Russia look favourites to win Group A, but if it were solely based on kits would they make it to the quarterfinals?
One of the most exciting aspects of the major tournaments for clothing nerds like us has always been taking in the aesthetics of the top national teams. Most of them were launched months ago with all the usual sales and marketing hullabaloo which consist of cheesy "action" shots and photoshopped stadia and the like. It's nice to see them actually in use, and as a whole where all of the different little details come to light though. So with the group stages halfway done, here's a look at the four combatants out of Group A.
The co-hosts were an underdog going into the tournament when it came to the football side of things and the same could be said for their kit. Never really known for iconic uniforms, their best effort historically was probably way back at World Cup '86 with this simple top. They recently swapped Puma for Nike though, and have reaped the rewards of their oft slick designs as theirs is one of the better kits in the tournament. Referencing various aspects of national identity, the key feature of which is the block of colour on the chest — red on stark white home kit and white on the red away version which represents the Polish flag. They've taken the unusual option of forsaking the usual match specific embroidery which features on every other kit as far as we can tell, to include the Polish Coat of Arms. The move seems a bit odd as it means two badges on a shirt (the Polish FA being the other) but looks great as it offers perfect symmetry across the chest along with the token Swoosh. The off centre numbering, a trend in the tournament, works nicely within the red bar too and the home shirt interchanges well with either colour of shorts. For us, the only real qualm we've got with the Polish kit is the literal reference of the flag bar, the home kit would've looked great with a red hoop a la Boca Juniors rather than just the blocks.
Together as a packaged whole, the home & away kits are great, the home is especially nice but the high chest block on the away kit leaves a bit to be desired. In a kit-off, Poland's understated strip would top the group and go on a cinderella run in the tournament.
The Greeks hoisted the Henri Delaunay trophy back in 2004 in what was bad time for football kits, the era of the template. Things have improved a little bit since then, and teams in the Adidas camp have regained a bit of autonomy. The clearest example of this is the subtle gradient cross on the chest which meets at the badge, an ode to the Greek flag the cross works well alongside Adidas' branding. The three stripes on the shoulders of Adidas kit can often detract from a kit making it over-branded but with the Greek flag also featuring stripes of it's own, it's a perfect marriage between the two — it looks especially good on the away kit which we prefer. The equipment staff at the Hellenic Football Federation got it right too with the central chest numbers rather than trying to squeeze them in under the adidas badge, and we're always a fan of federation branded socks rather than just company logos. While it's nothing we haven't seen before, the simple, classic Greek kit which is a plain colour flip between home and away (a good thing) would eek through the group to earn a spot in the quarter finals.
Russia were the surprise dark horse at Euro 2008 in both form and this classy kit. They were also unlucky to miss out on playing in South Africa when they were pipped on away goals in another decent strip against Slovenia which was ultimately a good thing because at that tournament, Slovenia brought us this weirdly good oddity. At Poland/Ukraine though, they've got it all wrong. As mentioned, the three stripes can be a bit overpowering on national team shirt which is exactly the case with Russia's golden version atop their red kits. Whilst maybe not so bad if it stopped there but they've opted for the sash design in this years version which creates an all too busy contrast of lines going every which way. The diagonal stripe is made that much worse by a centrally placed Adidas logo, with match specific embroidery underneath and then a badge and number crammed in next to it, the away kit doesn't change in design and so it's not much better. Luckily the goalkeeper is spared from the lopsided atrocity and wears what is in fact a classic goalkeeping kit, the squad's socks, with the russian flag stripe also spare it some blushes, but those wouldn't be nearly enough to get the Russians out of the group if the tournament were based on aesthetics.
The recent history of the Czech Republic's national football team's attire hasn't been good. It's consisted of mismatched kits with too many colours in strange places, obscenely bad collars and ones adorned with too many little white lions. They've finally toned it down this time around without losing too much of the progressive Puma character they've become known for. The Puma flair is there in the patch of tonal geometric checker print, but it's not so bad on their predominately red home kit which is a nice and simple crew neck cut with white trim. The blue chest panel brings together the trifecta of Czech colours without going overboard. Puma has gotten it right this year with their logo-to-badge-balance so everything is where it should be including the match information sitting nicely between the two. Puma got it right putting the number directly underneath that but why they opted for the pixelated computer font for them and the names we'll never know. Petr Cech's purple and grey collared get-up looks more 70s leisure wear than it does keeper kit too. The combination of both means that the Czech's would narrowly miss out on a quarter final spot if it were up to us in the 2012 European Kit Championship.