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. James Rodriguez to be unveiled by Real Madrid on Tuesday, join club for U.S. tour

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:10 AM EDT

    Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates after scoring during the group C World Cup soccer match between Japan and Colombia at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) AP

    22-year-old will complete his $108 million move and be introduced at the Santiago Bernabéu.

  2. Swansea set to sign Sigurdsson, Montero, see Davies, Vorm leave for Tottenham

    Jul 21, 2014, 11:09 PM EDT

    Gylfi-Sigurdsson-Tottenham-vs-Watford_2811248

    A Davies-for-Sigurdsson swap and the purchase of the Ecudorian winger will give Garry Monk a glut of options in attacking midfield.

  3. Yaya Touré, David Silva named to Manchester City’s Champions Cup squad

    Jul 21, 2014, 10:04 PM EDT

    Toure Getty Images

    While six World Cup stars will miss the tour, the Citizens still bring a talented squad to the U.S.

  4. Xavi Hernández reportedly inching closer to New York City FC

    Jul 21, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA

    The Spanish midfielder is expected to return to Spain this week to finalize his departure from the club.

  5. ACL surgery ends Hendry Thomas’s season in Dallas

    Jul 21, 2014, 7:58 PM EDT

    hendry_thomas Getty Images

    Honduran midfielder will miss six to eight months.

  6. New report kicks off another round of Las Vegas expansion talk for MLS

    Jul 21, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    Las Vegas

    Group is pushing for a $160-$200 million venue, claiming to be on MLS’s “short list.”

  7. Gedion Zelalem getting his chance to impress with Arsenal’s first team

    Jul 21, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Galatasaray - Emirates Cup Getty Images

    The 17-year-old potential U.S. international played along side Aaron Ramsey and About Diaby on Saturday.

  8. PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Sporting Kansas City’s Benny Feilhaber

    Jul 21, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT

    sporting_kc Getty Images

    How does a player who snared four goals in two games miss out? Robbie Keane came up just short.

  9. Qatar/Russia World Cup bidding investigation delayed until September

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    interim logo interim logo

    The findings were due in late July, but will have to wait. Will Qatar and Russia hold onto their World Cup hosting duties?

  10. Report: Bayern Munich confirms Julian Green on first team for US trip

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    Julian Green AP

    Those in New Jersey and Portland could see a whole lot of Julian Green in the next couple weeks.

  11. VIDEO: Steven Gerrard’s top five goals for England

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    England midfielder Steven Gerrard attend Getty Images

    Relive five of Stevie G’s best goals over his 14-year England career.

  12. WATCH: Arsenal attempts New York accents; Flamini is really bad at it

    Jul 21, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT

    Arsenal will be without defensive stalwart, Mathieu Flamini, for Saturday's match against Liverpool. Getty Images

    An amusing video of NYC accents atop the US national anthem gives Arsenal a victory in viral video.

  13. Who should be England’s new captain? Here’s the top five contenders…

    Jul 21, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT

    England's Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the group D World Cup soccer match between Uruguay and England at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) AP

    Will Wazza take the armband from Stevie G? Not so fast, there are some other chaps to contemplate first…

  14. Liga MX wrap: Red cards a-plenty as road teams shine

    Jul 21, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Mexico Soccer AP

    No goals for Americans south of the border, but there was plenty of actions as the 2014 Apertura took its first steps.

  15. Sporting Kansas City declare themselves “greatest team in MLS”… Are they?

    Jul 21, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    sporting_kc Getty Images

    What makes an MLS franchise great? Who is the greatest? Is there a right or wrong answer?

  16. Report: Dunga to be named Brazil’s new manager

    Jul 21, 2014, 1:14 PM EDT

    Carlos Dunga

    Former World Cup winning captain to be handed the reins for second time in four years.

  17. Stuart Holden joins NBC crew to call midweek MLS clash

    Jul 21, 2014, 12:59 PM EDT

    Twitter.com/StuHolden Twitter.com/StuHolden

    “Football at Fenway” will have a fine follow-up, as American international Holden joins the doubleheader broadcast of San Jose and Chicago from Buck Shaw Stadium.

  18. Why would Chelsea want to re-sign Didier Drogba?

    Jul 21, 2014, 12:17 PM EDT

    Germany Soccer Champions League Final

    Will Drogba return to Stamford Bridge this summer?

  19. Juventus sign Patrice Evra from Manchester United

    Jul 21, 2014, 11:24 AM EDT

    Evra Getty Images

    Another veteran departs Old Trafford, as Evra signs for Juventus.

  20. Steven Gerrard retires from international soccer after glittering England career

    Jul 21, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT

    England and Liverpool skipper Gerrard is the finest midfielder of his generation Getty Images

    After 14 years playing for the Three Lions, Gerrard calls it quits.