The Idle Man is proud to present “The 50 Best World Cup Football Shirts”; a collection of our 50 favourite world cup shirts stretching all the way from 1930 to the present day. Carefully chosen through a mixture of fantastic design and fascinating stories, here you can learn the tales behind each of the shirts and interesting facts about world cup history.
What Is This?
Here at The Idle Man, we love nothing more than the World Cup. With the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia just around the corner, we thought we’d go through our favourite shirts, spanning 21 tournaments and 495 teams who’ve competed from 1930-2018. Some of these are so bad they’re good, and some are so good they’re as iconic as the moments that happened in them. It has been a tough journey, with 14 of us sitting down to pick the chosen 50 and disagreeing at almost every stage. There’s been, blood, sweat, tears and a whole lot of arguing along the way, but we are confident that we have made the right decision for our final 50.
This is our interactive journey across these shirts. We’ve paid homage to the originators back in Uruguay 1930 and the innovators of Russia 2018 with a vast selection of classic World Cup kits. Designs that are as minimal as England’s penalty success and as colourful as Romania’s hair at France ‘98 will appear throughout this interactive guide. Players like Maradona, Pelé, Charlton, Tardelli, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Beckham, Hagi, Bergkamp, Matthäus and Cruyff, and their shirts, will feature. We’ve collated some of the best and worst moments at the World Cup and brought those shirts to life.
This has been an exciting and stressful journey for all of us here at The Idle Man, but it’s been worth it. We hope you enjoy The 50 Best World Cup Football shirts just as much as we have enjoyed making it.
Moments are what makes a World Cup and, more importantly, the football shirts that they are played in. Football shirts have seen a meteoric rise in terms of popularity over the last ten to fifteen years. Vintage football shirts have become a call to arms in the eyes of many fans, with some going further than others. The 2018 World Cup in Russia is no different, with 64 new shirt designs being rolled out for 32 teams - some of which are cult classics already.
A football shirt, in itself, can transcend the concept of time and live a lot longer than 90 minutes on the pitch. Very few things on earth have the ability to possess such power without really being involved in anything at all. If I were to mention the words to you “they think it’s all over...it is now!” what image do you conjure up in your head? Of course, it would be Geoff Hurst just scoring the winning goal to give England the Jules Rimet trophy against West Germany. If I were to ask you what colour the shirt was, you’d instantly know it was red. And, if I were to ask you to think of one image in that shirt, you’d think of Bobby Moore being paraded around Wembley Stadium on the shoulders of his teammates.
Football as a whole has the ability to bring people together from all over the world. It is estimated that in 2014 for the World Cup Final in Brazil, when Germany took on Argentina, that 695 million people had tuned in to watch the game. That’s the equivalent of filling Wembley Stadium 7,722 times, to watch 120 minutes of football, and Mario Götze scoring that sensational volley to take the Jules Rimet trophy back to Germany.
Iconic moments at the World Cup are more often than not remembered by the shirt that players were wearing, whether they are good or bad or ugly.
Maradona’s “Hand of God” for example happened in a sky blue and white striped Le Coq Sportif shirt, just as one of the best goals in World Cup history also happened in that same shirt, in the same game. Players, and moments, are remembered for their shirts. They bypass all that happens in a tournament and live longer than some of the players that are wearing them. Paul Gascoigne, for example, is remembered for a few moments in football but I bet you know what moment I am talking about.
Italia ‘90 saw England through to the semi final in almost 34 years. West Germany were their opponents and here ensues one of the most tragic moments to happen at World Cup football. Gazza’s crying was easily the most heartbreaking moment to come out of Italia ‘90. People around the world empathised with the man who sobbed like a young boy knowing he wouldn’t be playing in the World Cup final should England have made it. People remember that image 28 years later like it was yesterday. The red faced Geordie boy holding onto his shirt for dear life is as devastating as it is poignant. The World Cup can do things to grown men that not much else can.
How could we forget Zinedine Zidane’s exit from the 2006 final? The infamous headbutt that saw one of the greatest players in the world dismissed for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the 110th minute. The image of France’s captain walking past the trophy that he could have potentially been holding that night in Berlin circulated around the world like wildfire. ZiZou had just made history. It is probably the one memory from the 2006 World Cup final that everybody can remember and for good reason. Although the exact reason is still under some debate between French and Italian football fans alike, that moment is still iconic. Even if it is an ugly one.
The World Cup is full of upsets. It is what makes the tournament so exciting. Where else can you have debut hosts like South Africa defeat world champions such as France? Where else can you have a world class sides like Brazil lose 7-1 to Germany in their home country? Where else can Cameroon defeat Diego Maradona’s Argentina side 1-0? The FIFA World Cup can be as upsetting as it can be glorious. No other tournament has the capability to make grown men cry or to cause entire countries to celebrate.
Of course, it is not just players who create iconic moments. One particular moment happened in 1978 Argentina World Cup involving a certain Clive Thomas when Brazil faced Sweden in the group stage. With moments to go and six seconds into extra time, Thomas had blown his whistle the very moment that Zico had scored a header. The goal was disallowed as the game was finished, much to the disbelief of the Brazilian team. Thomas stuck by his decision until he retired in 1984 stating that “Zico was too late, possibly only four-tenths of a second too late, but too late nevertheless.”
Although all of these sad moments have been listed it’s important to remember that the World Cup also provides some of the best in the history. More often than not, there are moments of sheer ecstasy that set the world fans alight when they are captured. Marco Tardelli’s reaction to scoring in a World Cup final and putting the Azzurri 2-0 up against West Germany will never be forgotten. The image of a grown man, screaming in a mixture of disbelief and happiness is something that the World Cup does to both players and fans alike.
Feel good moments at the World Cup Who could forget Roger Milla’s dancing in Italia ‘90? The oldest man in the tournament scores a goal to mean that Diego Maradona’s side might not make it. The dancing was unbelievable and it made Milla a star of the tournament. The dancing of the Cameroon national player was recreated by football fans around the world and became one of the most unforgettable celebrations of all time.
The Netherlands versus Argentina saw a certain Arsenal striker score arguably one of the best goals in World Cup history. Bergkamp also cemented his fellow Dutchman, Jack van Gelder, into sporting legend due to the reaction of the goal being scored. “Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp!” was blurted out of the screens after this sensational goal was scored to send the Netherlands headed to the semi finals for the first time since 1978. The World Cup, in itself, can cause moments that not many other tournaments in sport can.
Fast forward to 2002 and a certain Englishman had a lot to make up for following his sending off in 1998. David Beckham’s kick at Diego Simeone saw him go from hero to zero almost overnight. 2002 was the year that Becks had something to prove, especially considering Argentina were in the same group as the Three Lions. After Michael Owen had gone down in the box with moments to go, a penalty was awarded. Beckham had his moment to prove and the pressure was phenomenal to say the least. After slotting the ball in to the right hand corner, Beckham’s joy showed immediately. Tugging his shirt as though it was his own skin, the image of which shows how passionate the World Cup makes players.
Shirts and colours can define a nation at the World Cup. Whole nations can be seen wearing their strip as though it is an extension of their nation. Such passion is derived from almost the earliest memories of a fan after they are told what these colours represent. The beautiful game is made more beautiful for the moments that are created in these football shirts. It is hard to imagine a game without fans, let alone a World Cup without them. What is incredible is to see what football fans do to show the passion of their country. Dyed hair, face paint, tattoos and songs, all add up to create the atmosphere that encapsulates the globe during the one month tournament.
Football kits and shirts can be all manner of things. Inspirational, beautiful, garish, intricate, violent, compassionate, ugly, historical, political, famous, agony, ecstasy and infamous, all sum up what a football shirt, especially a World Cup edition, can be. With that in mind, there is a buzz like no other leading up to the countdown in Russia 2018.
The first time the nation has hosted the tournament, the FIFA World Cup in Russia is going to be an exciting time for all those taking part. Whilst there will be some big names missing, like the Netherlands and Italy, there is no doubt that this World Cup will offer hope and inspiration to all of the new countries taking part. It will allow the world to see that all countries, whether big or small, have the capability to show their passion for the game by wearing their colours. We for one, can’t wait to see what’s in store.