By David Owen
June 15 – It was a dream start for the host nation; but Thursday’s 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia in the opening match of Russia 2018 was also the perfect entrance for sports equipment group Adidas at the 21st FIFA World Cup.
The hammering of the Nike-clad Saudis by a surprisingly slick and energetic Russian team gets the German giant off to a storming start in the latest major tournament Battle of the Brands.
The three-stripe brand will be looking to build on its early edge in matchday 2 today, when no fewer than four of the six teams in action will line up in Adidas shirts. An all-Adidas clash in St Petersburg pitting Morocco against Iran will be sandwiched between the first Adidas versus Puma game of the tournament, featuring Egypt and Uruguay, and later another Adidas versus Nike match-up in the shape of a mouthwatering Iberian derby between Fernando Hierro’s on-the-ropes Spain and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, the European champions.
The overall battle will be dominated by Adidas and Nike, which between them supply 22 of the 32 teams who have fought their way through to Russia – Adidas 12 and Nike 10.
Puma has only four representatives, half as many as at Brazil 2014. Of the smaller brands, New Balance has the Central American contenders Panama and Costa Rica, one of the last World Cup’s surprise packages; Umbro has one of the hipsters’ favourites, Peru, attending the finals for the first time in 36 years; Uhlsport has Tunisia, Hummel Denmark and Errea Iceland, arguably the most improved international team of recent years and certainly one of the coolest.
While the last World Cup final was an all-Adidas affair, between Germany and Argentina, Nike, whose Russia 2018 teams include Brazil, France, Nigeria and England as well as Portugal, will have high hopes of turning the tables on Vladimir Putin’s terrain.
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