Euro 2012: Ranking the 16 Teams' "Home" Jerseys
During the two years that I lived in England, I was amazed at the number of times there was a new "latest" national team jersey in my favorite sports store. For a team that played barely ten games a year, there seemed to be almost as many wardrobe make-overs as there were games. It just didn't feel right. Especially for something that was becoming more of a sideshow with every successive tournament.
And when I did a bit of an on-line look-around, boy, was I amazed! If this Daily Mail report from March 2009 is to be believed, England had 45 different shirts in the 43 years since their 1966 World Cup victory. That's more than one new shirt each year, on average. Quite astounding!
If you had asked me to hazard a guess, I wouldn't have placed the aggregate number at anything above 20.
But I suppose everyone is out to maximise revenues. If the clubs can do it, why can't the national teams? And with a major international tournament on the calendar every two years for the bigger footballing nations, what better way to keep the coffers nice and full than a hyperactive merchandising department?
Today's footballer is as much of a brand as he is a sportsman. Image is everything. The link between fashion and football is now stronger than ever. And every national team wants to take advantage of that.
So as we head into this summer's international shenanigans, here's a look at each participating country's "home" jersey, ranked in ascending order of overall attractiveness.
I am as traditional as they come, and I understand that countries don't have much leeway with regard to changing their colours—France and Italy, for example, will always be blue—so in the slides ahead, you're not going to read anything like "why don't England do something other than boring old white."
Your opinions would be most welcome.
And watch out for my assessment of the away jerseys. Coming soon.
I love red, but not here. To be honest, I'm tired of seeing this checker-board year after year. Hurts the eyes.
Something different please, Croatia.
I hope your football will be better than your shirts.
As promised, I'm not going to criticize Sweden just because I'm not thrilled with yellow.
But this shade just doesn't do it for me, and neither do the boring pin-stripes. Thank goodness Freddie Ljungberg's retired.
Mr Ibrahimovic, surely the "best player in the world" deserves better...
Diagonal stripes on a football shirt are the stuff of nightmares for me.
Every time Arsenal are about to launch a new jersey, I say a quiet prayer that no such atrocity is committed.
Ignoring the stripes, however revolting they may be, the rest of the jersey doesn't have much going on either.
All that oil money, and they couldn't get themselves a better designer?
I'm sorry to say this about a host nation's jersey, but that patch of red looks like something out of a school stitching class. Not that I've ever been to one.
Boring round neck. Rectangular patch on front. It's only the white that got you up to 13th.
Great footballing nation, with three stars above the crest. Check.
Life-long association with Adidas, who make some fantastic stuff. Check.
Nothing else that really blows you away. Okay, I can live with that.
Diagonal stripes. You know the rest....
This isn't the worst jersey doing the rounds, but if you look at these images, I'm sure you'll agree that the Irish have done better in the past.
One thing's for sure though—irrespective of what they're wearing, you can't get much better than an Irish fan. So if you're in Poland or the Ukraine, and you're looking for a great time, look for green.
You can't go wrong with red and white, and truth be told, Denmark have done pretty well with this shirt, although I'd have preferred if they had gone for a different collar. I like the stripes too.
I hope their own version of the "best striker in the world" is cool with these rags. You don't want to be messing with him. In all honesty, I do rate him a fair bit as a player.
Middle of the class, then, for the Danes.
Ukraine find themselves well above their co-hosts in these rankings even though they wear yellow—which I'm not too fond of—and Poland wear white—which I love.
This is not the kind of blinding yellow that will adorn the Swedes, and I quite like the overall effect of this jersey.
Can't exactly put my finger on why I'm taking so kindly to the Ukraine.
Maybe it's sympathy for the fact that they have Andriy Voronin in their team!
There will certainly be accusations of bias when readers see a plain white shirt so high up on the list.
But I love the simplicity of this England strip—gives it a very classy look. I like the red of the logos. And I love the collar.
Let's hope the team gives their fans as much to smile about.
Not my favourite team by any stretch of the imagination, and I'm expecting them to go out before the semi finals.
But if I have to be completely objective, they've done a pretty decent job with this shirt.
Yes, I know there are diagonal stripes, but they're barely visible, and there's some good stuff going on with the collar and sleeves.
Although I quite like it, I hope we don't get to see this jersey too many times.
With a ravaged economy and a not-so-exciting football team on their hands, at least something is going well for the Greeks.
They've made the best of the white background and blue cross they're stuck with. The trim on the collar is great, and the sleeves aren't too bad either.
Pity about their team, then...
Who else but the fashionistas of Italy to welcome us into the top five.
Puma or Kappa almost always do a great job for the Azzuri, and it's no different this time. The colours of the flag on the collar are a nice touch, and the self-coloured design on the shirt-front is perfectly understated.
The press don't seem to rate the Italians at all, but they're definitely dark-horse material as far as I'm concerned.
No blues here, then...
I am shocked that this extremely simple jersey finds itself in the rarefied climes of fourth place. But everything about this shirt works for me.
The shade of maroon they've used, the simplistic use of green, the simple round neck. It all seems to fit together just perfectly. For me, at any rate.
I'm not quite sure what Mr. Ronaldo thinks of this fairly basic get-up, but then again, it's an ideal opportunity to let his football do the talking.
3. Czech Republic
Here's a bit of my red bias peeping through again, but I'm liking what the Czechs are going to be wearing.
They've got a couple of different patterns going. I like their use of the blue panel—are you watching, Poland? And the white trim on the collar gets a thumbs-up too.
As a Gooner, I'd love to see Tomas Rosicky lead his team well into the knock-out stages, so I'm hoping this jersey gets plenty of air time.
It was a tough choice for the top two, and Holland are the ones who will have to be content with second place.
Here, though, is an excellent example of what to do with limited options. Orange had to be the colour, no stripes or checks, just plain and simple orange.
But the Dutch have done really well by bringing in the second shade of orange. They've been creative with shapes. And the dark trim on the sleeves and at the bottom (which you don't see in the picture) give it a good finish.
Having been in Switzerland during Euro 2008, I can also confirm that you can't beat the Dutch fans in terms of costume creativity, enthusiasm and their single-minded focus on having a good time.
There are so many things I like about the France jersey.
First and foremost, it is massively different from anything they've ever had. The stripes are smart and the collar—all of it—works for me. And I don't know what you think, but for me, the whole effect goes as well with "football shirt" as it does with "smart casual."
An "A+" for Les Bleus for coming up with a runaway winner.