Rating the World Cup 2022 away kits: Art from Japan and South Korea plus a Belgian recovery

You’ve seen the home kits, now here come the aways. This is where kit designers either go ‘full template’ and give a range of countries slightly tweaked versions of the same set-up, or go entirely rogue and produce some quite extraordinary shirts, for good and bad.

This way to see who got things right, and who…well, didn’t.


What is it about purple that doesn’t really feel right as a football kit? It’s tricky to put your finger on what it actually is. Purple is perfectly acceptable. Aubergines, by example, are purple. Parma violets. Beautiful flowers in a variety of colors. Prince — he was always decked out in purple, and he was great.

But it somehow doesn’t work as a football shirt, and this Argentina number is no exception. Lionel Messi looks happy enough in the promo pictures, but you do wonder: if they win the World Cup, the last thing that he has to achieve in his career, the pinnacle of his professional life, the stick people have grasped at to beat him with for years…do you reckon it would take the edge off if he was wearing this kit in the final?

Rating: 4/10


It is obvious that this is a very lazy thing to say. However, football/soccer does not immediately belong in your mind as a national sport. It isn’t, and will probably never be anything close to their national sport, so you might expect that when choosing a shirt, they would steer clear of anything that reminded you of, say, rugby.

And yet, here we are with this shirt, a garment that really looks like it would be more at home on a big lad whose idea of a good time is drinking 12 pints of Tooheys, gouging someone’s eye then shaking hands with them afterwards because they’re just a bunch of bloody blokes.

Rating: 5/10


The designers of Brazil’s shirts basically have the same luxury that those who deal with Ajax have: the home shirt is such an iconic, essentially un-spoilable classic, that you just put out a relatively basic version of that, which then frees you up to experiment a little more with the away shirt.

Nike has done this with their jazzy interpretation of the blue-colored change strip with animal print sleeves. It looks a little like the back wall in a large fish tank. Yes. Does it matter? No. 

Rating: 8/10


Good lord. My days. Betsy, heavens to you. This is one helluva kit. You could write poetry about this shirt: I won’t, obviously, because that would be absolutely mortifying for all involved. But still…someone should.

Yes, it looks a little bit like someone just created a gorgeous shirt and added red, yellow, black trimmings to the sleeves. But, does that really matter? It doesn’t matter. Actually, that’s slightly unfair: apparently the colours are inspired by Tomorrowland, a beloved Belgian music festival, but when something looks this good, it doesn’t really matter where the inspiration came from. 

Rating: 9/10


Cameroon away shirt (which is the same design that the home shirt) works slightly better in white.

We’re still left with this sub-Transformers logo in the background, but at least it stands out a bit this time, and the green, yellow and red sleeve trim pop a bit more. It reminds me of an early draft for a Germany kit in the mid-90s. This was the look that the work experience kid tried before hiring a professional. It would have been better if they stuck with Le Coq Sportif.

Rating: 5/10


As outlined in the home kit ratings, Canada haven’t got a new kit for this World Cup, which is slightly odd given that it’s their first trip to the global jamboree in 36 years, but at least they’re not treating it like an absolutely shameless cash-in, which they very much could do.

It would help a little if the kits themselves weren’t quite so…boring, but in some ways the straightforward, keep it simple, no messing approach seems to fit quite nicely with the popular image and perception of Canadians in general. 

Rating: 5/10

Costa Rica

It is quite satisfying to have kits that compliment or refer each other. Like they are ‘of a piece’, if that isn’t over-intellectualising/over-thinking sportswear too much.

However, the home shirt has a thick red band and the away shirt has thick blue bands. Easy, simple, done — lunch? You could be unkind to New Balance, but that would not be true. Don’t overcomplicate things. It is better to be less than more. 

Rating: 8/10


Do you think whoever is given the task of designing Croatia’s kits occasionally just longs for a plain shirt, or stripes, or a star across the middle of it or something: anything but those checkerboard designs.

Hopefully not, because it’s a reassuring classic with a hint of peril to it: sensational, iconic even when done right, but equally easy to get wrong. The effort here falls somewhere between them, with the checks starting at the left shoulder and gradually fading to the chest. It is easy to see the intent, but it almost looks like the shirt was used in a cleaning commercial. 

Rating: 6/10


Without wishing to self-plagiarise, it’s worth referring to the home kits ratings for discussion about what Hummel’s statement means in reality. So here we’ll just look at the basic design of the away and the third shirt, the latter being more effective by quite some way.

White shirts generally only really work with some bold colour added, even if it’s just a little on the trim or badges, so this white-on-white doesn’t really do it. However, the blackout jersey works much better than any other shirts, and it makes more of a statement than an all-white one. 

Rating: 6/10


International tournaments often offer a little more variety for your average kit rater because among all the sportswear giants producing their designs and templates you also have some less well-known/more random providers.

Take Marathon, the makers of Ecuador’s kits: who are they? No idea! Does it matter? No it doesn’t! But they’ve landed the national team gig, and done quite nicely with this one, going for the ‘largely plain block colour but with an interesting background design’ to mix things up a little. 

Rating: 7/10


Only the nostalgia that is pulsing at men of a certain era is stronger than the nostalgia they are expressing. But, I am a man old enough to remember Italia ’90, yet young enough to be punched in the gut by the various problems facing millennials in the UK, 2022. Which is a roundabout way of asking you to forgive me for finding pleasure where I can, and this kit, which doesn’t so much nod to England’s change strip from 32 years ago as basically copy it, is very pleasurable indeed. Yes, please.

Rating: 8/10


This is another of those white shirts that falls into the trap that many do, of having a background design that you can’t really make out unless you’re about five feet away, and any further back it just sort of looks like a grubby white shirt.

If you do get centre-back-marking-a-striker-at-a-corner close, you will be able to admire the “national and regional toile designs to reflect France’s cultural strength,” safe in the knowledge that Nike’s range of French apparel “represents the hunger for success driving the team’s desire to go back-to-back.” Of course. 

Rating: 6/10


Adidas haven’t quite gone down any template routes for their World Cup kits, but this is about as close as they have got to that. The red-and-black number looks something like the lines you see when you rewind a VHS. However, the colors used in this case are so different that they create enough natural variation.

This one is a sort of fuzzy version of the shirt they absolutely pantsed Brazil in eight years ago, so from that perspective it’s a fine choice.

Rating: 7/10


Right. Now. Problems. Big problems. You will see some positive reviews about Puma’s home kit ranking, especially with the wide range of appealing designs they have created.

It is an absolute delight to wear the Ghana home shirt. Likewise Senegal. And Switzerland. Uruguay. But these away shirt templates…what is going on? They all have this massive shield thing in the middle of the chest, with the players’ number so big you can basically see it from space, the combined effect being that they basically look like FIFA cards. Actually, that’s probably what they’re going for, isn’t it? Although it might impress the children, this kit ratingr is free to believe they all look awful. This Ghana shirt gets a high rating due to the striking shade of red and the nice contrast with the yellow/green trim. 

Rating: 4/10


The home shirt is identical to this shirt but with the red and yellow bits swapped out. This shirt is mainly red with white trim and red trim.

It’s one of those things that you could either say is lazy, just avoiding having to come up with anything fresh for the change strip, or you could think it’s all of a piece, that the kits dovetail really nicely and it almost feels like a ‘range’ of shirts, as opposed to two wildly different, random thoughts thrown together. We’re in the latter camp: it’s not spectacular, it’s not especially flashy, but it’s solid and works nicely. 

Rating: 7/10


This is truly exceptional. This is an arguably better way to accomplish what was discussed with Iran kits: Instead of just having a copy as the reserve attire, you create something completely new that references and reflects the pattern on the home shirt. That’s what Adidas have done here for Japan, with the fuzzy design that dominates the home shirt restricted to a couple of panels on the sleeves of the away.

It nicely contrasts with the simple, clean look of the white shirt with black trim. This shirt could have been boring without any pops of colour. You don’t like to say something is perfect, but…it’s tough to find anything wrong here. We won’t give it full marks, just in case…but this is pretty special.

Rating: 9/10 


Most shirt designers would say no if asked about their reactions to backlash on social media, from fans or from readers. But is this really true?

Can whoever designed this Mexico shirt, apparently featuring a background design intended to honour the country’s indigenous roots, really have not rubbed their hands together with glee at the thought of all the people who would laud the gorgeousness of this design, but also the (probably smaller number) who would regard it as sacrilege of some form? You do get the sense that half an eye is on the reception these days, rather than the design, but in this case the design is really quite delightful, so we’ll let them off.

Rating: 8/10


The good news is that Morocco seem to have escaped Puma’s otherwise predominant policy of slapping that massive shield on the chest of all their away shirts. This shirt is mostly nice elsewhere, except for the white stripe down its middle which basically makes it look as if someone has sipped their coffee in a very measured and defined way.

Otherwise, the red and deep green trims work well, and those Puma collars again look fantastic. 

Rating: 7/10


Another nostalgia nod, this one as part of Nike’s homage to their kits from around the 2002 World Cup. They sort of get away with this one because it’s not a straight copy of the shirt they had back then: in 2002 their shirt was black and orange with this design, whereas in 2000 it was these colours but with a slightly different design. Is it a cheat?

Most likely not. Am I looking for something tangible to point to because I’m not sure about this shirt and can’t really put my finger on why? It’s possible.

Rating: 6/10


This is similar to the home shirt. It is a mainly plain white shirt. Bosh. Red mainly, with a plainer away shirt. Bang. Done. You don’t need to be daft. It’s a John Smith’s advert in football jersey form. There is no such thing as nonsense. It’s a basic shirt, it’s a very different colour to the home top. Finished. You are finished. Get lost. Stop bothering. 

Rating: 7/10


Those of you who read the home shirt ratings will know that we weren’t fans of the Portugal top, but the alternate is a different story altogether. The thick band across the chest works really nicely, and the ‘let’s try something different this time guys’ itch is scratched by having slightly asymmetric colours: there’s a bit more of the maroon than the green, but the proportions look just right.

Enough to make it different, not so much that it looks ostentatious, like they’re doing it for the sake of things. Well done Nike’s Portugal branch, you have redeemed yourselves. 

Rating: 8/10


This is slightly less basic than the home shirt, which is just a plain red shirt with nothing much else going on, but that doesn’t necessarily make it much better.

It’s a sort of off-white colour with repeating patterns that are apparently ‘inspired by the tradition of pearl diving’ off the coast of the country, but actually just look like the marks that a muddy football would leave on your school shirt and get you told off by your mum. It could be saved by ironing the garment, but not enough to prevent it from getting scorch marks. If the aim of this World Cup was to get people onside with the idea of Qatar, they ain’t doing it through lovely sartorial design. 

Rating: 5/10

Saudi Arabia

This is a fun, nice pattern. Or something that resembles a bargain-rack item, like someone who needs a Hawaiian shirt, but forgot to shop and has to buy it anyway? It’s hard to say. It could be either. Let’s just give this a nice neutral rating, to reflect our indecision.

Rating: 6/10


First thing’s first: this is a Cameroon shirt, isn’t it? While Senegal does usually wear a shade of green to protect their change kit, they are often quite distinct from other countries. However, if you stripped all the identifying symbols and showed it to 100 people who asked, they would most likely answer Cameroon.

Cameroon talk is vamping in order to not have to talk again about the big stupid shield. However, it is hard to avoid it and in this instance really spoils a perfectly sensible jersey.

Rating: 5/10


Again. What’s the deal, Puma? Who not only thought ‘this big FIFA card shield logo thing looks really nice’, but that it looked so nice they should put it on all of their designs?

Why is that? It obviously doesn’t look good on any of the shirts, but for some reason white with the gold trim makes it look even more…cheap? A real ‘buy in bulk from the back of a football magazine for your Sunday league/five-a-side team that takes things too seriously’ vibe.

Rating: 5/10

South Korea

The clouds parte, the bright shining Sun of God shines through, trumpets sound and angels call out: If you ever needed proof that the Almighty is real and that they love humans, then this is it.

South Korea takes the title of 2018’s most beloved World Cup classic. It’s glorious, a fat slice of 90s nostalgia but done in a pretty classy way: it looks like the art of someone who wasn’t appreciated in their time, but is posthumously regarded as a genius. Is this a bit excessive? It might be, but it’s a great shirt.

Rating: 9/10


File under ‘probably shouldn’t work, but really does’. In theory there should be too much going on here: the swirling, undulating patterns, the slightly distracting central placement of the badge, the red and yellow shoulder stripes that don’t really go with the light blue of the rest of the shirt.

It looks great, with the blue stripes and stripes creating a contrast to each other rather than clashing. Plus, it reminds me a lot of the Manchester United away shirt that everyone loved last year. Si senor

Rating: 8/10


Long exhalation. Another piece of this Puma/shield nonsense. This shirt looks somewhat like a shirt that was given out at a fun run to first aiders. However, it’s actually quite different from the other Puma/shield horrors. This isn’t quite as bad as the others. The shield has a thin, hoopy border that is a reference the home shirt. Red and white usually look good no matter what the circumstance. Please, please stop all of this. 

Rating: 5/10


Hang on, this is just the same as the home kit isn’t it? Just white instead of red, with the same pattern ‘inspired by the armour of Hannibal’ on the background? This is a test of our generally positive attitude to away shirts that are mirrors of the home shirt, because these aren’t quite complementary items as just plain copies of each other.

And, on a more basic, aesthetic level, the pattern doesn’t quite work as well in white as it does red, carrying with it that problem of it making the white shirt look like it’s been washed with a blue sock. 

Rating: 6/10


Lovely. Very nice. It can be plain, but the sky blue and white look great together. The collar is great, especially when paired with the sleeves. The stripes running down the middle of the collar are an unusual, but very effective, touch. Of course, nobody can enjoy any of that because of the giant child’s shield in the middle ruining the whole shirt. Why, why, why.

Rating: 4/10


There are many ways to achieve the extravagant, paint-splodgy design look. Take South Korea, for example, or even Tottenham’s away shirt from last season. But this isn’t the way. It’s basically a blue tee shirt that an artist took off too close to the easel and then had an unfortunate accident with their paint.

Perhaps that would be a statement from the artist, a representation or the creative process. But, as an athlete to wear at the largest football tournament in the globe, it might not. Nope. 

Rating: 4/10


Adidas seemed to prefer white for their away shirt ranges at this World Cup. This kit is Gareth Bale’s equivalent to Gareth Bale scoring a free kick in the top corner.

We don’t need to tell you why this shirt is so amazing. It’s amazing! It’s the red and green pop from the white! The collar gives a subtle nod towards another classic Welsh piece from the early 90s. The whole thing! Bravo Adidas.

Rating: 9/10

(Top image by Sam Richardson, The Athletic

Previous post Heloise: Re-labeling clothes
Next post Olathe apparel shop brings design, sewing, printing in-house with shirts hitting store shelves soon