Rejoice: another World Cup, another ball controversy

Michael Giberson

The World Cup is well underway, and with it another controversy over the new ball designed by Adidas for the tournament.  The Wikipedia page on the ball documents some of the complaints, as usual most of them from goalkeepers:

As with the Adidas Fevernova and Adidas Teamgeist at the two previous tournaments, the ball has received pre-tournament criticism, primarily from goalkeepers. Brazil goalkeeper Júlio César compared it to a “supermarket” ball that favored strikers and worked against goalkeepers. Other similar complaints came from Giampaolo Pazzini, Claudio Bravo and Iker Casillas. Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon said, “it is very sad that a competition so important as the world championship will be played with such an inadequate ball.” whilst Brazilian striker Luís Fabiano called the ball “supernatural”, as it unpredictably changed direction when travelling through the air.

The TeamGeist ball developed for the 2006 tournament was similarly criticized, mostly by goalies.  As it turned out, though, average goals score per match in the 2006 World Cup were down slightly compared to most previous World Cups.

It may be too early in the tournament to jump to conclusions, but across the first 15 games just 24 goals have been scored.  That pace averages to 1.6 goals per game so far, compared to 2.3 during the 2006 tournament, 2.51 in 2002, and the current record low of 2.21 goals per game in the 1990 World Cup tournament.  Again, it may be too early, but it certainly suggests the ball is no nightmare for goalkeepers.

For another data point, the MLS has been using the ball all season with little effect on goal scoring.  (Well, my favored DC United has seen it’s average goals per match drop from last season’s 1.43 to this season’s embarrassing 0.83, but I don’t think the ball is at fault.)  So far this year the MLS has seen an average of 2.5376 goals per match (93 games played), almost exactly equal to last season’s average of 2.5378 goals per match (225 games played).

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5 thoughts on “Rejoice: another World Cup, another ball controversy

  1. Soccer bores me witless. I did see articles in the Wall Street Journal indicating that, new ball vel non, this world cup is continuing the trend towards the 0-0 tie as the prototypical soccer game.

    Expect a Lot of Zeroes on the Scoreboard
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703389004575304993639569492.html

    In South Africa, Few Goals, Fewer Comebacks
    http://blogs.wsj.com/dailyfix/2010/06/14/in-south-africa-few-goals-fewer-comebacks/

    The Fading Art of Goal Scoring
    More Teams Favor Ball-Possession Experts Over Pure Shooters; ‘Like Dinosaurs’
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704324304575306532213696808.html

  2. I don’t think the reason is the ball (for the low scores overall), because many of the goal-keepers don’t seem to have a problem (South Korea, Suisse, Germany amongst others). I think the low scores is due to the really bad creative play (and meta-strategy) of most favored teams (France, Netherlands, England, Spain).

    Germany was a good exception to the rule, but they only had a weak opponent (Australia). What I have seen so far from the world cup (about 70 % of the games), it was mostly good defensive work with superior rigor (just look at the North Koreans) and discipline and a lackluster offensive all around. However, the later games promise to be better as Argentina demonstrated today.

    I also believe the ball is good and sometimes it might be the height difference of the different stadiums, the overall “crowd” sound and the winter conditions that prevent better play in some games.

  3. Did any of you see David Villa’s scoring for Spain against Portugal? Wow! In the 63rd minute, no less!

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