Skip to content

Behind the Brazuca: NBC’s extensive research hints less “knuckle-ball” in Brazil, NASA agrees

Dec 13, 2013, 8:52 AM EDT

Brazuca

After our extensive research it seems as though we can at least guarantee one thing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil… a better soccer ball to play with.

Cast your minds back to the 2010 World Cup and the debacle that was the Jabulani ball which swerved and dipped all over the place to resemble a beach ball, rather than the ball of choice for the worlds most prestigious soccer tournament.

But fear not, the Brazuca — which was unveiled by FIFA last week before the 2014 World Cup draw — won’t be a distant relative to the Jabualni. It will be, well, more normal. I’m sure goalkeepers of all 32 nations who’ve qualified are now breathing a huge sigh of relief.

For all the details on the new ball, we share with you the incredible in-depth study from Ben Popken for the Consumer News at NBC Business. Ben takes up the story as a Japanese University and NASA break down the science behind the ball, which will be kicked around to either crush or ignite the dreams of billions of soccer fans across the globe next summer.

Over to you, Ben.

The Jabulani curse is lifted.

Any knuckleballs at the 2014 World Cup should be mostly intentional, according to new independent wind tunnel results by Japanese university researchers.

The researcher’s data shows the new Adidas-designed Brazuca matchball for the 2014 World Cup is less likely to swerve at goal strike speeds, meaning there shouldn’t be a repeat of the maddeningly erratic balls at the 2010 World Cup. During those games, goalkeepers and outfield players alike accused the Jabulani matchball, with its glossier texture, asymmetrical panels, and shorter panel bonds, for voodoo shots and an early tournament goal drought.

At the University of Tsukuba in Japan, sports engineering researchers mounted soccerballs in a wind tunnel, blasted them with air, and measured what happened.

source:

After undergoing extensive testing in labs, the “knuckle-ball” will be much less than we experienced with the Jubulani. (NBC News)

Now, in aerodynamics, for every surface there’s an airspeed at which the air flowing over it switches from smooth to turbulent, what’s called the “critical Reynolds number,” and can lead to the sudden veering in flight known as “knuckle-ball.” But in the tests the Jabulani’s occurred at higher speeds than the mid-30’s mph seen on older balls.

In fact, it happened at 53 mph, right in the 50-60 mph range professional goal strikes and corners start at.

That could explain a few things that happened in South Africa.

This time around, those strikes should power through the knuckle-ball effect. In the wind tunnel tests, the Brazuca’s critical Reynolds number occurred at 38 mph.

Those results are more comparable to the Tango 12 ball, itself a player favorite and one of the balls on which Adidas based the design for the Brazuca.

“The asymmetry of ball panel location is one of the reasons to produce knuckling effect,” said Dr. Takeshi Asai of the University of Tsukuba’s Institute of Health and Sports Science. “Ordinarily, the asymmetry of ball panel increases, as the ball panel number decreases.”

That means the Brazuca’s six interlocking boomerang panels, fewer than the Jabulani’s eight, both of which are fewer than the classic 32 pentagon and hexagon panels, could normally pose a problem.

“However, the total distance of the panel bonds or seams of the Brazuca is longer than that of Jabulani,” said Aasai, 10.89 feet worth compared to the Jabulani’s 6.49. “Therefore, I think the strength of the knuckling effect may be slightly lower than that of Jabulani.”

A NASA researcher agrees.

source:

Click to enlarge: Here’s the findings which shows how the Brazuca will perform (NBC News)

Rabi Mehta, Branch Chief at NASA Ames Research Center and an aerodynamics expert who previously evaluated the Jabulani, has examined close up photos of the new ball. He thinks the Brazuca will gain stability over the Jabulani from its longer seams, identical interlocking panels, and a surface that features a slightly raised texture similar to a basketball’s.

“My theory is that the effective roughness compared to the previous ball is increased, which means the speed at which it knuckles is lower,” said Mehta.

That’s good news for Adidas, which has spent years making sure the Brazuca isn’t Jabulani part 2. They kicked the ball over and over with a robot leg and measured its flight, interviewed hundreds of professional players, a third of which were non-Adidas sponsored, and even snuck the Brazuca in as the matchball for the U20 World Cup.

“While we can’t comment on independent research, we can say that Brazuca is our most tested ball ever,” said Adidas spokeswoman Lauren Lamkin. “We conducted two-and-a-half years of testing in 10 countries across three continents involving more than 600 players and 26 teams to ensure that Brazuca exceeds all performance standards.”

However, she said, “It is correct that the seam geometry aids in flight stabilization.”

Hopefully, all this science leads to surer shots and more exciting gameplay in Brazil come this June. If not, at least it will be harder to blame the ball for it.

Latest Posts
  1. Who’s in across Europe? Glancing at the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League

    Apr 23, 2014, 12:11 PM EDT

    Portugal Soccer AP

    Some slots are firm, while there’s plenty to be settled in the next few weeks. Let’s take a look at whose guaranteed to make the group stage

  2. Landon Donovan praises David Moyes, says he’d be welcome in MLS

    Apr 23, 2014, 11:41 AM EDT

    Donovan-Moyes

    Speaking with Sports Illustrated’s SI Now, Donovan spent some time lauding David Moyes and lamenting his dismissal from Manchester United.

  3. WATCH: Rafa Marquez’s latest blatant, unnecessary attempt to injure

    Apr 23, 2014, 10:52 AM EDT

    Rafa Marquez AP

    He’s simply one of the worst that’s ever played.

  4. Newcastle veteran Ameobi takes shot at club’s transfer failings

    Apr 23, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT

    Newcastle United v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Shola Ameobi has played a lot of roles during his time at Newcastle; His latest role is vocal critic of the club’s transfer practices.

  5. Jermaine Jones’ tattoo will have opponents seeing stars (and stripes)

    Apr 23, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT

    Jermaine Jones 2

    The USMNT midfielder posted this shot to his Instagram account on Tuesday, proclaiming his new stars and stripes knee tattoo complete.

  6. Liverpool’s Ayre to spend this summer: “It will cost what it costs”

    Apr 23, 2014, 8:48 AM EDT

    Leaders in Sport Getty Images

    The Champions League will make Liverpool more attractive, says its managing director, and the club will spend money to fortify its team.

  7. Manchester United adds another Class of ’92 member to training pitch

    Apr 23, 2014, 8:04 AM EDT

    Manchester United v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League Getty Images

    Paul Scholes joined former teammates Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt as Manchester United prepared for this week’s match vs Norwich

  8. Barcelona’s transfer ban suspended by FIFA, should allow club to make summer moves

    Apr 23, 2014, 7:32 AM EDT

    Neymar Getty Images

    This is a massive break for the Blaugranas and will no doubt be met with consternation by its rivals.

  9. Champions League preview: Defending champion Bayern Munich looks to end Real Madrid quest for 10th title

    Apr 23, 2014, 6:12 AM EDT

    Czech Republic Soccer Super Cup AP

    Bayern is two steps away from back-to-back titles. Real Madrid’s the same distance from its decima.

  10. Alex Ferguson backed David Moyes’ firing, will help select a successor

    Apr 22, 2014, 10:31 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer League Cup AP

    Ferguson has kept quiet during the club’s latest transition, but according to reporting Tuesday night, he’ll play a part in finding David Moyes’ replacement.

  11. Mourinho ready to turn Chelsea’s back on Premier League

    Apr 22, 2014, 9:14 PM EDT

    jose_mourinho AP

    With injuries forcing his hand, the Blues’ boss wants to concentrate on Champions League.

  12. ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Team of the Week – Week 7

    Apr 22, 2014, 7:51 PM EDT

    2013 MLS Cup - Real Salt Lake v Sporting Kansas City Getty Images

    They only took one point from Vancouver, but LA Galaxy won three spots in this week’s Best XI.

  13. Chelsea suffer season-ending injuries, suspensions as old guard evaporates

    Apr 22, 2014, 6:28 PM EDT

    john_terry AP

    Chelsea boss has a big job on his hands ahead of the second leg:

  14. Five moments that defined Chelsea’s Champions League trip to Atlético Madrid

    Apr 22, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

    diego AP

    Mourinho’s approach; Lampard’s card; and the Blues’ two big injuries.

  15. Three things we learned from Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea

    Apr 22, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT

    Spain Soccer Champions League AP

    Chelsea do a job on Atleti, as everything’s up for grabs in the second leg:

  16. Champions League: Chelsea plays to type, holds Atlético Madrid to 0-0 draw in leg one

    Apr 22, 2014, 4:47 PM EDT

    juanfran_willian AP

    Evoking memories of their 2012 championship run, the Blues played out a scoreless draw in leg one.

  17. PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Nick Rimando

    Apr 22, 2014, 4:06 PM EDT

    nick_rimando Getty Images

    He missed out on our award in Week One. Six weeks later, those no denying the RSL number one.

  18. The Manchester United Supporters Trust really really hates the Glazers

    Apr 22, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT

    David Moyes' United side have a mountain to climb after being torn apart by Olympiakos. Getty Images

    Excepting Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United Supporters Trust is really not fond of any higher-up at the club right now.

  19. Lineups out for Atletico Madrid and Chelsea; Fernando Torres up-top

    Apr 22, 2014, 1:56 PM EDT

    Chelsea's Fernando Torres celebrates scoring a goal against Manchester City during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London Reuters

    The lineups are out for Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea in Spain.

  20. Report: Giggs won’t be considered as permanent Manchester United boss

    Apr 22, 2014, 12:58 PM EDT

    Ryan Giggs, Markel Bergara AP

    As much as he loves the club, perhaps even Giggs knows he’s not completely ready for the gig.

Featured video

FIRED: Where David Moyes went wrong