World Cup

Do England play better in red or white? Here’s the data

Posted by
Tom Victor
England World Cup 1966 Bobby Moore Geoff Hurst Bobby Charlton

England will wear all white against Croatia in the World Cup semi-final. Is this good or bad news?

Ahead of every major tournament, one question is on everyone’s lips.

No, not “Is it coming home?”, but rather “is the England football team better in red or white?”.

Manager Gareth Southgate isn’t one for superstitions, so he likely won’t be reading too much into the kit colour for the semi-final against Croatia, but England will wear all white against Zlatko Dalić’s team.

So, is that a good sign for the England football team?

Southgate’s squad have yet to wear all white at the 2018 World Cup.

They wore white shirts and blue shorts for the win against Panama and the defeat to Belgium, while the games against Tunisia, Colombia and Sweden saw England in all red.

England wore red shirts in their 1966 triumph, but also in their 2010 humbling by Germany in South Africa, so there are plenty of mixed messages going round. Additionally, they wore white for the victory over Wales and the defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016.

Fortunately, the BBC have crunched the numbers to see if there has been a notable difference in results based on the colour of the kit.


We’ve probably seen the last of ‘Indigo Blue’

Right, let’s look at the figures for the red kit first: that loss to Germany was the most recent in red, and England have played 17 times in the change colours since.

Red is a colour associated with intensity – at least that’s how adidas put it when unveiling the ball used in the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup – and the BBC notes that the colour “could make a team more confident as well as making opponents feel intimidated”.

However, England are the last team to win a World Cup final in red, while Germany (or West Germany) have lifted the trophy while wearing white on several occasions since.

Even Spain, who wore red shirts for their semi-final victory over the Germans in 2010, switched to dark blue for the final against the Netherlands.


But back to England. Since 1966, the Three Lions have won 51% of games when they’ve played in red, drawing 30% and losing 19%.

When wearing white shirts, the numbers are 57%, 24% and 18% respectively. So, based on the raw numbers, white has a better overall outcome, and from more matches (449 compared to 104) to boot.

There may well be a recency bias – England lost to Uruguay and Italy in 2014 when wearing white – but we should look beyond that.

In addition to the red against Germany in 2010, England wore red in their knockout defeat to West Germany in 1970, while they donned white shirts for knockout victories over Spain at Euro 96 and Ecuador at the World Cup 10 years later.

Put simply, it’s probably too close to call. Win or lose, it won’t be down to the shirts.

(Images: Getty)


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