Italy reached the end of a couple of eras in 1998.
That summer’s World Cup marked the last time that the azzurri would be numbered in blocks according to position at a major finals, while the practice of wearing shirts without manufacturers’ logos also came to an end. While replicas had featured markings, the on-field garb remained sacred.
It’s something of a pity that the last kit to be free of advertising had a relatively short lifespan, as it was a beauty.
Produced by Nike, it was first seen in the pre-World Cup friendly against Paraguay, albeit with white socks. The default version would be used away to Sweden:
The blue-white-blue would be one of four kit formats used in five games at the World Cup in France. First up was all-white in the 2-2 draw against Chile, for whom Marcelo Salas scored twice in the 48th minute – first-half injury time and then shortly after the restart.
It was the only official outing for the white shirt, meaning we were denied seeing the crisp-looking white-blue-white in action.
Next up was a clash with Cameroon. Italy were the ‘home’ team but wore the Everton-esque blue-white-white against the yellow shirts, green shorts and red socks of the African side’s change kit.
Italy won that 3-0 and beat Austria 2-1 wearing their usual home kit to secure a space in the knockout stages. In both the last 16 against Norway and the quarter-finals against France, Italy wore all-blue against their opponents’ all-white (one of a number of combinations worn by France during the life of that kit).
Unfortunately for Italy, a penalty shootout loss to the hosts meant that their World Cup was over and their tenure with Nike didn’t have long to go, either.
They played Wales, Switzerland and Spain in the autumn and shortly before Christmas they took on a World XI in Rome to mark the centenary of the Italian federation.
The area where a maker’s logo would normally go instead featured commemorative text. However, the country’s next outing, against Norway in February 1999, would see them wearing a new Kappa kit, carrying that company’s branding.