Amsterdam against joint-hosts Holland, Francesco Toldo had the game of his life between the posts, saving three penalties – one in normal time and two in a shoot-out – as the Azzurri marched to a final against World Champions France.


In Rotterdam Italy were seconds away from their first European trophy in thirty-two years when Silvain Wiltord capitalized on a rare error at the back to equalise. In extra-time, David Trezeguet fired home a spectacular “Golden Goal” winner. As the country recovered from another bitter defeat, Zoff resigned in protest following public criticism from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. A few months later, having moved to the northern Italian town of Pavia, I picked up my own Italy 2000 shirt (long-sleeved version), no doubt recognising its potential cultural significance.

italy 2000 nesta

Giovanni Trapattoni’s Italy wore an almost identical jersey at the 2002 World Cup, where they were controversially eliminated at the hands of the co-hosts Korea amidst an avalanche of conspiracy theories. Over the next decade Kappa’s “Kombat” uniforms were adopted by some of Europe’s top club sides — including Roma, Auxerre, Sampdoria, Real Betis and Werder Bremen — while spawning a host of imitators. The era may have finally ended in 2012 however, when Roma abruptly announced the end of their long-standing relationship with the brand, citing a significant decline in quality.

italy 2000 shirt

Italy ditched the Kappa shirts in 2003, and replaced them with uniforms by Puma. While the Azzurri have had more on-field success while wearing the German manufacturer — winning the World Cup in 2006 and reaching the final of Euro 2012 — none have proven as memorable or as popular as those worn by Euro 2000’s runners-up. The influence of the “Kombat” series mustn’t be underestimated: over the last few seasons football strips have become increasingly slim-fitted to the extent that today it’s not uncommon to see players take the field in truly skin-tight shirts, confirmation that Kappa’s radical departure in kit design was several years ahead of its time.

italy 2000 shirt details