Every time the World Cup comes around, there are a bevy of complaints about the futuristic new ball, and every time, the matches have played pretty much the same as they had before. So when the complaints came about adidas' Jabulani ball, I took them with a grain of salt.
That said, if there is any big story on the field of the first four days, it's the ball. The two big footballing stories are: poor goalkeeping, and poor long shots.
Five goals have been scored thanks to comedic goalkeeper errors, and all but one of them was a goal that either tied the match or gave one side the lead. Three crosses have been horribly misplayed: South Korea's first goal, Germany's second, and Italy's equalizer. Algeria's goalkeeper also totally misplayed a fairly average shot, and England's Robert Green let the American equalizer right through his hands. Although the ball isn't necessarily the chief factor for all of these goals (and certainly not in Green's case), these errors are starting to look like a pattern.
Still, goals, even scored from errors, aren't necessarily bad. The lack of accurate long-range shooting is bad, as those are often some of the most exciting goals in any soccer game. On the very first day, France's Yoann Gourcouff decided to test the waters with half a dozen long-range efforts, most all of which sailed well wide or over the net. He's not the only one, just the most prolific. The simply fact is that long range shots, either from free kicks or from the run of play, are coming nowhere near the goal.
It's a fairly small sample size of eleven games, but if these trends continue, then the relatively unexciting games so far may prove the rule, and not the exception. And the Jabulani ball will be the object that defines the 2010 World Cup, not the vuvuzela.
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The Adidas Jabulani is the official match ball for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The ball was unveiled in Cape Town, South Africa, on December 4, 2009. Jabulani means "rejoice" in Zulu, and was developed at Loughborough University, UK.
The ball was also used as the match ball of 2009 FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, and a special version of the ball, the Jabulani Angola, was the match ball of the 2010 African Cup of Nations. This ball was also used in the 2010 Clausura Tournament of Argentina as well as the 2010 MLS season in the USA in the league's colours of blue and green.