The Ball From Beyond

Brazil’s football team out of the flight for the World Cup.  But was it because of their feet or the Ball?
Rahman Mohamed

As Brazil battled Germany today for a spot in the final, people around the world were watching the ball, wondering where it would fly.  Halfway through the first half Germany took the lead 5-nil and scored 2 in the second to end the game 7-1.  Germans say it was because of the talent of their players.  Brazilians say because Neymar was out with fractured vertebra and their captain was suspended for receiving two yellow cards in two games.  But there are rumours circulating that it was all because of the ball.

According to NASA the ball used in the last World Cup,

the Jabulani, was described as sometimes demonstrating “supernatural” movements. It was beloved by strikers but hated by goalkeepers because, when kicked with little or no spin, the ball “knuckled,” giving strikers a greater chance of scoring.

To combat this, with the help of NASA engineers, Adidas created the Brazuca ball.

The Brazuca ball in a wind tunnel at Ames with lasers and smoke making air flow visible (Courtesy of NASA, 8 July 2014)

Aerodynamics is the study of how liquids and air flow around an object.  Studying balls’ movements in sports makes up a large part of aerodynamics.  The only difference between a curveball, fastball, slider, or knuckleball in baseball is how the pitcher makes the ball spin in relation to its stitches, how the ball makes air around it move.

The standard traditional football (aka soccer ball) has 32 panels.  The Jabulani only has 8.

After a bit of tweaking the Brazuca only has 6.  The seams are longer and deeper too.  And the panels are covered with tiny bumps to make the ball more aerodynamic (like the golf ball that can get a hole in one).

But has it really worked?

In South Africa, 2010, 145 goals were scored, slightly lower that the highest scoring FIFA World Cup, France 1998, 171 in the net.  In Brazil 136 goals were scored in the Group Stage alone.  Not including today’s Germany-Brazil, the total comes to 159.

Many wonder now, will the finals see the number of goals scored in Brazil shoot to the stars?

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