However, in Goff’s wind tests, he and his team noticed that the Telstar 18 had a little more resistance at high speeds, and predict that the ball will go about eight to nine percent less distance down the pitch on long kicks. This means that Manuel Neuer, the goalkeeper for Germany who was considered to be the x-factor that brought Germany the win in 2014, might not have quite as much of an impact clearing balls from the goal this time around Goff says. “You’d see him just kicking the ball way, way down the pitch, and [this World Cup] you might notice that some of those kicks aren’t quite as long as before,” Goff says.
Every four years there’s a new ball for the World Cup—and every four years players are unhappy with it. Maybe it’s too light and has too much lift, like the 2002 Fevernova. Or maybe it wobbles unexpectedly in the air, making it harder for goalies to predict its motion, like the 2006 Teamgist. Or maybe the ball suddenly changes speed, dropping out of the air and causing accidental handballs, like the 2010 Jabulani.
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“Had I seen the drag curve for Jabulani prior to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa I would have been calling FIFA and Adidas saying please don’t use this ball,” Goff says. The fact that the Jabulani became unpredictable and beach-ball-like during these long passes really helped Spain win in 2010, Goff says. The Spanish team relied almost entirely on short precise passes, without long kicks that became unstable with the Jabulani ball. “That was the perfect example of a team that really fit the style of play for that ball,” Goff says.