Adidas firmly stepped on Nike's ambitions in the soccer market, raising its forecast for 2012 sales of soccer equipment to a record of more than 1.6 billion euros ($2 billion) as fans rush to snap up boots and Euro 2012 replica shirts.

The German group was once the dominant force in the soccer sector but has faced increasing competition from Nike, the world's largest sporting goods company, which entered the market in 1994.

Adidas had previously forecast that sales in the soccer category would be above the 1.5 billion euros it achieved in 2010, boosted by the World Cup finals.

"Football is the heart and soul of our company and is what has made Adidas great," chief executive Herbert Hainer told journalists in Warsaw. "We have gained market share according to all the numbers I have."

Nike achieved soccer sales of $1.8 billion in 2011 and its market share is estimated at 36 percent, against 38 percent for Adidas.

Hainer also denied that Adidas, the world's second-largest sportswear manufacturer, would be interested in buying Umbro, the brand put up for sale by Nike last month.

"We are already the market leader in football; we do not need another brand," he said.

Adidas said that the Euro 2012 tournament, being held in Poland and Ukraine, had allowed it to regain market leadership in Poland, even though the Polish national team's shirts sport the "swoosh" logo of its U.S. rival.

Hainer said that was thanks to products such as the Adizero F50 boots worn by Argentina's Lionel Messi, the FIFA World Player of the Year, as well as its network of own retail stores across the country.


Among the Adidas soccer bestsellers are Germany replica shirts with more than one million of them finding their way into shoppers' bags already, making it the most popular European championships shirt the company has sold.

Fans are also snapping up replica match balls, with the group expecting to sell more than seven million this year, and soccer vice president Markus Baumann said the group was on course for record sales of boots, too.

Hainer said he was surprised by the popularity of the Germany retro-styled green away shirt and the Spanish shirt. "We have sold close to one million jerseys already and we know the economic situation in Spain is not the best," he said.

Of the six teams sporting Adidas's trademark three stripes at Euro 2012, only Spain, Germany and Greece have made it to the quarter-finals. Hainer, a keen soccer player as well as a fan, said he wanted a Spain-Germany final. "These two teams are still my favorites. It would be a great repetition of the 2008 final," he said.

Adidas made headlines earlier this week when it canceled the release of a sneaker model after a public outcry over plastic orange shackles attached to the heels.

Separately, a New York man sued a unit of Adidas, claiming he was misled about the potential fitness benefits of shoes designed to mimic the effect of running barefoot.

Adidas shares were down 0.8 percent at 58.55 euros by 8.38 a.m. EDT. ($1 = 0.7873 euro)

(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by David Goodman)