This post has been a long time in the making. However, due to the impending start of the big leagues and my vacation coming up, I decided to put all my focus into my supplementary Youtube channel and was hoping that. in the evenings during my vacation I then can deliver some good writing and also connect all the videos I made to my blog. Well, my kids had different ideas and thankfully, my wife is taking them out tonight so I can try and write more about the France home kits. I promise the rest will be coming soon. So, let’s not waste more valuable time and get right to it:
After years of showing promise, Platini and co delivered at EURO 1984 and also were among the favorites at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, but already during qualification some cracks were showing with two away defeats to Bulgaria and the GDR. However, a spotless home record secured a spot in Mexico. And even there, the sailing was not super smooth as they failed to win their group and were put on a truly tough road to the final: defending champions Italy had to be disposed in the round of 16, an epic quarter-final against Brazil ended in a penalty shoot-out and seemingly the team did not have enough energy anymore to overcome the Germans in re-match of the 1982 semi-final. This time Germany won handily 2-0, but at least the team could secure a bronze medal with a 4-2 victory over Belgium (potentially their weakest opponent in the knock-out stage). And they did all this in a newly issued kit by Adidas:
I don’t know if it is just me, but this kit always struck me as particularly odd. Yes, it has the classic blue tone with red and blue accents, but it is these accents that I don’t really like. First off, you have a white shirt collar with a blue front, which in itself would be a nice touch. However, the effect is somewhat undone by the white piping running just below the shoulders (front and back) to the sleeve cuffs and containing a red pinstripe. An then on top of the shoulders is the by now mandatory Adidas-striping with a blue and a red stripe separating the three white stripes.
I think if the front of the collar was also white, the whole ensemble would make a teeny bit more sense. But also, the red is almost use too sparingly in contrast to the white. Yes, the sleeve cuffs use both colors to give a subtle French flag accent, but honestly it does feel a bit gimmicky. Also note that on the long sleeved version there is only a red band across the sleeve at the point where and the remainder of the sleeves is just plain blue. Oddly enough, I like this a tad bit better. But to me, this shirt is just average (especially after the two great predecessors) and so, I only give an average rating here:
My rating: 5/10 stars.
It is even more puzzling to me that this look was retained for full four years although the previous two version had a much shorter shelf live. And while most will associate the previous jersey with the 1986 World Cup it can also be seen as a symbol for a very rapid decline. Les Bleus managed to not qualify for two successive tournaments: EURO 1988 and Italy 1990. And in both cases it was not even close. The team managed only one win and a meager 6 points in qualifying for EURO 1988 and had to overcome the retirement of Platini. But no worries, he was soon appointed national team manager in 1988. The team failed again to qualify, and two late home wins made things look much closer. Had they qualified, the French team would have worn a very unique template that was then worn in a very watered down version by the UAE:
This is easily my least favorite France shirt featuring red accents. I remember when I first saw this shirt in the early 1990s (I think it was a book about EURO 1992 – more on that later), I literally could not understand it. There is just too much going on in the upper part and nothing really seems to connect to the French flag:
The base blue ends in a triangle at the all blue shirt collar and the upper half is made of white patches on the torso which are “stitched” to the rest of the shirt by 6 trapezoids. Adidas branding? Yes. Adidas branding gone wrong? YESSSSSS!!!!!
To make things even more confusing the top of the shoulders is red and contains the now customary white stripes with the red and blue filling. It is just too much. And then to throw any remaining consistency out of the window, the sleeves feature red armpit patches that connect to the white patches on the torso. I could have let it go if these were white as it would have made some sense, but this is just topping off a truly horrible shirt. And did I mention the shirt has the same pattern also on the back? I am actually surprised that the classic 3D-numbers (probably the best feature of the entire shirt) are in white only.
Do, I need to elaborate further? I don’t think so!
My rating: 1/10 stars.
However, oddly enough, les Bleus were everything but horrible in this shirt and stormed to EURO 1992 without dropping a point in a group containing Spain and Czechoslovakia. The team around the great Jean-Pierre Papin even managed to stay unbeaten in 19 games prior to the tournament and Platini seemed to have a Midas-touch even as a manager. France were among the favorites in Sweden where the team was outfitted in one of the two new Adidas equipment styles:
This new kit was a lot more restrained and still managed to somehow not get it all right. The blue shirt with the simple blue V-neck is dominated by more Adidas branding in form of three stripes coming across both shoulders in red (outer) and white. Gone however are the three shoulder stripes, but if you were missing the three stripes they are featured as a vertical shadow pattern all across the jersey. In fact, they are not super perceptible from a distance, but up close they are almost over-bearing.
EURO 1992 was also the first major international tournament to my knowledge to feature numbers on the front of the jersey and names on the back. And here is, I think where the template gets int he way: the front number is nicely centered, but probably a tad to high and so the cockerel crest is just an afterthought on the proper left of the jersey. If the number was lower, the crest cold also have been centered and feature a lot more prominently.
Also, on the back, the names are running over the thick shoulder bands which definitely causes legibility issues. At least the font used was a pleasant one and to this day, I find this the best way of using names on the back and numbers on the front. Just be a bit more mindful when using a template.
Writing about this shirt is a tad odd for me, as I find many things that can be improved and I haven’t even mentioned the biggest one: the shoulder bands are made in such a way that there is nowhere a French flag on this shirt! I am not sure how this could have been achieved, but it is a definite short coming!
On the other hand, this is the first ever France jersey I have consciously seen (in the EURO 1992 opener against Sweden). So there is some nostalgia attached to it. And you know, nostalgia manages to soften me a teeny bit:
My rating: 6/10 stars.
In the new shirt, France managed to not make it out of a relatively easy group stage in Sweden where after two draws vs. the hosts and England a 1-2 loss to rank outsiders Denmark sealed their fate and Platini stepped down as manager. Gerard Houllier was appointed as new manager and France seemed well on their way to the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the US of A in a very tough group featuring Sweden, Bulgaria, Austria and Israel. However, the team did quite well and needed only a single point from their remaining two matches at home against Israel and Bulgaria. However, the team lost their nerves and squandered a 2-1 lead in the last 10 minutes to Israel setting up a deciding match against Bulgaria. With the score level at 1, the team seemed to squeeze across the finishing line but in stoppage time Emil Kostadinov probably scored Bulgaria’s most famous goal in the last minute. France had seemingly reached its nadir, Houllier was fired and his assistant Aime Jacquet was given the task to build a new young team for the 1998 World Cup on home soil. Little did we know that that qualifying group was a really strong one as both Sweden and Bulgaria reached the semifinals at the 1994 World Cup.
So, a reboot was desperately needed and only few players from the EURO 1992 squad continued on. At first the team needed to consolidate and it was surely a stroke of luck that this process was helped by the emergence of a young, shy player from Girondins de Bordeaux of Algerian descent who made his debut for the French national team in the kit below. I am talking of course about none other than the great Zinedine Zidane, a player that would even overshadow the great Michel Platini:
This kit, whose template was probably made most famous by Spain, is definitely among my favorites from 1994. It is still very much Adidas branded, but I really like the off-centered diamonds forming five bands on an otherwise super-plain royal blue shirt. That the five bands are in white-blue-white-red-white (from left to right) and thus display the French flag is a super nice feature – one that Spain only managed on its away jersey. Add to it, the white collar with button opening and French flag trim and this is already a winner. And yes, the three shoulder stripes are back to top off a very nice kit.
Just two little sources for complaints: As on the previous shirt, the cockerel crest is almost an afterthought as all the attention is directed to the pattern on the proper right. Additionally, I really do not see the need for the shadow striping. It is not as annoying as on the 1992-93 shirt, but still quite visible. With such a strong pattern already present on the shirt, this additional feature is more distracting than enhancing.
But overall, this is a great shirt and France managed to reboot, qualify for EURO 1996 and start a new generation – one that would soon dominate the international game. As for this shirt, it remains a rather unknown quantity which is a pity. For me, it is among the best France has ever worn:
My rating: 9/10 stars.
How would you rate these shirts?