After a controversial ball design for the 2010 World Cup, adidas' 2014 creation, the Brazuca ball, is better suited for Brazil's climate according to researchers.
Players during the World Cup in South Africa complained about the makeup of the Jabulani, the ball specifically designed for the 2010 matches.
adidas unveiled the Brazuca ball in December 2013. The ball will be used for the 2014 World Cup, starting June 12. (Photo/adidas)
Each ball has a distinct speed that once hit, the path will no longer be predictable, even to the most seasoned player.
According to Adrian Kiratidis, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Adelaide in Australia, once the Jabulani reached a speed between 55 and 70 kph (34 and 43 mph), players would not have been able to determine the direction the ball would travel.
"This is why the complaints about 'beach ball' behavior were justified," said Kiratidis.
The Brazuca, the new ball, gives more reaction time as it loses control near the 35-55 kph (21-34 mph) range.
Kiratidis and his colleague, Derek Leinweber, have studied past world cup balls including the Jabulani and are working with the Brazuca. They perform state-of-the-art computer simulations of ball trajectory based on the latest wind tunnel data and an understanding of the physics of the airflow around the ball.
A simulation that compares the Brazuca flight path at sea level to the Brazuca flight path in Brasilia. (Credit/Adrian Kiratidis and Derek Leinweber, CSSM, University of Adelaide)
Altitude and temperature are other factors that can have an impact on a ball.
"Altitude is key from our point of view, as it changes the air density," said Derek Leinweber, a professor at the University of Adelaide. "It will affect the amount a spinning kick will bend, the final speed of the ball and the associated time to the net."
Stadiums for the 2014 World Cup are at a much lower altitude than those in South Africa. Leinweber explained that the air density will drop by 10 percent when traveling from one of the venues at sea level to Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, the venue with the highest elevation of 1,172 m (3,845 feet).
This means that the ball has a lesser chance of swerving unreliably.
The ball will also be affected by Brazil's warmth.
A 2011 study by researchers at Sheffiled Hallam University (UK) found that the higher the temperature, the less time a goalie had to react to an incoming ball. The time available to the goalkeeper was seven percent less at 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) than at zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).
"Temperatures will be pretty close to normal," AccuWeather Meteorologist Eric Leister said of Brazil's expected forecast. Average temperatures in the northern region are in the 20-26 degrees Celsius range (80-90 degrees Fahrenheit) and near 15 C (70s F) for the southern regions at this time of year.
adidas addressed potential weather concerns when designing the Brazuca to create a ball that is stable in all conditions.
"To replicate the unique climate of Brazil, adidas tested Brazuca in a variety of weather conditions, at different levels of elevation and on multiple field surfaces," Ernesto Bruce, Director of adidas Soccer said.
Venue to venue, climates will differ slightly and players will have to make adjustments.
The stadiums across Brazil offer less consistency than those across South Africa, so there is a need for the ball to be predictable in different settings.
"Here in Brazil, weather conditions vary even more," Leister said. "Even the temperature contrasts from one venue to another is greater than in South Africa."
Kiratidis is expecting the keepers to feel more comfortable with the Brazuca and strikers won't have to deal with such an erratic ball.
"I think the fans can expect to see an exciting world cup with a ball similar to ones the players are used to, in a climate that isn't extreme," he said.
South Africa was a good example of altitude variation extremes, Kiratidis explained. The extreme temperatures in Qatar, home of the 2022 cup, will also factor into the makeup of the next ball and how the players interact with it.
Brazil offers a more stable environment and combined with adidas' efforts to improve ball predictability, the 2014 World Cup is a "win-win situation" for Kiratidis.
"Players should be given ample opportunity to showcase their skills at this world cup," he said. "Given the ball is similar to what they are used to and this should make the world cup a very exciting one."
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