Innovation is a word that gets thrown around a lot in discussions about modern sports equipment. Soccer balls have changed a lot over the last 10 years, with adidas being the leader in producing new designs and new technologies for its premier match balls. All that work has led up to this, the release of the Brazuca, the most advanced ball ever to grace the World Cup.
Visually, the Brazuca is very distinctive. The ball features a white base, with hints of blue, orange and green making up a technicolour design. It's certainly the flashiest World Cup ball adidas has produced, and in terms of functionality, the graphics and patterns on the ball do a great job of allowing the players to easily spot how quickly and in which direction the ball is spinning.
The design of the Brazuca features an all-new six-panel design, with each panel roughly taking the shape of an X, with several different curves and corners. These panels are thermally bonded to each other, which not only allows the ball to look and feel almost seamless, but also aids in keeping off water. The panels themselves are made of polyurethane, offering a nice firm touch and great responsiveness, while the outside of the panels are finished with a fine, dimpled texture.
Adidas claims that the Brazuca is the most tested FIFA-approved ball ever and it really concentrated on every aspect of performance. In terms of feel, the Brazuca offers a nice, firm touch and also has a slightly above-average weight to it. With that being said, the ball is perfectly round and perfectly balanced, offering a great feel no matter what skill is being performed.
The flight speed of the Brazuca has been emphasised by adidas, and it takes just a few shots out on the pitch to notice how fast the ball travels through the air. If you enjoy shooting (and who doesn't?) the Brazuca is a dream. It's very responsive, and since there are only six panels, the entire ball is the sweet spot, offering the exact same response and feel every time you make contact.
It would be remiss not to mention adidas' much-maligned Jabulani match ball in 2010. The Jabulani received plenty of criticism from both players and consumers regarding the unpredictable flight patterns of the ball, but the Brazuca does not suffer from the same issue. The weight of the ball seems to keep it on a steady path -- depending on how it is hit, of course.
Priced at $160, it ain't cheap. But you are getting a ball that is designed to perform, and that it does. The last couple of adidas match balls haven't been all that, but the Brazuca is cutting edge in every way, and the players who use it this summer in Brazil are in for a real treat.
Joshua Vujovic is an editor for soccerreviewsforyou.com