1. Argentina (1986, Home)
It’s obvious Mexico 86 would rear its (none too) ugly head with anything I do, but this kit has been more than just a shirt to me - it’s been a lifelong quest. In the same way I spent most of my youth and adulthood trying to track down a Subbuteo World Cup Trophy, a parallel quest was to own this, or more likely, a replica of this shirt – a quest that has mostly been achieved.
There are several things about this shirt that set it above all other Argentina outfits. The centre stripe is white... big deal you say, but Argentina always have the centre stripe blue (I am deliberately ignoring Adidas’ shameless attempt to ape this iconic design at the 2010 World Cup). Big deal, I hear you repeat, but that’s me - I like the small details of these things.
Secondly, the shirt was made in that tea-bag material so common at the time and reminiscent of the airtex shirts worn by England in 1970, both times brought about by the stifling Mexican heat and the need to play games at midday for European TV audiences.
Last, but not least, it just looked so good in the blazing sunshine, with the contrasting black shorts and white socks... a fine ensemble.
As a final point: I nearly went for the change shirt worn against England, which could almost be referred to as a 3rd shirt, given it was a one off, but the home shirt just edged it as it made the final look so colourful with West Germany in their green away shirts.
2. Italy (2006, Home)
I’ll say it here and now: despite blue being my favourite colour, I have just never liked Italy shirts. Not quite sure why, but they’ve just never done it for me. That all changed however, in 2006. The gorgeous blue, contrasting with the dark side panels just seemed to really work. Add in the gold numbering / logos and that was it... SOLD! And sold it was as it was the first ‘new’ football kit I’d bought for years (I’d been buying mostly older ones off eBay until then) and one which sparked an avalanche of kit buying.
One huge downside of this shirt was that, when worn in matches, because of the design which was supposed to wick sweat away from the players, within seconds of the match starting, the players all looked like they were in a wet t-shirt contest...only one where they were doused with sweat...men’s sweat. Grim.
Italy went on to have another great shirt combining blue and gold at Euro 2008, a fascinating light blue one with brown shirts at the 2009 Confederations Cup, then ruined it with the robot face abomination at WC2010. Their Euro 2012 shirt was also rubbish. So there.
3. Argentina (1998, Away)
Though this is one of my favourite kits of all time, I was originally going to go for the Yugoslavia home kit from the same world cup as it’s in the same style and I was trying to avoid two kits from the same country, but when I saw this one again, I just had to choose it.
Again it’s the details I like with this one. Argentina have long worn blue away shirts and these have mostly been in a dark shade, which can often lead to them being rather drab looking with some bordering on black. This one however is lightened by its two key features:
1) A classic v-neck. For me, there’s no better neck on a shirt than a good old V. Crossover V’s are good, but just a classic, joined in the middle is better and this one sets off the dark blue of the shirt perfectly, finished in sky blue with white trim.
2) The side panels. White side panels with two sky blue stripes (oh wait, it’s an Adidas shirt so that’s basically light blue side panels with three white stripes) running from the base of the shirt to the sleeves.
This was worn of course, in the match against England in which two stars effectively showed two different career paths with Owen shining brightly only to fade away and Beckham going from effigy No.1 to all time great (and then fading out as well). Oh, and Ian Wright sulked on national TV afterwards...
4. Ireland (1994, Away)
I’m sure this will be a controversial choice, but may I also remind you that this was a World Cup when approximately 97.3% of the teams present had the same identikit Adidas design with the three truncated stripes rising diagonally from either side of the kit, so to see something with a touch of originality was rather refreshing.
5. Brazil (1986, Home)
But back in 1986, there were still all about the classic look. Made by Topper it was, as stated, a simple affair. Plain yellow, no shadow patterns, no flashes of green, just plain yellow. Dark green cuffs and matching collar, but not a round one like '70 and '82, a v-neck with collar flaps.
Finishing this all off nicely was their badge, which had replaced the usual CBF crest with one featuring the Jules Rimet Trophy, celebrating the three World Cup wins. Showcased in the quarter final against France, one of the best matches at a World Cup Finals, this shirt is a true classic. Also, Socrates wore it and he was a dude!