World Cup Ball – The 2018 World Cup ball revealed
The World Cup is nearly upon us, with fans from across the globe gearing up for what will be one of the most exciting and thrilling months of football. It’s the most prestigious event in the sport and a chance for heroes to be made and memories that will be remembered for a lifetime will occur. Given that, everything surrounding the World Cup comes with extra hype, excitement and anticipation. Whether it’s the kits, the squad announcements or the draw, anything concerning the World Cup is big news and just adds to the excitement as we wait for the first game.
One aspect that is equally as exciting is the World Cup ball, which have transformed from leather-bound pig’s bladder to the specifically designed, hi-tech, all-moving balls we have today. There have been several iconic designs over the years that will instantly take fans back to their childhoods as they ran around playing with the latest must-have, newly designed ball.
Here at OpenOdds we have decided to give you an in-depth look at how the balls used at the tournament have changed over the years, as well as giving you an insight into the new World Cup ball for 2018 Russia.
The early days
The first World Cup was held in Uruguay and there was official ball to be used in the tournament, however that didn’t prevent the ball from becoming a story. Argentina would play their South American rivals and hosts in the final of the competition and there was an argument about who would supply the match ball.
The visitors wanting to use their ‘Tiento’ that didn’t have laces, whereas Uruguay insisted on a ‘T-Model’ that did have laces and was heavier. Eventually, a compromise was reached, with Argentina’s match ball used in the first-half and Uruguay’s in the second. Interestingly, it seemed to make a difference too. Argentina were 2-1 up at half-time but ultimately it was the hosts who won the World Cup 4-2 in the end!
Four years later in Italy, which was under the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, they designed their own ball to be used at the tournament, known as the Federale 102. The notable feature was that the leather laces were replaced by cotton, which was softer for the players when heading the ball.
By 1938, we had our first branded match balls, courtesy of a French company called Allen. Their design didn’t differ too much from the Federale 102 but they did make the edges more rounded on the ball.
World War II meant the next World Cup wasn’t until 1950 and by that time big changes were going to be made to the match ball. An Argentinian company had ensured the ball could be inflated by a tiny valve with a pump so there were no longer laces on the ball, creating a closed sphere, similar to today. They had actually come up with this in 1930 and the ball, known as ‘Superball’ and the Duplo T model was used throughout the 1950 World Cup.
With the World Cup in Switzerland in 1954, a Swiss company, Kost Sport, were behind the ball used in the tournament. They adopted an 18-panel structure that is similar to the designs used for years to come. By this time, FIFA had brought back a ruling that prevented any branding on the ball.
Four years later, FIFA decided to run a competition when it came to supplying the official match ball for the tournament and as you would expect there was a lot of interest from manufacturers. Eventually, they decided to go with Top Star who had produced a ball with 24 panels.
This brought the first real controversy surrounding a match ball, the sort we have become accustomed to in recent years, with several nations complaining about the design. The Crack, as it was known, was made by a Chilean company, where the World Cup was held.
Their design contained 18 panels, yet they were all different shapes, with some sewed together and it clearly didn’t go down well with the countries participating. It also had a latex inflation valve that would be used in years to come. However, the complaints from the countries meant that the Top Star ball from Sweden ’58 was shipped over for the remainder of the tournament!
The World Cup that is fondly remembered by England fans and Geoff Hurst scored his crucial hat-trick in the final with the Challenge 4-Star from Slazenger. Once again, manufacturers would send the balls in and the chosen match ball contained 25 panels and was similar to the Top Star that had proven so popular. This was the first time that the balls were sent out to the countries in advance so they could get to grips with it.
Major developments as FIFA join up with Adidas
The most significant year for the World Cup match balls was 1970, which really was the beginning of the new designs and iconic balls that are still remembered to this day. That came about after FIFA agreed that sports brand Adidas would be behind the new designs for the World Cups, starting with Mexico ’70.
The ball used in 1970 remains one of the most popular around, known as the Telstar and it included a design template that is used to this day. It included 32 panels, 12 of which were black which made the ball easier to see for fans watching on black and white TV, whilst the players would also say it benefitted them. The name came from the Telstar satellite and the panels were said to have made the ball the most spherical ball used at a World Cup.
The success of the ball in ’70 meant that minimal changes were made four years later for the World Cup in Germany, where the Telstar Durlast was used. There were a few changes however, with the gold branding replaced by black and a polyurethane coating provided waterproofing and made the ball more resistant to scuffs and tears.
The Tango, named after a popular dance in Argentina who hosted the World Cup in ’78, remains one of the most popular balls ever produced. It’s known for the interconnected triangles that went around the ball which created a stylish look.
The Tango was incredibly well-received so it made sense that Adidas made little changes in Spain ’82, with the ball known as the Tango Espana. As always though, there were a few tweaks with Durlast coating no longer needed for water-resistance, whilst the seams were welded together as well as sewn.
As you will have realised, Adidas named the ball depending on the location of the World Cup, with the Azteca used for Mexico ’86. The abiding memory for England fans might be the ‘Hand of God’ and genius of Diego Maradona but it was also a big change for the match balls. This was the first ball used that wasn’t leather, instead made of synthetic materials in layers, whilst it was also hand-sewn. The advantage of the synthetic ball was obvious as it returned to its natural shape immediately and was also fully waterproof.
Italia ’90 saw Adidas create The Etrusco, another fully synthetic ball that had one layer of latex to help with its durability. The actual design included the heads of Etruscan Lions on the ball but the design was similar to the balls used over the recent tournaments.
USA ’94 saw the major signs of the impact that ball could have on the game. The Questra, as it was known, included a layer of polystyrene foam on the outside that made it easier to control and strike, whilst also faster in the air. The impact was clear with plenty of goals scored throughout the tournament and a lot more long-range strikes after what had been a very low-scoring Italia ’90.
The first colour used on a ball came in France ’98 with the Tricolore. It contained the same design as we had seen over the years but incorporated the red, white and blue for the host nation. That would just be the start when it came to Adidas bringing colour and more extravagant designs to their match balls. Again, they focused on making a few tweaks, with a ‘syntactic foam’ layer making the ball even softer, helping with the touch and speed even more.
The Fevernova used for Japan and South Korea in ’02 represented major changes for Adidas in both the visual and technical aspects. They had shelved the Tango look that had been so popular, opting for two bigger triangular patters that were red, green and gold, whilst the rest of the ball was a champagne colour instead of white. As well as that, this ball was met with criticism from many players due to how light it was, with legendary Italy keeper Gigi Buffon even dubbing it a ‘crazy bouncing ball’.
The Teamgeist in Germany ’06 was another that wasn’t well-received by goalkeepers due to the movement and swerve that could be generated on the ball, as we see today. The 14 panel design contained fewer seams which was proven to make the ball rounder and more consistent than ever before. It worked from the neutral’s perspective though, with several impressive long-range strikes scored in the tournament.
The Jabulani used in South Africa 2010 was undoubtedly the most controversial World Cup ball around. Adidas had made a bold decision to go with eight panels instead of the 14 used in Germany and it made an impact. The ball would move more than ever before in the air – a NASA study later confirmed that because of the smoother surface and it was not a popular decision with goalkeepers.
Brazil’s Julio Cesar compared it to a supermarket ball, whilst Iker Casillas and Buffon again were among the high-profile critics. As for how it looked, the Jabulani contained 11 colours in tribute to the 11 previous World Cup balls that had been supplied by Adidas.
Given the controversy surrounding the Jabulani, Adidas ensured that the Brazuca used in Brazil was the most-tested ball they had ever produced. Whilst this only had six polyurethane panels, they were bonded to keep the ball the same weight and roundness which helped.
Unlike previous years when the World Cup ball would be designed on the previous tournaments, Adidas based their design for the Brazuca based on the ball used in the 2013 Champions League final. Ultimately, there was little controversy about the Brazuca which proves that it was well received. As well as that, it has since been used in different leagues around the world.
What is the World Cup ball for 2018?
The Adidas World Cup ball 2018 is known as Telstar 18 and is inspired by the first ball they produced at a World Cup – the Telstar in 1970. Given that, it’s the first ball since USA ’94 that is predominantly black and white, with the logos gold.
Despite only having six panels, like the ball four years ago, the World Cup ball Telstar 18 includes them in a different shape that gives off the visual effect of being like the 32-panel ball that was used back in 1970. This is because they are not stitched together, instead seamlessly glued. As expected, the ball has been extensively tested in the build-up, with it used in certain youth tournaments and the players have already had a chance to see it.
However, once again it has come in for criticism with David De Gea, Pepe Reina and Marc-Andre ter Stegen among the keepers to express concern with how hard it is to handle for them. Nevertheless, that seems part and parcel of the build up to the World Cup and we don’t expect this to be a talking point when the game comes around. Adidas may have provided us with one of the best match balls of recent times with their nod back to 1970 and the Telstar should add to the excitement and fun of Russia 2018.