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A definitive ranking of the 10 best jerseys at USA 94

Once again, Adidas were the dominant player in the market for the 15th Fifa World Cup.

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This article is a part of The42′s USA 94 Week, a special series of commemorative features to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1994 Fifa World Cup. To read more from the series, click here >

WE WERE SPOILED for choice when putting together the equivalent of this piece for the 1990 World Cup. A plethora of gorgeous garments were on show that summer in Italy.

Four years later, the selection wasn’t quite as impressive. By comparison, USA 94 was the difficult follow-up — the Be Here Now to Italia 90′s What’s The Story Morning Glory, failing to match the standards of its predecessor, although some decent material could be found if you were willing to look long and hard enough.

We’ve done just that, counting down the 10 best jerseys that graced the 1994 tournament, which was the first World Cup that required players’ names to be printed above the number on the back of their shirts, in addition to displaying squad numbers on the front. 

Disclaimer: The author of this article used a folded-up Subbuteo pitch as a bandana for Ireland’s opening game of the tournament against Italy, so The42 refuses to accept responsibility for his questionable judgement of fashion.

N.B. Only outfield jerseys have been considered for this ranking. All you hipsters out there are subsequently precluded from bemoaning the exclusion of your favourite Jorge Campos offering.

10. USA (away)

USA

PA-18449669 Source: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

We’re bringing the controversy with us straight out of the traps! The inclusion of this handsome/hideous faux-denim geansaí is bound to divide opinion, but let’s be honest: you can’t write an article about kits at USA 94 without mentioning this iconic one. A Google search will tell you that it has been included in multiple lists of both the best and worst jerseys ever to feature in the history of the World Cup.

Once again, Adidas were the dominant player at this tournament, providing kits for 10 of the 24 nations involved. Many of them followed similar patterns, but this one completely bucked any trends. 

Despite it being the USA’s away shirt, the host nation wore it in all three of their Group A games. They experienced good fortune in it too, advancing to the knockout stages where they were then eliminated by Brazil while wearing their red-and-white-striped home jersey.

Monstrosity or masterpiece? If for nothing other than originality, we’re going for the latter. One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

9. Ireland (home)

Screen Shot 2019-06-18 at 12.24.42

Ray Houghton Source: INPHO

Admittedly we’re leaving ourselves open to accusations of bias here, but this list would never have been complete without some Irish input. While our home shirt for the 1994 World Cup probably wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, its beauty has certainly been enhanced in hindsight by the connection to one of Irish football’s greatest triumphs.

Ireland, who have never lost a World Cup game while playing in green, shocked Italy in their opening match at Giants Stadium thanks to Ray Houghton’s 11th-minute lob of Gianluca Pagliuca. 

For their remaining three games at the tournament, Jack Charlton’s side played in their away strip. However, they very nearly wore it against the Italians too. In the tunnel before kick-off, Ireland emerged in white, only to discover that their opponents were wearing the same colour. A frantic 90 seconds followed as the players were required to perform an entire kit change before the game could get underway.

This was the last Adidas home shirt that Ireland wore before the FAI began a 23-year association with Umbro. 

8. Argentina (away)

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 21.11.33

PA-19145839 Source: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

Argentina rarely get it wrong when it comes to their home shirt, but the 1994 version was fairly disappointing. On the flipside, the away top was a very satisfactory alternative.

This jersey will forever be synonymous with Diego Maradona launching a rocket into the top corner against Greece, before roaring maniacally into a TV camera in celebration. It transpired to be the last goal El Diego ever scored for his country, as he was sent home a week later having failed a drug test.

Following the 4-0 win over Greece, Argentina reverted to their traditional home shirt for the remainder of the tournament, which ended prematurely –  by their standards — with a surprise 3-2 loss in the second round to Romania, who were inspired by ‘The Maradona of the Carpathians’ — Gheorghe Hagi.

7. Norway (away)

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 15.37.59

PA-96036 Source: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

This was the jersey worn by Norway as they recorded a 1-0 win over Mexico in what was their first game at a World Cup in 56 years. They stuck with it for their 1-0 defeat to Italy, before sporting their home shirt in a goalless draw with Ireland which wasn’t enough for them to advance to the knockout stages.

The same template was also used in the aforementioned Argentina away strip, but there’s sufficient distinction in the colours in each one to merit the inclusion of both, in our estimation (even though we’ll contradict ourselves on that front later).

A promising start to a campaign that ended in disappointment for the Norwegians, who had 10 Premier League players in their 22-man squad, including Nottingham Forest’s Lars Bohinen (pictured above).

6. Netherlands (home)

Netherlands

PA-148776 Source: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

Our first non-Adidas entry comes courtesy of Lotto, who also produced some excellent boots back in the day. There’s nothing spectacular about it, but this Dutch shirt is very smart and probably looks much better without the number on the front too.

Unfortunately it’s likely to bring back some painful memories for our readers, specifically those relating to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando on 4 July, 1994. Marc Overmars capitalised on sloppy Terry Phelan defending by setting up Dennis Bergkamp to give the Netherlands the lead against Ireland in their second-round encounter.

After beating Dick Advocaat’s side away from home in a warm-up game, Ireland were relatively confident going into this one. However, the men in orange sealed a 2-0 victory when Packie Bonner allowed Wim Jonk’s long-range effort to slip through his hands.

A Netherlands team that also included Ronald Koeman, Frank Rijkaard, Marc Overmars and the De Boer brothers made their exit at the quarter-final stage after a thrilling game against eventual champions Brazil, which ended in a 3-2 defeat.

5. Nigeria (away)

Nigeria

PA-94877 Source: Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport

Don’t be deterred by the fact that this was probably your bathroom wallpaper at some stage during the 1980s. As we’ve already proven by including USA’s bonkers away jersey, we’re partial to some outside-the-box thinking when it comes to designing football shirts. This one certainly fits the bill.

Despite losing 2-1 in their Group D game against Argentina, Nigeria went through to the knockout stages as a result of victories over Bulgaria and Greece, wearing this magnificent shirt in both games. A return to their home kit for the second-round meeting with Italy then culminated in elimination via a penalty shootout.

We’re told that this strip helped to inspire the distinctive Nike gear the Super Eagles sported at the 2018 World Cup, which boasted record sales among supporters before the tournament even began.

4. Brazil (home)

Brazil

Romario

A primarily yellow kit that also incorporates green, blue and white shouldn’t really work, yet the Brazilians always seem to pull it off. Being exceptionally good at the game itself probably doesn’t do them any harm in that regard.

Having won three World Cups in four attempts between 1958 and ’70, the Brazilians had been enduring a relatively long wait for their fourth title when they made the journey to the States. After progressing from a group that contained Sweden, Cameroon and Russia, they advanced to the final by getting the better of USA, Netherlands and the Swedes in the knockout rounds.

The Rose Bowl final against Italy wasn’t a classic, but after Roberto Baggio lifted his penalty over the crossbar in the shootout that followed a goalless draw, Brazil were crowned world champions again for the first time in 24 years. 

This is a m’Umbro top to act as the perfect accompaniment to your dhenims dubha.

3. Germany (home)

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PA-153470 Source: Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport

After taking top spot in our Italia 90 ranking, the Germans have to settle for a place in the top three this time. This jersey isn’t as iconic as the one they wore four years earlier, or even the strip from Euro 92, but it’s still a beauty.

It featured in the first game of the tournament, as Germany got the better of Bolivia at Soldier Field in Chicago. However, that occasion is probably best remembered for the comical penalty attempt from Diana Ross in the opening ceremony prior to kick-off.

Germany’s away shirt for the tournament followed the same design, but with green instead of white. They never actually wore their alternative strip in any of their five games at USA 94, which ended for them with an unexpected 2-1 quarter-final loss to Bulgaria. 

2. Italy (away)

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 22.13.21

inpho_00013760 Source: INPHO/Allsport

In this part of the world, we generally associate Diadora with Roy Keane’s boots, but they had a few other strings to their bow too. This Italy away kit for the 1994 World Cup was absolutely sublime.

It got its first outing at the tournament in the Azzurri’s opening game against Ireland. Even though he spent most of the evening hidden away in Paul McGrath’s pocket, we can assure you that Signor Baggio looked resplendent in the jersey.

It featured again in the second round as Arrigo Sacchi’s side continued their march to the final with an extra-time win against Nigeria.

1. Sweden (away)

swedia away 94-500x500

PA-21324646 (1) Source: Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport

Third place for Sweden at the 1994 World Cup, but first place in our ranking of the tournament’s best jerseys. Although the Adidas ‘World Cup’ template was also used by Romania, Bulgaria and Norway, we reckon it’s best represented by Sweden’s away kit.

Along with Brazil, the Swedes emerged from Group B, having debuted their delightful white away gear in their opening game against Cameroon, which ended in a 2-2 draw in front of over 93,00 spectators at the Rose Bowl. The strip had further outings in the quarter-final win over Romania and the semi-final defeat to the Brazilians.

Wear this Adidas classic to the next Ace of Base gig and you’ll really look the part.

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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