Once the World Cup draw is over, the plastic capsules containing the teams will be forgotten and only one ball will matter. That is the Brazuca, the official ball for next summer's World Cup that has been revealed by adidas.
This new ball is the most intensely tested football of all time, having been worked on for the last two and a half years, and used by more than 600 players across 10 countries. After round after round of field and lab tests it was secretly used in an international game to test its suitability, as everything possible was done to avoid the problems that afflicted the Jabulani ball at the 2010 World Cup.
A disguised version of the Brazuca was used for the friendly between Sweden and Argentina in February and then for the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey last June and July, and the feedback from the players was positive.
All of adidas's biggest ambassadors have tried and endorsed it – Lionel Messi, Steven Gerrard and Robin van Persie went to the company HQ in Herzogenaurach to do so – though adidas have made it clear that of the 280 player interviews they conducted, 30 per cent were with players contracted elsewhere.
There is some hope that this ball will not go the same way as the Jabulani, which was widely criticised, especially by goalkeepers, by the end of the last World Cup. Iker Casillas described it as "appalling" while Gianluigi Buffon said it was "very sad" that the World Cup was played "with such a horrible ball" that many said did not fly true through the air. This time Casillas and Spain compatriot Pepe Reina have been involved in testing and helping to ensure the ball meets the criteria of fairness, consistency and reliability.
This is a different ball from the Jabulani, after all. It is closer in development to the popular Champions League ball and the Tango ball used at Euro 2012. The main difference is that the Brazuca is made up of six panels, rather than the Jabulani's eight, as well as undergoing fine tuning of the ball's material. Underneath, it has the butyl bladder and PU-based foam that has been used before. At 437 grams it is a gram lighter than Jabulani – but two grams heavier than the 2006 Teamgeist ball, at the higher end of what Fifa guidelines stipulate.
It is being launched with some fanfare but when the tournament begins its makers must hope that the ball does not attract the same attention that the last one did.
Lionel Messi launches the adidas Brazuca, the official match ball of the Brazil 2014 Fifa World Cup, visit: www.adidas.com/lovemeorloseme
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