Serbia (Home & Away 2014-17)

So, last European World Cup team I have not written about and like Denmark another one that did not play at EURO 2016. Not sure how I will proceed from here, so be on your feet. Maybe another true World Cup jersey, maybe Africa, maybe Asia, maybe CONCACAF, maybe something else …

Being a fan of the Serbian national football team gotta be frustrating at times. Take the 2010 World Cup, where a quite talented team finished last in the tough group D, but managed to beat Germany. Qualifying for the three next tournaments was not successful and in case of EURO 2016 downright embarrassing. And then, there is the big bright spot in winning the 2015 U-20 World Cup. So, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and barely any middle ground – that is what I would characterize Serbia with. And then there is the small factoid that the senior team always seems to qualify in style when Austria is in their qualifying group …

We already saw the Serbia shirts used during the qualifying campaign for 2014. But after not qualifying, Serbia did a reverse England and opted for Umbro. And the iconic brand delivered some interesting jerseys:

 

Well, very interesting design indeed. Clearly influenced by the two previous Nike designs, but the cross is now presented at a 45 degree angle. Still it is a darker red that is separated by a golden outline from the main red color used for the jersey. As I have called for on the previous version, the cross is much thinner and the center of the cross is right where the federation crest is displayed. It pops out nicely from the dark red, but it does not match up well as the crest is slightly off-center. The Umbro diamonds are also in gold which makes the white number on the front a bit out of place. Single digit numbers still fit nicely within the cross, but double digits surely did not. What else: the cumbersome gold accents continues on the sleeve cuffs and at the front of the V-neck. Yes, they won the U-20 World Cup in these, but I still find the gold not a good use here. And the V-neck looks a bit ridiculous. At least the font used for names and numbers is quite nice. Not the easiest to read, but very classy especially the shadow to the number. I actually like it a lot.

Well, not a bad try, but it is trying to do too much. Also, the gold puts me off a bit.

My rating: 6/10 stars.

 

Well, the away jersey marries the design of the home jersey with the one from the previous away jersey by just having a white cross with a golden outline on a white jersey. Otherwise, it is quite similar design-wise, but has a shirt collar with a deep buttoned opening which slightly interferes with the cross pattern. I also like that the numbers are also in gold making for a more consistent look. Still, I find the gold preposterous. Lastly, I like how the crest pops out of the shirt, but it is still a bit too wide on the left. Still, things that I like here (i.e. the collar) are countered by things I don’t like as much (just outlining the cross is a bit lame for instance). So, same rating as the home jersey:

My rating: 6/10 stars.

Well, after featuring some form of a cross on the jersey for more or less 6 years in a row, some simplification was definitely called for:

 

Well, it got simplified and in all the right directions: Get rid of the gold, have a plain red jersey and add a shirt collar, but keep the great font. The sleeve cuffs are bit more prominent and also in white. I like the white collar as it also provides a nice contrast. This one should serve as a basis for future Serbia shirts – maybe some blue could be introduced to reference the national flag, but that is a minor issue. To make it better, I would probably prefer some sort of bold shadow pattern on there with some local connection (see the 2016-17 Denmark home jersey). But these are pretty sweet.

My rating: 8/10 stars.

The away kit is a bit more boring to me as it is (appropriately) all white, but without any other color to lighten it up a but. Yes, there is the red triangle inset on the V-collar and some red piping towards the tail of the shirt, but that is more or less it. Fortunately (and unfortunately not pictured, but you can see it here), the nice font has been retained and is applied in red here. This gives the shirt a bit more color, but all in all, there is too little red. If the sleeve cuffs had a thicker red band, I would look at it a bit differently, but all in all, this is a bit boring and while the color scheme is better, the shirt is not better than the previous one. And unfortunately, it was also the last one that Umbro would issue for the Orlovi. But that is a story for a future post. 🙂

My rating: 6/10 stars.

How would you rate these shirts?

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Denmark (Home & Away 2016-17)

So, I am still holding out on a few jerseys that have already been released, but I don’t have all the information in nice visual form yet. But that gives us also plenty of space to look at qualified teams, where we can review their previous look. And thanks to switching suppliers and a quite successful women’s EURO campaign, there is plenty to write about:

Well, I like to talk about Croatias and (to lesser degree) Serbia as being flaky teams. But one of these usually does qualify and the other not. But Denmark truly is a yo-yo team, but with a pattern of late: not qualified in ’06 and ’08, qualified in ’10 and ’12, not qualified in ’14 and ’16 and now again a successful qualification. Given the size of the country, it is quite a proud track record. Well, this post covers the the period from failing to qualify for France 2016 due to a playoff loss to eternal rivals Sweden up to a highly successful qualifying campaign ending in an impressive playoff win over Ireland. And there is a supplier switch in addition, so let’s get right to it:

Well, the Denmark home jersey was the last to be produced by Adidas after an almost 12 year period as supplier. And obviously, if Denmark was to qualify for EURO 2016, they should be given a memorable final shirt. Well, predating the retro wave starting in 2017, the designers looked for inspiration in 1986 and tried to somewhat emulate the iconic half-half look of the team that dazzled 30 years earlier in Mexico. Well, it is a very tame interpretation using two shades of red with a white crew neck collar and sleeve cuffs. The three stripes in white are of course on the sides.
But there is one nice touch here: having the darker red on the proper left makes the crest pop out much better. It is also a nice touch that the lighter red is the base on the back, although why not use the half-half not on the back? Well, that and the somewhat tame execution are the only drawbacks. The font used was also quite solid and fits well with the shirt. As I said, this could have surely been more exciting, but overall it is solid and much better than the previous iteration.

My rating: 7/10 stars.

Now, the away jersey was unfortunately a different story:

Well, inverting the colors was not an Adidas thing anymore and after the successful blue look in 2014, why not try again something new? So, we get a white/grey pajama with black sleeves (white cuffs!) and a black V-neck. And here the three side stripes in black really are to the detriment of the jersey as they are perpendicular to the grey hoops and it just does not match. And then, to really create a disjoint look add the two logos in red, but keep the numbers black. Awful!

My rating: 2/10 stars.

Well, right after EURO 2016 Denmark switched back to their iconic initial supplier, Hummel, who is after all a Danish company. And right off the bat Hummel made sure we are reminded of what we had been missing for 12 years looking at an Adidas Denmark jersey:

a simple red jersey with the iconic white chevrons on the sleeves a white crew-neck, sleeve cuffs and shirt tail. The neck gets a little wider cutout on the front, but looks all fine. In addition, we get Viking style lettering and a Viking shadow pattern on the front. Well, not any Viking, but Ogier the Dane whose statue is said to wake up and protect the country! Also, some Nordic patterns adorn the area above the crest giving the front a shield like look. Brilliant! Well, the lettering might be a little hard to read at times, but it is never illegible like some instances of the new Adidas font.

This is not a whacky, but rather simple and effective design of the Denmark shirt. It does not reach back to the glory days of the 1980s and early 1990s, but more to the late 1990s and 2000s. I guess it was important, to come out with a clean, yet bold look. And this is surely achieved. If anyone needed reminding that a Denmark shirt can only be made by a Danish company of the name Hummel, this is it! Classic!

My rating 9/10 stars.

Well, away from home Denmark wears white and again, Hummel is reminding the “invaded” nation about the nationality of their invaders:

Well, this also looks quite great: it is a white jersey with red chevrons on the shoulders, red sleeve cuffs and shirt tail. And then, the proper left gets a red strikeout with the Danish cross. And quite nicely, the crest is at the crossing point. The crew neck is white and only red where the strikeout comes in. Usually, I do not like this look, but here it really makes sense. Also note the font here is a lot simpler. Overall, this is also a wonderful and bold look that thanks to the performance in Dublin will not soon be forgotten. To me, this is also a modern classic.

My rating 9/10 stars.

I also want to display the women’s jerseys issued for the Danish team and worn at the successful EURO 2017 campaign:

The home jersey which gets a slightly different collar treatment but otherwise looks very much the same. Not sure if the Viking is present on there, but I would believe so, at first. So, very much the same rating.

My rating: 9/10 stars.

The away jersey differs a little bit more, especially with the bold two-color sleeve cuffs and by moving the strikeout to the lower proper right. It still is a great accent and probably is quite appropriate for a women’s team. But watching Denmark play the Netherlands in the final, it was not as visible as the cross on the men’s jersey. Also, the collar looks a bit odd as there is no obvious reason for having the crew neck not red all around.

Still, it is a great look, but just a tad below the men’s version. And not only do I love the Hummer comeback, but also that they deliver distinct versions for the women’s and the men’s team.

My rating: 8/10 stars.

How would you rate these shirts?

Croatia (Home & Away 2018-19)

And another Nike team, but here the design will typically overshadow any template as the checker pattern is one of the most iconic kit designs out there. Also, to put everything I am writing below in context, you may want to look at my previous Croatia posts.

I have said it before and I will say it again here: Croatia has one of the most talented sides in Europe, especially going forward. But as my Croatian office mate told me, the defense is suspect at best and coaching as well as the federation leadership are beyond comment. And given the quite tricky draw, everything is possible for this side: Croatia could dominate the group or leave without a single point. It just depends in what mood the team shows up. Personally, I would peg them in for a spot int he second round, but strangely enough I am more worried about the fans than the team. And that is a totally different story that I won’t bore you with. But for me there is a third boiling point concerning Croatia: their kits which we will look at in this post:

Well, the shirt features a checkered pattern, what a surprise! But unlike the flowing elegant 2016 version, this one is right on the other side of the spectrum: static, without moving and in your face. Making each square four times as big as usual (and probably even bigger) makes for a horrible look here. But if you look close something else seems to be off: the sides of each square are blurry thanks to a zig-zag pattern. Yes, it is more interesting than straight lines, but it also wants me to either take out my glasses or adjust my screen every time I look at it. Well, propably to avoid over-complicating the look, the sleeves and shoulders are all-red.

Now, the larger squares do have one advantage: they naturally give enough space for the crest, swoosh and numbers to be displayed. And it is all fine for the former, but for some reason, the number is once more placed just below the swoosh and totally looks out of place here. Why not have a blue number in the perfect sweet spot, the adjacent white center square, and give us at least some symmetry.

To round it all off, the back gives us a completely different look: all white with red shoulders. At first, I even wondered if this is the back of a proper third jersey, but no, they just completely omitted the pattern from the front. Not even below the number are we treated with it (as has been custom so far). Never mind the nice blue names and numbers as they won’t save the most awful version of the Croatian home shirt I can remember. Kudos to you Nike: you delivered the perfect jersey on your worst template and now you slightly improved the template, but completely fumbled this one.

My rating 2/10 stars.

Well, after seeing a leak of the home jersey, the away jersey was my sole glimmer of hope when it comes to Croatia’s look in Russia. Alas, it was not meant to be:

Forget whatever I said about the awful home jersey. These are worse!!! Out of everything  have seen so far, these get to be my pick for worst jerseys of the tournament. And this is achieved by using some of my favorite colors. So truly a masterstroke out of the toilet! Pairing black with navy just does not look good on such an overall pattern. Use one as base color and the other one as a subtle accent and you may be on to something, but not like this. Then, to make a dark jersey even darker, a red font is used for names and numbers (which are still placed incorrectly on the front). The only shining light on this is are the bright colors of the crest.

Why so gloomy, Croatia? You had one of the most pleasant shades of blue to work with. Yes, using the colors from the previous away jersey still would not have made this a good shirt, but at least a bit more pleasant to look at. There is so much wrong here on all accounts that I don’t even want to waste more time on writing about it. Abject failure! And the worst part? We actually will get to see this one in what is arguably the marquee match-up of Group D. I better stop here. The rating should be no surprise to anyone…

My rating: 1/10 stars.

How would you rate these shirts?

France (Home & Away 2018-19)

Finally!!! This post has been two weeks in the making, but I was just waiting for the right point in time. Why was I so looking forward to this one? Well, I do have a slight affinity to France, but mostly because this is the one shirt where the new Nike template is most visible. And for that reason, I was looking forward to this post more than on any other Nike post. That and the unexplicable reason that so far, I cannot find any site selling England shirts (either home or away) with full lettering. Same goes for Portugal away. I just don’t get it!!!

France enters the World Cup as member of the innermost circle of favorites. Given the talent at coach Deschamps’s disposal that should come as no surprise. But at EURO 2016 it also became apparent that the coach is tactically not quite up there with his peers and while indeed unlucky in the final, he was also outcoached (and I guess C. Ronaldo takes credit for that). Group C is not an easy one and even the second round does not look like an easy draw. Still, the same was also said for Germany in 2014. And as one of Nike’s marquee teams, France always gets a special jersey. And as the past has proven, I rarely agree with what they offer. Do we at least get some red this time around?

Well, yes, kind of, but more on that later… First of all, we note that we are back to the navy tone from 2014 as a  base color. I prefer the royal blue from the flag, but in conjunction with white shorts and red socks, the navy does not look the bad in principle. It is just that Nike follows if not sets the trend to darker than usual colors ostensibly with the idea of getting a more aggressive look. Fine, but some (more established) nations don’t mess with their iconic look.

It is not that Nike is not aware of the true home color: it was the base for the 2016 shirt and it is splashed all over the shoulders here. And splashed is probably the correct expression here as it really looks like a royal blue paint stroke was applied to the shoulders and then dripped towards the torso. It is a totally unusual look, but somehow effective. It just looks odd that the pattern reaches so far down that it stopping at the seams looks a bit unnatural. So, slight room for improvement there. On the other hand, and despite all my whining about the navy above, I actually think that having the lighter blue splash over the darker looks surely better than it would the other way around. Also, looking at the team photo above, the splash looks not as severe. It more looks like a broad color band on the sleeves with some slight fade effect. And makes for an interesting eye-catching feature. If asked about it, it could have been omitted, but it also does not negatively impact the shirt. Just a modern take

Now, the rest is as it was before: I am especially glad that the classic cockerel crest was retained, but it looks a bit out of place on such a modern shirt. Still, keep it as long as you need to – it is a really nice touch! The numbering on the front is not quite obvious as of now: on all the promotional pictures (and in stores), the number is placed on the proper right below the swoosh. However, when wearing the shirt for the first time they were appropriately centered. For now assume, they will also be centered at the World Cup and it would look really nice if they were. Otherwise, the front looks a little imbalanced.

And now for the red. Yes, red instead of blue splashes would have been a bold feature, but I find the blue looks better here. So, for once I don’t really miss it, but it DOES show up on the home shirt for the first time since 2010: there is a French flag on the back side of the collar and given how Nike ignored the re so far, they must have forgotten how allergic they are to this color on the home shirt. To be serious, I really like the bold statement made with the flag here. Now, finally we have to address the font for names and numbers. The letters are odd in certain places (i.e. the B and the E above), but compared to Adidas’s standard font, it remains legible. The numbers have the (mandatory) center stripe, we have already seen on other Nike jerseys, but look really fine otherwise. As a nice side feature they all contain little hexagons which is a of course a reference to the shape of the country.

Well, it is not perfect and I can find quite some little things to improve the look here. But, it is a modern take and the light blue shoulders are definitely eye-catching. As such, I find this is a strong effort and better than many jerseys we have seen so far for 2018. And unlike the predecessor, it makes the most out of a still strange template.

My rating: 8/10 stars.

Now, while the away jersey is typically less contentious, France did not really have a great one (although this one should be in the conversation) since 2010 in my opinion (I know that the first Nike away jersey was a big favorite, but I always thought of it as way too cheesy). So, what does Nike treat us with this time around?

Hmm, looks like a pajama, doesn’t it? First one for this World Cup. It is basically an all-white version of the latest Nike template (even without the zig-zag flashes) with some random specks of red and blue all over it. And at least it is truly all over the jersey – even the back! All applications to it are otherwise in navy, which was a trend of late anyway, but makes for a nice connection to the home jersey. We still have the slight controversy over the placing of the front number, but I am inclined to take the version worn in the March friendlies as a bigger indicator than the versions sold in the shops. Above, we can also see the hexagons on the numbers a lot better.

Not much more to say here. I find it once more underwhelming and I think pajama truly describes this one best. To be fair, the specks of color are not really perceptible on the pitch and there it looks like your ordinary white jersey, but up close? Well, one could also make out some resemblance to a very woolly pullover. In any case, the close-up look is sub-par and doesn’t do it for me.

My rating: 5/10 stars.

How would you rate these shirts?

Saudi Arabia (Home & Away 2014-17)

Well, I have enough picture material for two more World Cup jersey posts! Yay! But then, I though it would be fairer to continue my little “exotic” journey to one more area that I have not really touched yet this year: Arabia. Yes, Egypt can be counted as belonging to that area, but in FIFA terms it belongs to Africa and not Asia. And then, looking at the recent history of Saudi Arabian jerseys, I really thought this might make a nice, quick and sweet post.

For most of the time of me actively watching the World Cup, Saudi Arabia was more or less a constant. Who could forget Owairan’s goal against Belgium and their run to the second round in 1994? But on the flip side, there was also a 8-0 thrashing at the hands of Germany and many other rather poor showings. In fact, I was witness to one of the most boring games at the 2006 World Cup, when there was nothing at stake for either Spain or Saudi Arabia in their final game. Well, but then there was plenty of action in the streets and on the stands so that it still remains memorable. I remember some people dressed  up as sheikhs with signs of the ilk “trading oil for beer” among others. Well, and also the story of how I suddenly was king of Spain, but that belongs to another post. Back to the Saudis, who have managed to miss two World Cups in a row after qualifying for the four previous tournaments. Well, and this most recent qualification also comes a bit as a surprise after the poor showing at the 2015 Asian Cup, where they wore these Nike kits:

These clearly belong to the time when Nike produced simple, yet beautiful soccer jerseys. For that reason, I decided to include this period in the post as well. The home jersey is a plain white jersey with green sleeve cuffs and a green crew neck collar. The collar, however, gets a special treatment as it gets thinner towards the front and then has a triangle on the front. It kind of reminds me of a crescent moon shape with a triangle and thus could have a cultural connection. If not, it is at least a unique feature that actually manages to look quite well. And that was more or less it. Green swoosh on the right, crest (white palm trees and crossed sabres on a two-tone green background) on the left and front numbers centered round out a simple, yet effective shirt. In addition, the font used is very simple and legible. In my opinion, a really nice effort. Don’t try so much and you end up with something good.

My rating 8/10 stars.

Well, the away jersey is literally the same as the home jersey with green and white reversed. And I think both of them look equally well. So same rating!

My rating 8/10 stars.

Now, come 2016 Nike of course had to update the look for the World Cup qualification campaign that ended in success:

Well, like everyone else, Saudi Arabia got templated (made it up!). Fortunately, they did get the Brazil treatment and thus the sleeves are of the same color as the torso. So, the home jersey is therefore super white with very little green accents resulting in something a lot more boring than the previous shirt. With green only found on the backside of the collar and the sides it just is an afterthought. Again, the font is nice and very legible, but the overall design is blah.

My rating 5/10 stars.

And again, the away jersey is just reversing colors. Although the tone of green seems a few shades darker causing more disconnect with the crest than necessary. So, this is an additional strike against this one. Still, same rating. Let’s hope the future is closer to 2014 than 2016!

My rating 5/10 stars.

How would you rate these shirts?

 

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Senegal (Home & Away 2014-17)

Well, I want to go more exotic now. Well, given that there are three (and a half?) Northern African teams at the World Cup whose home countries do have a strong Arabic influence, there surely was and is a lack of posts on countries from “black” Africa, the African heartland. I have already written on this blog about Nigeria, so Senegal should be the one, we look at now. Well, Senegal is geographically about halfway to Northern Africa, but I still count them as part of the heartland. And, to make it even more interesting, there was switch in suppliers in the period we are looking at. Let’s get to it…

Most soccer fans will think of Senegal as the surprise team of the 2002 World Cup, where the Lions of Ternaga became the second African team to reach the quarter finals and being involved in some spectacular games such as defeating reigning World Champions France, a 3-3 against Uruguay and a truly exciting game against Sweden ending with a golden goal victory. Great memories only slightly dampened by the poor showing against Turkey in the quarters. Since then Senegal went through some rough patches afterwards. But in the past years, the team surely has the talent to be considered among Africa’s elite. They missed out on the 2014 World Cup in a play-off against Cote d’Ivoire and after a win against eventual finalist Ghana were unlucky to be eliminated in the group stage at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. At this stage, the team wore the following kits from long-time supplier Puma:

These shirts are very much part of the 2014 African Puma range that produced stunners like the Cameroon home kit but also duller shirts like the Cote d’Ivoire shirts. Well, the home kit also falls in the dull category by being more or less plain white and only a yellow (and thus not very visible) accent around the collar. The cat logos and lettering are in red. The only colorful spot is the lion crest, but that won’t save these jersey from being a rather dull affair.

My rating: 4/10 stars.

The away jersey, on the other hand is an entirely different affair. First of all, the choice of green (with yellow pants) is already a lot better. The shirt itself is quite plain, but then there are the colorful shoulder patches with tribal patterns in the national colors of green, yellow and red. It makes for quite an interesting accent. Cat logos, names and numbers are in yellow keeping in tone with the color palette. I also like how the lion is within a white circle to make it pop out a bit more. Job well done. It is not spectacular, but a nice solid jersey with a distinct African character.

My rating 6/10 stars.

And then, the switch happened: for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, Senegal switched to newcomers Romai, who we already saw successfully supplying the Jamaican national team. And in this jersey, the success returned. First, Senegal dominated their group at the AfCoN only to be eliminated on penalties against eventual winners Cameroon and then they managed to exact revenge on Cote d’Ivoire and finished first in their World Cup qualifying group securing their second ever qualification to the world’s biggest stage. And, as I have to say, they did so in spectacular fashion, at least look-wise:

Look at the white home shirt! Look at it, savor it, devour it! To me this is the best shirt of 2017, bar none! It achieves both: being simple and super spectacular! A plain white jersey with crew neck collar, where all logos are really nicely arranged with supplier logo on the proper right, the updated magnificent federation crest on the left and the red number at the center. And then, add to it on the proper right an oversized roaring lion head in the national colors. Winner!!! I also like how the Romai logo is embedded in the lion but still visible and that the lion’s mouth is about to swallow the front number. We may argue about the wide green band on the left sleeve, but it serves as a nice counter weight to the lion. Wonderful, wonderful! Especially on a more exotic team. Part of me would like to see this treatment on a Dutch jersey, but I think there it might be too much.

My rating: 10/10 stars.
(If I wasn’t a statistician, I would turn it up to 11!)

Well, the away shirt was bound to pale in comparison. And it would really have been too much to make a mirror design here. Let the lion shine on the white shirt and do something different with the green one. Great call! Well, Romai went with a much simpler green shirt with the sleeves being darker than the torso and a pattern reminiscent of traditional African clothing. Overall, a nice idea but maybe a little odd looking. Still, whenever local culture is incorporated into the design it is a plus. The yellow side stripes give it some modern feel, but I have to question the sleeve cuffs: why choose green/red/yellow and not green/yellow/red as in the flag? As with the previous version, all names and numbers are applied in yellow in a very legible and nice font. As I said, not as great as the home jersey, but that was hardly possible. Definitely better than both Puma versions, though:

My rating: 7/10 stars.

How would you rate these shirts?

Panama (Home, Away & Third 2016-17)

Now for any of the new kits that I have not covered yet, I either do not have a nice look at the font or the back of the jersey or they are European (and even I am getting bored of that). So, let’s look at a few more jerseys from 2016-17. You want me to go exotic? Well, how about one of the newcomers to the World Cup (but not this blog)?

Panama surely is the surprise qualifier for this year’s World Cup, especially given the weird set of circumstances that saw them in and the US of A out. But then, for followers of CONCACAF this did not come entirely out of left field as Panama did quite well at the Gold Cup, probably should already have made the tournament in 2014 and was at various junior World Cups. Still, the casual fan will think of Panama as a walkover. I seriously hope los Canaleros will prove them wrong. Now, the first set of jerseys we will look at was worn at the 2016 Copa America Centenario, where Panama was in a tough group with Argentina and Chile, but still managed to finish ahead of Bolivia:

Well, after copying Spain’s 2014 look for the 2015 Gold Cup, the 2016 home kit introduced a more traditional and more colorful design: a plain red shirt with a crew neck reminiscent of the 2012 Nike shirts and white cuffs. Then, there is the big feature in form of an off-center vertical stripe on the proper left the contains the crest and is bordered by two thin outlines in red and blue. And then there is the manufacturer logo and the centered number applied in gold.

All in all, it makes for a clean and classy look. But, while I am a proponent of the off-center stripe and recognize that the width is made so that the crest is nicely contain, I still find the stripe is a tad too wide. But then again, it makes for a very bold statement. My other gripe is the usage of gold. As you know, I feel gold should only be used when you actually have something to celebrate. And with all due respect, that is not the case here. As the color also is nowhere else present on the shirt (yes, I forgot names and numbers on the back), it becomes a little too much. Don’t get fancy and just use white! Also makes it more legible. At least the font is nothing fancy and that is a very good thing.

Overall, this is quite solid and I don’t want to be too harsh here over little things.

My rating: 8/10 stars.

Now, for the away jersey:

Well, this one is the same design as the home jersey, just swap out red for white, white for blue and blue for red (you still following me?) and you got it. But in doing so, it gets a whole more pleasing for me. The white stripe on the home jersey looked more like a gap while here it is a feature. It may only be me, but I think a dark feature on a light shirt looks a lot better than the other way around. Also, having the blue at the center was quite a wise choice. The only downside? The crest is a little less prominent here than on the home jersey. And then there are still the gold numbers which prevent this one from a perfect rating:

My rating 9/10 stars.

Now, Panama played three tournaments in a row as they naturally also participated in the 2017 Gold Cup and released three more jerseys making this a very rich post. But don’t worry, as in 2016 there are also quite some commonalities here that allow us to make this post just a tad bit shorter than your “regular” five shirt post would be. 🙂 Let’s look at them all together:

Now, this is a very custom design – very unique and special, but is it good? Well, let’s first discuss the main elements before going into the differences between these shirts: Well, these are at its core plain jerseys with a contrasting bold shoulder stripe and in two instances also a side stripe of the same color. The shoulder stripe extends well below the collar on the back side similar to the 2016 Nike jerseys, but as it is not done on raglan sleeves, it looks much less intrusive and classy. All three versions do also have a V-neck collar in the same color as the main color of the jersey. And then there is the special extra on the sleeves and the backside tail in form of thin horizontal striping. On the sleeves it basically extends the shoulder stripe to the sleeve cuffs. On the back, it also features at the center a bold red vertical stripe that breaks up the horizontal stripes. It all is quite reminiscent of the 2016 Uruguay away jersey, but the bands are a lot thinner here. My only beef here is the fact that it is only on the backside on the jersey and therefore not exactly visible and giving the impression of an afterthought. I always maintain, that bold patterns on the bottom of a jersey always should wrap around. It would look a lot more interesting!

So, the home jersey is again red and the most plain here as the side stripes are also red and thus invisible. The shoulder stripe is blue and the thin stripes kind of appropriately in red and white making for an interesting contrast. Now, the striping on the back is also just there and while interesting a bit random as the red center stripe blends in with the rest of the jersey. All the names and numbers are on there in white in a bold and decent font (see the blue third jersey as an example). All in all it is interesting, new but of all the three Panama home jerseys, I have looked at so far, it is probably my least favorite.

My rating: 6/10 stars.

Now, the white one has more structure thanks to the presence of the side stripes but is also the most monochromatic one as red only pops up on the NB logo and the vertical tail stripe. Every other feature is blue. It may at first look a bit disappointing (why not make the thin stripes blue and red?), but gives the jersey a certain cohesion that is lacking from its siblings. A bit more red could have given it more personality, but overall it is again the white one that looks best.

My rating: 7/10 stars.

That leaves us with the blue one that uses the most color: we have red shoulder and side stripes, white and blue accent striping and the little red stripe on the back. While not as cohesive as the white one, it still looks good and achieves a lot more than the home jersey. For that reason, I also rank it above the home jersey>

My rating: 7/10 stars.

How would you rate these shirts?

Australia (Home & Away 2016-17)

Well, a few days rest on posting, but I have not really rested. 🙂 If you look closely on the 2018 World Cup overview page, you will find that I am slowly adding dedicated pages for each of the groups. For now, it only contains the match information and my projected jersey match up, but I may add more like my personal view on the group and potentially some projections. Let’s see. But I also wanted to get back to posting about jerseys. I was quite poised to write about France, but ultimately decided to get to another Group C team: Australia!

In 2015, Australia finally succeeded in winning the Asian Cup on home soil – a trophy that despite being the favorite every single time had eluded them. And for that reason it seemed in many ways the crowning achievement of an aging group rather than a true reboot. Subsequently World Cup qualification proved to be quite difficult and was only secured via two playoff games against Syria and Honduras. At times, non-qualification seemed a very real possibility. But, there was also a quite positive showing at the Confederations Cup, with a narrow defeat to Germany (flattering scoreline, though) and two draws against Cameroon and Chile. Surviving the group was within reach. And all this was achieved in the set of jerseys, we will look at in this post.

Well, another interpretation of the 2016 Nike template and one that is actually quite interesting as the torso features a diagonal shadow pattern which gives the shirt additional structure. Other than that, it is what an Australia jersey should be: gold with some green accents which are more or less analogous to the 2016 Brazil home jersey. Probably the green is a tad darker. My only real gripe is with the crest which is displayed for quite a while on a golden shield with a golden outline on a golden jersey. A lot of gold kind of hiding away the shield. Why have it then? Either have just the coat of arms, or at least choose an outline around the crest. It is not bad, but rather odd. Other than that, the names and numbers are nicely arranged on the front and the back in the Nike standard font for 2016 and 2017.

Overall, it does not look bad, but I definitely liked the 2014 version a whole lot better. The shadow pattern saves it from being a boring dud. The plain yellow sleeves save it from a bad grade. Overall, middle of the park.

My rating: 6/10 stars.

Now, for some reason the Australia away jersey has been navy blue with yellow accents since 2006 (at least) and 2016 was no exception:

Same template, same design, but what a difference! I still do not quite get the choice of navy, but within that context this shirt is brilliant! First off, the diagonal pattern is made even more interesting by adding a lighter blue color which in addition fades in and out at the proper bottom right and above the crest. It just gives the shirt a bit more structure and makes it quite interesting to look at. Surely, it is also helped that we perceive differences in blue much more than differences in yellow. But I really love the dynamic look of it. Then, everybody was probably expecting that the band around the backside of the collar will be yellow. No, it remains navy and is barely perceptible keeping the shirt simple. Therefore, yellow is only left for the swoosh and names and numbers which really pop nicely. Of course, the crest suffers from the same deficiency as on the home jersey but due to the colors, one could at least make out the shield a teeny bit better.

Then, there is an additional quirk concerning the crest on both jerseys: The player version gets the full coat of arms of Australia, but on the retail/replica version, the shield between the emu and the kangaroo is replaced by the confederation logo. This has been consistently done for quite a while and at least this time around it is not the clip-art style soccer ball replacing or obstructing the shield. Why this is done is a bit beyond me and I would be happy for any enlightenment on this matter.

But back to the away shirt. Yes, I am a sucker for navy blue shirts and this one is a really interesting version. And again, Nike provides a custom version for a “lesser” team, while France, England and Brazil are treated with the worst implementation of the template. *facepalm* Is it perfect? Not quite, but I really, really like it.

My rating: 9/10 stars.

How would you rate these shirts?

In Search of the Greatest World Cup Goal Scorer – Part VI: Tournament Stage

So, there are already too many ideas in my head and one of them is that the series on the greatest World Cup goal scorer did not look finished to me. Over my Easter break I had a few more thoughts on this topic and I think, I came up with something that is an even better ranking than the previous one. But then, I was too much in jersey mode as these posts typically are easier and quicker to write. Also, I found many nice ones to look at. At the moment, though, I see that many jerseys are released but I feel the information on shirt lettering is still insufficient and for my life I don’t know why hardly anybody can find a proper England away jersey. This little pause enables me to get to a (potentially) final installment of the goal scoring series – to be fair, I think every great series has seven parts! 😉 And as I have said, there are more World Cup specific posts in my head already.

The last ranking of the World Cup’s greatest goal scorers left me a bit dissatisfied. Especially the non-averaged one. Yes, I feel I can defend it, but there surely is a way to improve here. And my argument for improvement is along the following lines: not only should we take into account whether a goal was scored past the first stage of the tournament, but there surely is also more value to be put on goals scored if the team is deep in a tournament. Or, simply put, a goal should count for more if less teams are still in contention for the Cup. Sounds weird? Well, the mathematician in me is always looking for short, concise and precise statements, but they often are unfortunately not always the easiest way to grasp an idea. Sorry about that! Let me spell it out: a goal in the World Cup final should count more than a goal in the semi-finals, which in turn should count more than a goal scored in the quarter finals etc. You get the idea and hopefully what I said above makes more sense now. 🙂

So, how do we go about it? Well, I think a multiplicative factor should be used here. Taking the current tournament format, I am thinking that a goal in the final should count twice as much as a goal in the group stage and we can use linear increments for the stages in between. This results in the following stage factors:

  • 1.00 for the group stage (32 teams in contention)
  • 1.25 for the round of 16 (16 teams in contention)
  • 1.50 for the quarterfinal (8 teams in contention)
  • 1.75 for the semifinal and the third place playoff (4 teams in contention and one medal game)
  • 2.00 for the World Cup final (2 teams in contention)

So far, so good, but it does not answer two things: a) how does this translate to tournaments prior to 1998, where the 32 team format was adopted, and b) how can we apply this factor? Let’s tackle these issues in order:

I think the solution for the 16 team tournaments is relatively easy: Determine the number of teams in contention and assign the factor accordingly. Given that the 1930 and 1950 tournaments were also in essence 16 team tournaments, we can apply the same logic there, too. So, that covers all tournaments from 1930 to 1978, but we need to run through a few special cases:

  1. 1930: Although the first round consisted of only 13 teams, I would still consider it as a full group stage and not raise the stage factor any further. Therefore all games at the group stage get stage factor 1.25.
  2. 1950: The group stage here will be handled the same way as in 1930. And, as already outlined, the final round concluded in two quasi-finals: one for third place one for the Cup. Now, since only four teams were in contention at that stage, we do not need to separate the Sweden-Spain game from the first four second round games. However, Brazil-Uruguay is a quasi-final and should count as such and have stage factor 2.00.
  3. 1954: There were two playoff games for final spots in the quarterfinals. Now, this is a bit tricky, but I would still count them as part of the group stage and thus not raise the value of the stage factor.
  4. 1958: Again, there were three playoff games for spots in the quarterfinals and again, I will consider them as part of the group stage.
  5. 1974: Here a second group stage was introduced for the quarterfinal round and all games should count as such. I do however make two exceptions for Netherlands-Brazil and Germany-Poland as these were quasi-semifinals and count them as such.
  6. 1978: Same format, same treatment. Also, without any quasi-semifinals, no need to raise the importance of any game.

That leaves us with four 24-team tournaments. 1986-1994 are rather straightforward except for the initial group stage. But then again, the only difference to the current group stage is that there are less teams, but in essence we can treat them like the group stage of a 32-team tournament and give these games a stage factor of 1.00. And that leaves the eternal special case of 1982, whose format I really would have liked to see adopted at EURO 2016. The first round again will have stage factor 1.00 and most of the games in the second group stage can count like a round of 16 (although it is a round of 12) and use stage factor 1.25. But then, there were three quasi-quarterfinals: France-Northern Ireland, Germany-England and Italy-Brazil. And all of these will count as such and get a stage factor of 1.50. I think it all makes sense – I hope you agree with me. And yes, we could have averaged etc, but I am not sure if it would have been entirely fair.

That leads us to the second issue of how do we use the stage factor. Well, I am in favor of keeping it simple and use for each goal its GV4 from the previous post and multiply it by the stage factor. To keep the value comparable to goals scored and call the resulting value GV5 (yes, I am pulling these names from my behind, kind of). This way we take into account all the factors we have discussed so far: goal value, importance factor, game winning goal, elimination game and stage of tournament. Applying this algorithm to the goal data and taking the sum of the GV5s, we get the following ranking:

Name Goals GV4 SFV* GV5
1 GER Gerd Müller 14 19.972 20.25 15.764
2 BRA Ronaldo 15 19.518 19.50 14.322
3 ITA Paolo Rossi 9 16.952 14.00 13.423
4 POL Grzegorz Lato 10 17.815 13.50 12.552
5 ITA Roberto Baggio 9 17.389 12.25 12.444
6 ITA Salvatore Schillaci 6 17.082 8.25 12.009
7 GER Miroslav Klose 16 19.130 18.50 11.486
8 BRA Vavá 9 13.370 15.25 11.296
9 ENG Gary Lineker 10 16.194 12.75 11.112
10 BRA Pelé 12 14.460 19.00 11.112

*this is just the sum of the stage factors for each player.

Now, this list I like much better! I guess any list that includes Pelé has a certain air of legitimacy around it. But what I really like here is not only the order (I was surprised that Paolo Rossi is ranking that high, but then just look at his 1982 World Cup), but also that includes players with careers as far back as the 1950s (and even two of them!). Ronaldo is profiting from the fact that he has scored two goals in a World Cup final, while this fact does count against Miroslav Klose. Vavá, like Pelé is also profiting from that fact. And, above them all, Gerd Müller enjoys a very comfortable lead. The more I look at it, the more I come to the conclusion that this is indeed an ultimate list.

So, one thing is left: averaging GV5 according to games played, which we call (of course) GA5. Here it is:

Name GA GA4 SFA GA5
1 ITA Salvatore Schillaci 0.857 2.440 1.179 1.716
2 ENG Geoff Hurst 0.833 1.771 1.458 1.530
3 BRA Leônidas 1.600 1.889 2.300 1.402
4 POR Eusébio 1.500 1.214 2.208 1.400
5 CZE Oldřich Nejedlý 1.167 1.664 1.792 1.289
6 ITA Silvio Piola 1.250 1.645 2.063 1.274
7 GER Gerd Müller 1.077 1.536 1.558 1.213
8 BRA Vavá 0.900 1.337 1.525 1.130
9 FRA Just Fontaine 2.167 1.527 3.208 1.125
10 ITA Paolo Rossi 0.643 1.211 1.000 0.959

Here, I am also quite happy with the adjustment as the only player I had a problem with (Skuhravý) is not on this list anymore. Clearly, scoring a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final was bound to help Geoff Hurst, but then if you do so, you deserve being high up the list. It is also remarkable that there are four players that made both lists: Salvatore Schillaci, Gerd Müller, Paolo Rossi and Vavá. Coincidentally, these are also the four players with the most games among the GA5 Top 10. Lastly, note that while the previous list had no player from before 1958, this one has no player from after 1990. So, taking averages tends to benefit players from further back in the day. And then, the most recent one towers comfortably over all of them. Salvatore Schillaci truly was a phenomenon in 1990. Even more so, as he never again lived up to the hype he had generated that summer in his home country.

Now, let’s conclude this post and briefly discuss which one should be considered the ultimate. In a way, I do like both of them, but my gut feeling tells me that GV5 holds more water than GA5. I said it before and I say it again: as a statistician averages are always preferred over sums. But in this case, I feel more comfortable with using sums as they emphasize a bit more on longevity. Both lists contain super stars, great strikers, but also one-trick ponies, that only did it at one tournament and whose club career did not match their World Cup achievement. But, I feel more at home with GV5.

Now, if you wanted to extract the essence from both lists, the four players on both losts would remain in the discussion for greatest all-time goal scorer. How could we resolve that. One way would be to average their ranking on both lists. In this case, Schillaci just edges out Müller at 3.5 vs. 5. With considerable distance Paolo Rossi is third with 6.5 ahead of Vavá with 8. Case closed? Just consider the following: if you were to pick a striker for your squad. Would you rather take Salvatore Schillaci or Gerd Müller? If I am guaranteed the 1990 form, then maybe the former. But considering the entire track record, you would be a fool not to go with Müller. So, my emphasis stays with the GV5-ranking and Gerd Müller as best striker of all time! And given their status in the world game during their time, I am quite happy for having Ronaldo and Paolo Rossi on the podium. Now, the case is closed!

P.S.: While I truly enjoyed gong through the goal scoring history of the World Cup and digging out all these players from the past, one particularly remarkable (if not satisfying) fact remains: the discussion did not even ONCE mention the two most prominent players of our time. No, in World Cup history, both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are also-rans with relatively poor goal scoring records. In fact, the two are weaker versions of Miroslav Klose and Gabriel Batistuta, respectively. And given that both are currently in the discussion of best ever, I hold their World Cup record strongly against them. Will Russia re-write the tale for one of them?

Poland (Home & Away 2018-19)

Sorry, staying in Europe, but I really feel it is better to present jerseys where I already have good pictures available than to go further away and use some low-res in-game pictures. Also, I rather want to stay a bit more recent for now and this is a Nike set for a non-marquee team – albeit one with star power.

The rise of Poland back to prominence happened a little bit unnoticed – especially given their relatively anonymous showing at their home EUROs in 2012 and subsequent failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. But not only did the team start to gel in EURO 2016 qualifying, the federation also got quite smart by not scheduling ANY friendlies in the past years. Why? Well, the Polish federation understood that friendlies hurt your FIFA rating and ranking. And so, Poland was happily placed into Pot 1 at the draw and is one of the dark horses of the tournament. Given their run in France where they managed to draw with Germany and were only eliminated on penalties against the eventual holders Portugal, I definitely would not count them out.

Well, their home jersey is a subdued interpretation of the new Nike template – similar to Brazil. But here it is mainly white with only a red collar, which again has this weird quasi-V-neck. But here, the collar gets suddenly wider once the raglan sleeves begin which makes the look even a bit odder. But then, it is also not very terrible. Otherwise, red only shows up at the swoosh, the lettering and the crest which really pops out, but also looks quite heavy. And I guess, this is the reason why the number on the front is placed below the swoosh, but I really do not like the resulting off-balance look. Well, there is probably another subtle reason for the placing of the number: the diagonal shadow pattern in grey. It creates a very sharp contrast diagonally over the front running through the crest but then fades towards the side. It saves the jersey from being very plain and adds something interesting to look at. Similar to the previous home jersey.

Now, the back is a completely plain affair which is even increased by making the taping on the back white as well. It feels like something is missing there. As for the font, it looks quite well and classic, maybe a bit too light. From what I have seen so far, this seems to be Nike’s standard font and it beats out Puma and Adidas quite easily.

Well, I feel a little bit more red could have given the shirt a bit more personality, but it reminds me a lot of the current Swiss away shirt: it is plain and simple and that is not a bad thing. Add the subtle pattern on the front and it is also unique. For that reason, I like it slightly better:

My rating 7/10 stars.

The away jersey is of course expected to be a very red affair, with the last iteration being almost too red. Is there any more white this time around?

Of course not. I feel you could post anything I had written about the 2016 away jersey here and have a valid review: take the home jersey and replace all the red elements with white ones except for logos and lettering. Bam, there you have it. Well, a few little things to add here: First, the crest is more distinct here as it does clash with the dark red shadow pattern. Second, the eagle also appears on the backside of the collar in a miniature version on the taping. This is actually a very nice feature and I wish something like that had also appeared on the home jersey. And lastly, when inspecting the shoulders we can also make out the big feature of this Nike template: the zigzag pattern on the top, which adds an even lighter red tone to the jersey and some contrast on the back.

Still, it is a little bit too much red. The three touches are all nice and make me like this jersey better than its predecessor but it does not lift it up to the home jersey. Nike really managed to change, yet still almost duplicate the look for the Polish team. My 2016 and 2018 grades for the set are identical:

My rating: 6/10 stars.

How would you rate these shirts?