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Nike kick off World Cup shirt war with new Brazil kit

By Andrew Downie

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Nike launched a key battle in its war for shirt supremacy on Sunday when they unveiled the kit Brazil will wear to host the 2014 World Cup.

VfL Wolfsburg midfielder Luiz Gustavo appeared in Copacabana wearing the famous yellow shirt and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari warned Brazil's rivals the five-times champions aim to make an important alteration by winning the competition for a record sixth time.

"The shirt looks great, the only thing missing is a sixth star," Scolari said.

"We aim to have that on there after the World Cup."

The Brazil shirt is Nike's top selling international jersey and the company will do one billion dollars worth of business in the South American country this year, said their vice president of communications Charlie Brooks.

Nike expects Brazil to be its third largest market in the world by 2017, behind only the United States and China.

Sportswear rivals Nike and Adidas are battling over supremacy in the 5 billion-euros soccer kit market.

The two firms are virtually neck and neck in a market which the American company entered around 20 years ago.

The German company recently announced that it had extended its sponsorship agreement with FIFA to 2030, building on a partnership that dates back to 1970. The deal allows Adidas to supply match balls, kit for officials and volunteers and to advertise at World Cup venues.

Nike has a long-term deal with the Brazilian Football Confederation that has run since 1997. It also sponsors Neymar, the young Barcelona striker who will shoulder much of Brazil's expectation next year.

Nike is already celebrating an early victory in the kit war, as the supplier to 10 of the tournament finalists. Adidas and smaller German rival Puma each have deals with eight teams.

Yet the top four teams in the FIFA rankings - Spain, Germany, Argentina and Colombia - all wear Adidas.

(Additional reporting by Keith Weir; editing by Toby Davis)

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