11 OF THE BEST: FRANCE '98 KITS
In many ways France 98 was a tournament like no other, for the first time in twenty years the tournament was won on home soil and against the backdrop of fervent French support on those hot summer days we were treated to some of the greatest kits ever seen on football's biggest stage.
France 98 spelled a turning point, the 2000’s would, for better or worse, see the rise of the simplified templates taking over footballs major tournaments in a manner that had in truth been threatening since the late 80’s.
It’s unlikely that we will ever see flames adorning a kit again any time soon, or for that matter an ancient calendar print blown up to cover almost the entirety of the kit.
So as we look back on that iconic tournament we salute the last days of the truly mad international kits. Here are eleven of the greatest - France 98 kits.
Salas, Bam Bam and a giant, sorta Reebok logo. Chile at the 1998 World Cup were a lot of fun. For many in England the strongest association with this kit doesn’t even have to do with the World Cup but more with the deadly Chilean duos absolute routing of England at Wembley in the run up to the tournament.
Quite simply one of the all time great football kits. The instantly recognisable print is based upon the Aztec calendar and made for easily the tournaments most boldest design. Luckily Mexico had the side to match, from Cuauhtémoc Blanco’s bunny hops to renegade keeper Jorge Campos, who wore the outfield shirt whenever his teammates had to change.
Inspired by the design used by France on their way to winning the Euro 84, the 98 design just oozed class. And that's before Zizou put it on and popped the collar. As Platini did in 84 Zidane emerged as the hero of the tournament, scoring twice in the final as he took home player of the tournament.
The only side not to use a v-necked collar design for the tournament, Brazil stood out for all the right reasons. Not many things have looked better in football than the combo of Ronaldo’s bald head and the round neck collar of Brazil’s 98 shirts. The perfectly Baggio shirt was finished off with some white socks and rather nice blue shorts. It was all very nice.
Japan may have had a forgettable debut tournament but their flames design kit will go down in the annals of kit history. The ASICS design featured vibrant flame patterns to each sleeve sublimated flames throughout. For the keeper kit they went a step further with the motif and had repeating orange and red flames over the entirety of the shirt for quite possibly the single most out there kit that ever has, or probably will, grace the World Cup.
As ever with Holland kits, it’s the iconic shade of Dutch orange that takes centre stage. Rarely has it worked better than with their 98 home shirt. The Nike template, also used in the tournament by South Korea, is a classic in its own right but it worked perfectly with the vibrancy of the orange, offset beautifully by the black and white of the collar and cuff details.
The white and green Saudi design would have been fairly understated, had it not been for the series of mountain range like patterns that dominate the sleeves, chest and shorts. The inspiration coming from the nation's numerous mountain ranges and tall peaks. Admittedly the execution may not be the best but the Shamel design has to be at least commended for trying something new. We’ve seen a hell of a lot of flag inspired designs over the years but the idea of basing it off a nation's geographical features is a nice touch.
This one is admittedly a bit of a left field choice. The design featured the red, white and blue of the Paraguayan flag in the stripes and (particularly nice) oversized numbering. Unlike the side's free kick taking goalkeeper and general madman captain, Jose Luis Chilavert, it is understated and fairly modest. But the general old school style is a winner.
The 98 World Cup would be the tournament where Croatia put themselves on the international footballing map with their memorable run to the semi-finals. Fitting then that their shirts should feature a giant print of their nations waving flag across the front of it. The Croatians had been utilising the iconic checkerboard print, based upon the nations flag, since the country broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991 but opted to give it a little more dynamism for their inaugural World Cup appearance.
One of the stories of the tournaments, the 1998 World Cup stands as so far Jamaica’s only World Cup appearance. The kit worn by the Reggae Boyz was one of two very fine Kappa kits that graced the 1998 World Cup, the other being South Africa’s, but really there was only ever one choice for this list. Jamaica’s final group stage game would see them play out one of the all time great World Cup kit matchups when they faced off against Japan.
Alright, we concede any kit would look good on Batistuta, but the design worn by the Albiceleste on their way to the quarter finals was a very strong effort. Just two years after the Argentine FA vetoed a kit for having black pinstripes Adidas managed to get away with an almost entirely black collar, which when paired with black shorts and socks gave Argentina a slightly more menacing feel than we’d grown accustomed to.
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Words by Andy Gallagher