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world cup

GROUP A

France (home, away/change)
Doug: I like the idea of the home kit more than the execution. Harkening back to the salad days has worked before (see World Cup ’98) but, much like the team itself, this year’s version lacks the élan of ’84 or ’98. Love the away kit, though. At WC ’06, France wore their away kit throughout the knock-out rounds on their way to the final; I hope they keep that superstition alive. Grade: B

Michael: Regular kit is another reinterpretation of the Euro 1984 kit worn by Michel Platini and company. I like the throwback idea, but the melding of past and present somehow doesn’t quite meet in the middle. The change kit, however, is stunning, the best set in the entire tournament. It would be great if the French dumped the blue kit for the white. Grade: A-

Kent: France’s home shirt is uglier than the Hand of Gaul. The chest design looks like gills, and the adidas shoulder stripes are way too heavy. Worse, adidas’ TechWeb straps create a weird suspender effect on the back. The change looks great with its classy pinstripes. Grade: C+

Patrick: The base color, white trim, and numerals on the home kit are eye-poppingly gorgeous. But the stuff on the side screams, “Look at my great abs,” which doesn’t work for me. The away kit, with the subtle pinstriping and side striping (including the socks) is awesome, about as good as the home shirt is bad. Les blancs, anyone? Grade: B-

Mexico (home, away/change)
Doug: Since sporting the Best Shirt Ever in 1998, Mexico has had mixed success uni-wise. This year’s design is meant to suggest the feathers worn by Aztec warriors but is ultimately unsatisfying. The change kit is the ultimate example of a designer using black for black’s sake — if dark green is too similar to the other team’s shirts, how is black going to clear things up? B+

Michael: In 2006 the Mexicans wore a chevron (since used by Nike for Manchester United), but now they’re one of several teams using an adidas template — nothing unique, nothing interesting. The all-black change kit doesn’t exactly help in this regard. C+

Kent: I may be the group contrarian. I love the away black — it makes the reds and greens pop. But the feather effect on the home is not nearly as sharp as 2006’s Aztec-inspired pattern, and I’m not a fan of the underarm patches on either shirt, which makes it look like the players are sweating blood and toxic waste. B

Patrick: The home kit is everything that’s good about Mexico. It brings the green you expect, uses the accent colors brilliantly, and just looks sharp. The away kit is everything that’s bad about adidas. It’s total black for black’s sake, and makes the El Tri colors look muddy. B

South Africa (home, away/change)
Doug: Not bad — it isn’t unique, but it is one of the better adidas creations. Not as cool as their previous one, but 1000 times better than their 1998 disaster. Interestingly, the players’ shirts will feature two badges, while the retail replica version will only have the SAFA badge. When the public complained about the oversight, SAFA tried to blame adidas, but it was later revealed that SAFA did it to save money. A-

Michael: This is the host team, so it’s surprising that they’re going with the standard adidas template instead of some kind of special design. It’s not a bad look, just not a particularly memorable one. One nice detail — although it will be difficult to see — is a “Y” shape sublimated into the shirt fabric, which evokes the design of South Africa’s flag. C+

Kent: The watermarking on South Africa’s home is cool, but I think you need a more interesting design than a flag to make that effect work. In general, an unremarkable set. I’d like to see Bafana Bafana use more colors than just yellow and green; this is the Rainbow Nation, so let’s see some flair. C

Patrick: It’s unfortunate that the host nation has such a nondescript kit set, and the away kit simply flips the home kit’s colors. With all the colors available in the South African flag, adidas wasted a major opportunity to really give the hosts something interesting and special. B

Uruguay (home, away/change)
Doug: I love powder blue and I especially like Uruguay’s home shirt. The repeating Sun of May pattern, based on the Uruguayan flag, is a great touch. Uruguay traditionally wears a red away shirt, so it’s odd to see them using white this time around. Much like Mexico’s away shirt, it’s not terrible but not particularly memorable either — a bit like the team itself. A-

Michael: There’s been some controversy with this team. During the lead-up to the Cup, a blue regular kit and gold change kit were released, with the latter nearly leading to riots in Uruguay. That design was quickly scrapped for a much safer white version, while the blue version grew a collar. Both kits are from Puma’s European templates. B+

Kent: The suns shine on Uruguay’s home shirt. Coupled with the gorgeous sky blue color, this is one of the Cup’s better designs. The change is a simple white — unexciting, but also unobtrusive. B+

Patrick: The home kit just gets it right. The powder blue of the base color looks incredible, the inclusion of the white and gold pays homage to the Uruguayan flag without being too busy, and the sublimated sun pattern from the flag makes the shirt one of the most interesting in the tournament. Apparently, though, Puma ran out of interesting when designing the away kit, which looks more like a warm-up shirt. A-

GROUP B

Argentina (home, away/change)
Doug: Argentina can’t help having a top-five kit, even when executed poorly. The most notable thing about this year’s version is the slightly redesigned badge. The blue background is a throwback to 1986 and it’s awesome — they took one of the best badges in international soccer and found a way to improve it. The away shirt is an absolute classic as well. All in all, beautifully done. A

Michael: Argentina nearly missed out on qualifying for the World Cup altogether, and that turmoil is reflected in their two substandard kits. The regular kit has the traditional striping but the shoulders and sleeves do not match up, while the change kit is too plain. That’s better than too busy, but still. B

Kent: I love sky blue and I love Lionel Messi, so why don’t I love one of the classic national team shirts? Answer: vertical stripes (same reason I’ll never own a home shirt of my fave club, FC Barcelona). The black shorts make the top shine, though, and the away is strong and understated. B+

Patrick: Discussing Argentina’s home kit is a little like critiquing the Green Bay Packers’ uniform — it’s gorgeous, historic, and instantly recognizable. I have no idea why adidas insists on having that shoulder yoke, but that’s like saying Kim Kardashian is a touch too curvy — looking for a tiny flaw in something that’s otherwise spectacular. The away kit, with the royal blue and white trim, is some of adidas’ best work. A

Greece (home, away/change)
Doug: adidas generally uses two templates: one for marquee teams, one for B-level teams. In terms of marketing status, Greece falls in the latter group. As such, their kit is nothing special — they just sewed the Greek badge onto a generic adidas shirt that high school teams would wear. The contrast piping is a nice addition, especially on the home shirt, but I prefer the blue away. B-

Michael: Very plain look for the Greeks, who are entering only their second World Cup, and their first since 1994. Putting the numbers on the chest, instead of in the middle of the shirt, looks particularly lackluster. C

Kent: The swooped detail stitching livens up the design, and also does a nice job of highlighting the physical motion of a kick. But the Pirate Ship (who can’t love that name?) loses points for simply reversing the colors on the away. B-

Patrick: It’s hard to imagine how adidas would foist such dull uniforms on the world’s most watched sporting stage. C

Nigeria (home, away/change)
Doug: The best Nigeria kit I can remember was the one they wore at France ’98 — bold, eye-catching, immediately recognizable as the Super Eagles — whereas this year’s Cup kit is just a boring green shirt. The away kit is a bit better, but Nigerians love their soccer and deserve better. C+

Michael: Another team with controversy. The Super Eagles wore an adidas template during January’s African Cup of Nations, but the Nigerian FA then claimed that they had not accepted the design for the World Cup. More recently, the shirts have become available for purchase, presumably meaning they will in fact be worn for the Cup. The change kit, with its strange green-shouldered design, is a disappointment. C-

Kent: Was someone mad at the Super Eagles? A boring home design plus unnecessary accent stitching plus this year’s hideous adidas number font plus pointless shoulder patches on the away equals a real disservice to one of the most exciting teams in soccer. D-

Patrick: The white side striping gives some interest to the Nigerian home kit, and the solid-green look helps the red-trimmed badge stand out. The shoulder design on the away kit is unfortunate, but at least it’s better than the disastrous outline look some other countries are using (looking right at you, Denmark). C+

South Korea (home, away/change)
Doug: For the third tournament in a row, South Korea has a great kit. Even the unnecessary “tiger stripes” don’t detract from the whole package, since you can barely see them. My only quibble: Not sure why they ditched red entirely on the away kit — I think red shorts would have looked sharp. A-

Michael: While other Nike teams are wearing bold designs, South Korea has gone with subtle tiger stripes hidden in the texture of the shirts. Thankfully, this element is understated enough to preserve South Korea’s run of nice kits. B

Kent: One of the best uni sets in the Cup. I also love this number font, similar to the Netherlands’ font in ’06. A-

Patrick: Nike did pretty well with these. The funky numerals help to keep the tiger stripes under the radar, although the blue on the away kit smacks a little of Manchester United (another Nike team, not coincidentally). A-

GROUP C

Algeria (home, away/change)
Doug: The home kit is a pretty boring white shirt, while the away is awesome. I love how the pinstripes have a hand-drawn look to them and how the shirt incorporates all of Algeria’s colors. The best news is that all the Group C teams have white home shirts, which means we may see lots of change strips in these matches. B

Michael: Algeria’s Puma kit was released last fall and debuted in the African Cup of Nations in Angola. The right shoulder cut-out features a sublimated image of a fox — a reference to the team’s name, the Desert Foxes. B

Kent: Templating sucks, and Puma shows why. The company came up with a nifty design concept and then ruined its distinctiveness by using it for every one of the company’s African teams. That said, Algeria’s home is fantastic, with a clean body look and the unique fennec detail. The bright greens and reds end up being too much on the away kit, though. B

Patrick: I hesitate to be too hard on a team that’s using the colors of its national flag, but boy it’s tough to work with lime green, red, and white. The away kit is sharp and does a lot more with the shoulder knockout than the home kit. The press release says the striping on the away shirt is supposed to resemble the face paint fans use when supporting the team, although I’m not sure that’s the best place to look for design inspiration. C+

England (home, away/change)
Doug: As usual, England released its home kit two years ago, whereas the away kit (inspired by their 1966 World Cup victory) was just recently unveiled. They’re both really good-looking uniforms — clean, classic designs. Regardless of how it looks, the England design is always the best-selling soccer shirt in the world, so it’s nice that they’ve come up with a good one, because we’ll all be seeing a lot of it. A

Michael: The all-white kit is the hallmark outfit for Nike’s Umbro division, while the change kit is the centerpiece of Umbro’s new “Made by Umbro in England” campaign (which is already beginning to dot club teams around the world). For me, as clean as the white look is, the red kits are even better. A-

Kent: When is a jersey classic, and when is it boring? England toes that line with its home and away. What saves these designs from dullness is the crest — gotta love those three lions. A-

Patrick: England’s kits are always better when they keep it simple and let history talk. The more they try to mess with things, the worse it gets. Happily, this year’s design keeps is clean and classy. A

Slovenia (home, away/change)
Doug: I really like this kit, both home and away. They wore a similar design in 2002, so if you don’t like this design you can’t blame Nike. I like how the zig-zag evokes the Slovenian flag. And for all you soccer fans in Green Bay, the away kit is a Packers fan’s dream come true. B+

Michael: Who knew Charlie Brown was such a big soccer fan? Even more surprising, the color designations have been swapped — the white design, which is usually Slovenia’s change kit, will be the primary kit during the Cup. Just as well, since the green design is even more cartoonish. All very odd, especially considering how very plain most of the Nike kits are for this tournament. C

Kent: Some might call this the Charlie Brown look — philistines. The mountain silhouette shouts out to the country’s flag and boldly breaks the Nike template. The away is even better, with a retro effect created by the green-on-green scheme. B+

Patrick: They’re devilishly clever, the Slovenians, using the Charlie Brown effect to lull their opponents into not taking them seriously. Seriously, that’s the only possible explanation for this design. Certainly no one could have looked at these kits and thought “Yeah, that’s a sharp look.” The worst look in the tournament. Whatever’s lower than F

United States (home, away/change)
Doug: In so many ways, the USA is England’s little brother when it comes to soccer. The Yanks play like the Brits and dress like them, only with less class. The away kit is better than the ridiculous home kit (at least the sash is visible against the blue) but these are both a major step backwards from 2006. Also, the clip-art badge is a joke. When will the USSF actually design a quality badge? D+

Michael: The Americans are hoping that changing their sash from the vertical 2006 design to the diagonal 1950 vintage will bring better luck in this World Cup, although sash on the white kit is extremely subtle. The sash is much more prominent — annoyingly so — on the change kit, so hopefully the Americans will get to wear white as often as possible. B-

Kent: I want to love the USA kit. But the whole point of a sash is to be bold, so why did Nike hide it on the home shirt? The contrasting sash on the change works much better. What irks me is that this was already done much better on 2006’s “Don’t Tread On Me” shirt. Red is more exciting, and the two-color stripe really pops without being distracting. This year’s version is a step backward. B-

Patrick: I’m torn by the American kit. I know the sash has a disturbing resemblance to a beauty pageant award. That said, I also know the home kit’s sublimated slash makes the shirt look like there’s something missing in the middle. But I love the throwback to the 1950 kit (the last time America beat England), and I like how the sash tends to draw attention to the very effective name/number typeface. Okay, I’m not torn anymore — I really like these. A

GROUP D

Australia (home, away/change)
Doug: Australia has had some good, clean shirt designs in the past, and this home shirt is one of their best. The away kit, however, is terrible. Reminds of the Seahawks with their not-quite-blue unitard. I hope they don’t wear it during the tournament. B+

Michael: Strange set. The color combinations aren’t bad (green and gold are Australia’s official national colors but blue and gold are the country’s ancient heraldic colors, which explains the difference between the home and away color schemes), but the execution doesn’t work for me. C

Kent: These look suspiciously like traditional rugby shirts, which would appropriate given the Aussies’ love for that sport. I like the home more, as the bright white bar really draws you in. The away design does nothing to excite or disappoint. C+

Patrick: The central design theme here is the large bar running across the front of the shirts. The placement of the bar messes up the location of the team badge and messes up the entire balance of the whole kit (plus I keep looking for a sign on the shirt reading, “You must be this tall to tackle this player”). D

Germany (home, away/change)
Doug: These don’t do much for me. Moreover, I strongly believe Germany should revert back to green for their away kit. The reason they wore green in the first place is a perfect example of the poetry of the game: Germany’s first international match after World War II was against Ireland, so up until 2002 they wore green as a gesture of thanks for accepting them back into the international sporting world. It’s a shame they don’t wear it anymore. B-

Michael: The white home kit is top-quality work from adidas — simple and classy. The black change kit isn’t quite as good but is infinitely better than the red and black abominations change kit from 2006 (which, thankfully, was never actually worn on the field). A

Kent: German-based adidas may be showing some hometown bias, as these kits are both excellent. Black shirts can be gratuitious, but not here — the away is one of the sharpest in the tournament, and the dark background really accentuates the black and gold trim. A-

Patrick: The German home kit is pretty darn near perfect. It’s clean, evokes the history of the team, and incorporates the national colors beautifully. The black away kit is a little more problematic — when I first saw it, I wondered why the Germans were wearing Liverpool’s 2009-10 change kit, which I suspect is not the effect they were aiming for. A-

Ghana (home, away/change)
Doug: Usually I’m a big fan of all-white — the cleanest, most distinctive look in the sport. But the Ghana kit is almost too clean. Love the away kit, though — considering Ghana and Cameroon share the same colors, I like how Ghana focuses on the red and yellow, leaving the green for the Francophones. I really hope they wear this against Germany. B+

Michael: Like all of the African teams, the Black Stars debuted their kit in the African Cup of Nations. The home whites are pretty sharp and feature their famous black star on the right shoulder. The change kit has much more yellow than they wore in 2006, which isn’t a bad way to go. Overall, pretty solid. B+

Kent: The white-on-white home is clean but doesn’t impress. Would have liked to see some more accent coloring. Meanwhile, the colors on the away are too garish, and the white numbers in the shoulder knockout look ridiculous. C+

Patrick: Another shoulder knockout design, but I prefer this one to Algeria’s. The away kit is, well, attention-getting, but not quite as tough on the retinas as the Desert Foxes’ kit. B-

Serbia (home, away/change)
Doug: Everything about the home kit is perfect — the offset cross, the beautiful badge (look, USA, it can be done!), the blue sleeve trim that complements the blue shorts. Just wonderful. The away kit reminds me of early-2000s MLS, when every team wore white away. Perfection. A+

Michael: This is the first time the Serbs will be playing in the World Cup as a sovereign nation, and they’ve marked the occasion by showing off their independent football association’s crest on their striking red home kit. The white change kit might be the simplest of all possible uniforms — which, in an age of overdesign, is not a bad thing. A

Kent: Serbia’s home is one of the nicest-looking jerseys in the Cup — elegant, distinctive, and it highlights the country’s insignia. The change’s basic look serves the whole package well, since a color-flip would have made the home less exciting. Bravo. A

Patrick: The Serbs got this one right, with the offset white cross blending in with the striking red shirt. The away kit is a perfect less-is-more white, completing a really good set. A-

GROUP E

Cameroon (home, away/change)
Doug: I’ve always liked Cameroon’s uniforms. As long as the Indomitable Lions stick with the green/red/yellow ensemble, they look great. If they throw in green shorts, I don’t like their look nearly as much. That said, the away kit is way better than the home kit, just like with all the other Puma designs. Love the yellow shirt with red pinstripes. All in all, very nice. Grade: A

Michael: Cameroon has had some of history’s most outrageous kits from sleeveless to one-piece. This year’s versions are much tamer — very solid, especially compared to some of their previous indulgences. Grade: B+

Kent: I have a major beef with Cameroon’s home shirt: The dual crests have forced the ghosted lion too far over on the shoulder knockout, which makes for a dull top (although the red shorts provide some much-needed flair). On the away, I like the shirt’s thinner stripes, but that’s about it. This is a difficult color scheme to pull off. Grade: B-

Patrick: Historically speaking, nobody has ever had trouble locating Cameroon on the pitch. But his year’s home design tones down the red a little, making the kit a bit less bold. A very good look. Grade: B+

Denmark (home, away/change)
Doug: Denmark has always had decent-looking kits. This year’s home edition is somewhat inspired by the “Danish Dynamite” days of the 1980s but the away shirt is such a bore. I suppose there’s not much you can do when you’ve only got two colors to work with, but the shirt would have looked better if they’d simply reversed the home design. B+

Michael: The Danes, who have traditionally worn kits by Danish company Hummel, have switched in recent years to adidas. Their two kits are both standard adidas templates. The red version has an interesting take on 11 players in motion, but the white change kit is pretty much just a template and crest — boring. C+

Kent: Nothing is rotten on Denmark’s home shirt. It does a great job of taking a simple look and spicing it up with a chest design that’s new and a throwback at the same time. Superfluous shoulder stripes add a distraction on the otherwise-clean away. B+

Patrick: Leave it to the Danes to turn their World Cup kit into performance art. I actually like the “eleven” design, and at least they didn’t try to overcomplicate the home shirt with any other markups. Too bad they didn’t use the same concept for the away shirt. B

Japan (home, away/change)
Doug: Japan’s home kit is the worst example of the adidas TechWeb sports bra look that is plaguing the brand’s kits this year. I actually like the feather pattern — reminds me of the sweet 1998 shirt. Other than that, though, there isn’t much to get excited about here. C+

Michael: Strong set. I could live without the feathery under-pattern but it’s hard to see anyway, so it’s no big deal either way. Both kits feature fantastic the Japanese flag on the socks, which is a nice touch — the flag design really pops on the blue home socks. B+

Kent: When the best thing about your uniform is the socks, you’re in trouble. From the overly busy home design to the TechWeb bra, this is a klunker. C+

Patrick: Well, let’s get it out of the way: The socks are awesome. Unfortunately, it’s downhill from there. The feather detailing is an interesting idea but is so understated as to be invisible. The shoulder yoke look just reminds me of how adidias messed up the Argentina kit, and I really don’t get the red block under the neck, which looks like a bib. B

Netherlands (home, away/change)
Doug: The Dutch haven’t had this much black in their kit since 2002, when they didn’t even qualify for the Cup. Too bad they didn’t stick with the design they wore at Euro ’08, which was one of the better kits in recent memory. I like the away shirt, but it too is a step down from 2008. B

Michael: The orange home kit is simple enough, but the change kit is where the Dutch really stand out. The shirt’s multi-colored chevron is mirrored on the socks and gives the white shirts enough color to avoid the “Boring!” tag given to several of Nike’s latest creations. A-

Kent: I loved the 2006 home, with its white contrasts and national flag detail on the collar. By contrast, the black trim on the 2010 home feels too heavy. I wasn’t originally a fan of the away, but then I noticed how the socks echo the chest chevron — nice. B

Patrick: While I would prefer the orange home shirt to be trimmed with more white than black, it’s easily the most recognizable and exciting kits in world soccer. And I love, love, love the away kit, especially the crowning touch of the chevron accents on the socks. One of the best looks in the tournament. A

GROUP F

Italy (home, away/change)
Doug: The Italians have tried to be “innovative” in recent years. In 2000, it was the skin-tight Kappa creation; in 2004, the built-in double collar. And now we have this utter disaster. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to be on the home shirt, but I see a tiki mug. F

Michael: The traditional savoy blue home color is nice, but that sublimated pattern is truly bizarre. The white change kit is far too plain and a victim of Puma templating. C

Kent: Italy is supposedly one of the centers high fashion, so what the hell is Puma doing to the Azzurri? The home shirt is a disaster, featuring what appears to be a cyborg’s six-pack. The away is nondescript, and then there’s godawful keeper shirt. If goalie Gianluigi Buffon looks down at his chest, he’ll be too nauseous to stop anything. D-

Patrick: Yeah, the pattern on the home shirt is a little weird, but I really like the star-cut collar with the green and red accenting, and the white sleeve striping provides additional interest. It’s the away shirt that concerns me. Raise your hand if you think the gold design underneath the arms looks a little too much like an unfortunate pit stain. On second thought, perhaps you shouldn’t raise your hand after all. B

New Zealand (home, away/change)
Doug: The white home and black away kits look really good — perfect examples of how less can be more (the All Blacks rugby team, with their gray away shirt from the 2007 Rugby World Cup, could learn something from their roundball brethren). New Zealand may be one of the lowest-ranked teams ever to make a World Cup, but at least they’ll look good finishing in last place. B

Michael: Simplest kits in the Cup. I know some people think “simple” is the same as “yawn-inducing,” but not this time — there’s an elemental elegance to this set. A-

Kent: The name “All Whites” doesn’t exactly open the door to design creativity, but New Zealand didn’t even knock. Both kits lack character, and it would’ve been nice if they’d gone for a fern watermark like the one used by the All Blacks rugby team. C

Patrick: New Zealand is only in the Cup because Australia left the Oceania federation, leaving the Kiwis to compete with the likes of Tahiti, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu. It appears they’ve mailed in their kit design, just like they mailed in their qualification requirements. Bo-ring! D

Paraguay (home, away/change)
Doug: I’ve always loved Paraguay’s red and white stripes, especially when paired with royal blue shorts. On this particular shirt, I think putting the lion and the Guaraní words on the back collar is a nice touch (the lion is based on the country’s coat of arms). I like the white away, too. A-

Michael: The vertical stripes are nice enough, despite the adidas templating. The white change kit uses the same adidas template as Greece, but the red piping and blue adidas stripes look much more complete. B

Kent: I don’t get any of this. Paraguay’s whole ensemble seems like a lot of half-thought-out ideas thrown together. The home is as close as I’ll ever get to liking a vertically striped shirt, but then things are ruined on the front by the red shoulder patches and the solid-red back design. Love the lion on the back collar, but that’s not enough. For the away, Paraguay just got Greece’s leftovers. D+

Patrick: Paraguy’s home shirt is one of the sharpest in the competition. I love the stripes, and the additional touches like the lion on the back collar help really make this a nice look. The blue shorts echo the colors from the badge, but it does make things look a bit busy, particularly when you add in the striped socks. The away kit is standard adidas template, which I loathe. Disappointing to see a team go from a sharp home design to such a dud away kit. B

Slovakia (home, away/change)
Doug: There’s plain, and then there’s really plain. The good thing about this kit is frugal Slovakian fans can just buy a generic blue or white adidas shirt from Sports Authority, sew a Slovakia patch on the chest, and presto — a Slovakia shirt at a budget price! C+

Michael: The Slovaks are reversing their usual colors by putting a white kit as home and their usual blues as the change. The blue shirt appears to be using the same adidas template as Japan, but to much less distinctive effect. Well, this is the first World Cup for Slovakia as an independent nation, so they’re entitled to some beginners’ mistake. C

Kent: Take a closer look at that blue change shirt: There’s an underlying pattern that mimics the hyperspace travel effect. Slovakia thus pulls off a neat trick: boring from afar, chaotic and cluttered up close, like a bad pointillist painting. The white home outfits are bad in a more conventional way: They’re just boring. C-

Patrick: Another victim of template-itis. I do kind of like the idea that they’ll go white at home, because it will likely force many of their opponents to wear their change kits, which will make things more interesting. C

GROUP G

Brazil (home, away/change, third)
Doug: I’m not overly impressed by Brazil’s set this year. Yes, it’s the most famous shirt in the world, blah-blah-blah, but this version is a step down from four years ago. I really dislike the dot-matrix pattern Nike has used on the away shirt, and both shirts have an unnecessary shoulder stripe that almost suggests adidas’ three stripes, which doesn’t make sense for Nike’s flagship team. Grade: B-

Michael: Five-time champions Brazil seem to be one of only two teams with three uniform choices for this World Cup (the other is Honduras), although it’s not clear whether the black third shirt will actually be available for on-field use or if it’s just a Nike gimmick to sell more replicas. Either way, the traditional yellow and blue home kit is a fine set, highlighted by the wonderful green stripes around the white socks. The change kit features an interesting dot matrix design while retaining the traditional blue look that has served them well in the past. Grade: A

Kent: From their style of play to the styling of their kit, the Seleção always look great. The home is simple and outstanding, with nice accents like the shoulder stripes and side dots. And I love the blue away (but then I’m a always a sucker for the dot effect). Even cooler: is the sexy-as-hell black alternate, although it likely won’t be seen in the Cup. I love when teams shake up things while holding onto their heritage. Grade: A-

Patrick: It’s pretty hard to screw up a classic like the Brazil kit, and Team Swoosh managed to avoid doing so. I’m fine with the green stripe down the shoulder, especially since it’s echoed on the side of the shorts. I love the base color of the away kit, and I think the explosion of ellipses actually works pretty well — a worthy experiment. I’d rail about the naked money grab that is the never-to-be-seen third kit, but that’s like complaining when a lion eats a gazelle. It’s just what Nike does. Grade: A

Ivory Coast (home, away/change)
Doug: I’m profoundly conflicted here. The home kit is too plain, while the away kit is probably my favorite shirt in the whole competition. Similarly, the new badge is pretty rad, but the old badge was my favorite in world soccer (it’s shaped like the country!). I’ve always liked orange, so I can’t complain too much about the nondescript home shirt, but the away is a work of art. I hope they wear it against Brazil — it would be like watching Yellow Submarine with vuvuzelas. A-

Michael: The orange home shirt is a fantastic look, despite the elephant on the shoulder. The change shirt’s combination of horizontal stripes on the front and solid sleeves and back looks a bit strange, but the color pattern is a nice one. B+

Kent: Why’s everyone down on the elephant? It’s a friggin’ elephant, it should be prominent! Plus it spices up the simple look of the shirt. And Puma nailed the away. The lovely green/orange stripe work makes for the best of the Puma Africa templates (in the World Cup, that is; it’s a shame Angola didn’t make the cut), although I agree that it’s a little weird to pair the striped front with the solid back. A-

Patrick: The home kit goes a step too far with Puma’s shoulder knock-out design, making the elephant design too big, too distracting, and almost cartoon-ish. But the away kit is my favorite of Puma’s knock-out designs. The horizontal striping, the gold trim on the large white stripes, and the paintbrush-style green and white blend between the stripes — it all looks sharp. B-

North Korea (home?)
Doug: Be honest: You half expect to see North Korea trot out in military-issue khakis, right? Actually, that would be better than what we’ve seen so far. D

Michael: In soccer, as in everything else, the nation no one knows anything about is North Korea. They wore an all-white against South Africa in a friendly this spring (the sleeves were sort of Kim Jong-Il-esque), but no information as been released about what they’ll wear for the Cup. More recently, they wore this all-red outfit in a friendly against Greece, although that kit does not appear to be made by Legea, which is supposedly “>handling the team’s kits. So once again, the North Koreans keep us all guessing. C

Kent: Vendors say they’re having trouble finding North Korea kits. Is this an elaborate ploy to create instant collectors’ items? If this template is to be believed, the home kit is all-red (insert communist joke here). I like the asymmetrical striping on the right arm, but it’s a bit much on the sides and shorts. D (unless this is being read in the glorious motherland of North Korea, in which case A+++

Patrick: It appears the world knows more about North Korea’s clandestine nuclear program than about their World Cup kits. Which just shows that the North Koreans have their intelligence priorities straight. C

Portugal (home, away/change)

Doug: Portugal switches between red and maroon for its home kit, and I like what they’ve done with red this time around (although the red dots inside the green chest band remind me of Nike’s baseball sleeve pox). Everyone should love they away shirt, though. If it looks familiar, that’s because something very similar was worn by Chelsea and Mexico in the 1970s. It was rad then, it’s rad now. A+

Michael: Probably the most striking pair of kits in the cup. Very nice set that takes advantage of Nike’s simplicity and doesn’t go overboard with the individual details. A

Kent: Portugal’s home is sweeter than one of the country’s famed dessert wines. It’s aesthetic perfection, with bold colors and a simple design. Even the sizing tag is fantastic, as it matches the country’s flag. I appreciate the bold design of the away, but I just can’t get behind the stripes. A-

Patrick: A great set. The away kit is particularly ballsy when you realize that the uniform number goes right in the center, yet the numberless replica shirts still look awesome, despite the blank space in the middle. A+

GROUP H

Chile (home, away/change)

Doug: I’ve never liked Chile’s red shirt and navy shorts look, in part because Brooks blatantly copies other brands when it comes to uniform design. All is not lost, however — when they wear white shorts, they look great. Too bad the all-white away kit is so bland. C+

Michael: Chile is the only nation wearing Brooks uniforms this year. Neither option is particularly inspiring, and there’s potential for disaster if the Brooks wordmark appears on the back of the shirts. B-

Kent: Neither Chilean kit impresses, especially with the horrible Brooks wordmark on the lower back. One thing I do like is the inscription “Con el futbol todos ganamos” on the inside of the collar, which translates to “With soccer we all win.” True ’nuff. C-

Patrick: Pretty nondescript. One thing I want to address: the badge. If your shirt is the same color as a large element at the end of the badge (like the red in the flag and the red home shirt), would it kill you to put a border of some kind on the badge so you can see where one begins and the other ends? B-

Honduras (home, away/change, third)

Doug: It’s a shame Honduras dropped the classic “Big H” they wore during qualifying, but I like all three of these, especially the striped one. The fade design across the chests could have been cool if they’d used it to highlight the badge and not the brand. Smart marketing, but unfortunate design. B-

Michael: Of the several strange concepts in this year’s World Cup, none is weirder than Honduras’ blue-white-blue fade plastered across the chest — what a joke. The most unfortunate part is that Honduras had fairly good-looking outfits in qualifying. Why Joma went off the deep end for the World Cup is a total mystery. D

Kent: The worst overall look in the Cup. Placing the country crest front and center feels clunky, and the fade effect in the logo strip overdoes things. Why does the home white need the extra blue details, and why does the blue away have the black pinstripes? Get rid of the clutter, Joma. But having lived in Costa Rica, I’ve noticed that Latin Americans dig busy kits, so maybe I’m guilty of imposing Euro/U.S. cultural aesthetics. Still, these don’t work for me at all. F

Patrick: Nice to see that kit manufacturer Joma qualified for the World Cup. Oh wait, that’s Honduras? Who could tell, what with the fade design focusing all the attention on the manufacturer and not the team. The sad thing is that I like just about everything else on these kits, but it’s all outweighed by the brand promotion. D-

Spain (home, away/change)

Doug: Spain has switched between royal and navy in recent years, but I think the royal, which they’re using this year, looks better with the red and gold. I really like the switch to red socks, too. Meanwhile, the away kit is characteristically stylish — classic Spain. A+

Michael: As reigning European champions, the Spaniards have a standard of success to live up to on the pitch and in kit design, and they’ve certainly delivered on the latter front. If you don’t think socks can make a difference, think again. Bottom line: This team intends to look as good as it plays. A

Kent: La Furia Roja should be furious about their home kit. The light blue shorts and accents don’t mesh with the rest of the kit, and this is another team with TechWeb problems on the back. But I love the dark-blue away. The crest leaps out thanks to the dark background color, and for once, adidas gets the back of a shirt right. Note the “RFEF” on the rear collar, which of course stands for Real Federacion Española de Futbol. B+

Patrick: Ka-pow. Spain did very well to move away from 2009’s overly busy look. I love the royal blue shorts, and the red socks give the whole kit a great balance. The striping on the away kit is really sharp, and of course the away socks are pretty awesome too. A+

Switzerland (home, away/change)

Doug: The Swiss are occupying an interesting middle gound. They didn’t get the fun template Puma used for the African countries, but they also didn’t embarrass themselves like the Italians. They don’t have a cool pattern in their shirt like the Uruguayans, but they do have one of the cooler badges in world football, with the initials of the soccer association in both German and French. The whole thing reminds me of a cheap Swiss watch: It works fine but isn’t particularly special. C+

Michael: Switzerland has a long heritage of neutrality, so it’s appropriate that they have one of the most neutral kits possible. Hideous? No. But interesting? Also know. C

Kent: Please, Switzerland: Play with your home shirts untucked. The flag “belt-buckle” effect on the shorts looks ridiculous. It’s the worst of several bad details, including the weird white accent under the home collar, too many symbols on the chest, and superfluous red piping on the away. C-

Patrick: The Swiss badge is certainly one of the most confusing in world soccer, and the idea of simplifying the kit to allow the badge to stand out kind of works for me. The Swiss really love their flag, though, as it appears along with the badge on both shirts and also on the waistband of the home shorts. The home socks help push this set from uninspired to just interesting enough. B-