Dec 13, 2013, 8:52 AM EDT
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.
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.
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.
Oct 19, 2014, 11:38 PM EDT
The Dutch midfielder scored off two ridiculous strikes to lead Galatasary over rivals Fenerbahce.
Oct 19, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT
The Sounders came from 2-0 down to steal a draw in Los Angeles at Landon Donovan’s final regular season home game.
Oct 19, 2014, 10:13 PM EDT
Werder Bremen became the first team without a shot in a Bundesliga game as Bayern continues to cruise.
Oct 19, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
The Argentinian forward is scoring goals at a blistering pace for Manchester City. Could he be the most lethal striker in Europe?
Oct 19, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT
Catch up on all of this weekend’s action from Spain and Italy’s top flights.
Oct 19, 2014, 7:07 PM EDT
After an ugly 8-0 thrashing at Southampton, Vito Mannone said he will try to pay back fans who travelled to the game.
Oct 19, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
The American international responded to Jurgen Klinsmann’s recent criticism of his return to the MLS.
Oct 19, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT
The private nature of Mackay’s texts may help him steer clear of FA charges.
Oct 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Bale did not play in Real Madrid’s match against Levante while nursing a muscle injury.
Oct 19, 2014, 3:35 PM EDT
12 players sent off, an ambulance called, and riot police on the field. That was the carnage from an ugly brawl in Argentinian soccer.
Oct 19, 2014, 2:56 PM EDT
The Swansea manager was furious following a soft penalty given for a foul on Victor Moses, suggesting his club has been hard done by referees plenty this season.
Oct 19, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT
Raheem Sterling faced criticism from the British media for his fitness, but he was also rumored to be wanted by Real Madrid. Ancelotti says don’t believe the rumors.
Oct 19, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT
The QPR manager loved what he saw on the field at Loftus Road despite the loss. Off the field is a different story.
Oct 19, 2014, 12:53 PM EDT
Jonathan Walters scored the winner off the bench as Stoke City grabbed a much-needed three points.
Oct 19, 2014, 12:26 PM EDT
Harry Redknapp was left flabbergasted after his side performed well but fell 3-2 after a bonkers last five minutes at Loftus Road.
Oct 19, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT
Rodgers, Gerrard know the Reds were fortunate to leave West London with all three points. But they’ll take it.
Oct 19, 2014, 10:58 AM EDT
Two teams who have dipped in form look to get back on track at the Britannia.
Oct 19, 2014, 10:32 AM EDT
Liverpool struggled through the first hour, but somehow earned the win in an absolutely wild finish.
Oct 19, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT
QPR’s wasteful finishing, Balotelli’s struggles and much more from a superb encounter at Loftus Road.
Oct 19, 2014, 9:41 AM EDT
Borussia Dortmund have lost five of their opening eight matches, putting them in 14th.
- MUST SEE: Wesley Sneijder scores two wonder goals 0
- Where does Sergio Aguero rank with the world’s best? 0
- Michael Bradley to Jurgen Klinsmann: ‘I have thick skin’ 0
- Stoke 2-1 Swansea: Substitutes pick up three points for the Potters 0
- Liverpool must improve, and they know it, despite late win at QPR 3
- VIDEO: QPR 2-3 Liverpool: Pair of own goals dooms QPR after insane final six minutes 1