New World Cup football will unsettle goalkeepers, predicts scientist

Jun 07, 2006
Adidas's 'Teamgeist' World Cup ball
Adidas's 'Teamgeist' World Cup ball

The new football that will be used for the first time in the World Cup’s opening game today is likely to “bamboozle” goalkeepers at some stage of the tournament, a leading scientist has warned.

The ball, which has been used by teams competing in the World Cup in practice sessions, has already been criticised by England and Tottenham goalkeeper Paul Robinson for its light weight and unpredictable behaviour.

The unusual panel pattern of the Adidas’s Teamgeist football has just 14 panels, making its surface considerably smoother than conventional footballs which have 26 or 32 panel hexagon-based pattern.

This, says Dr Ken Bray, a sports scientists at the University of Bath and author of the new popular science book How to Score – Science and the Beautiful Game, will make the ball less aerodynamically stable, giving it a more unpredictable trajectory in flight.

“With a very low spin rate, which occasionally happens in football, the panel pattern can have a big influence on the trajectory of the ball and make it more unpredictable for a goalkeeper,” said Dr Bray.

“Because the Teamgeist ball has just 14 panels it is aerodynamically more similar to the baseball which only has two panels.

“In baseball, pitchers often throw a ’curve ball’ which is similar to a swerving free kick and the rotating seam disrupts the air flow around the ball in much the same way as a football does.

“Occasionally though, pitchers will throw a ’knuckleball’ which bobs about randomly in flight and is very disconcerting for batters.

“It happens because pitchers throw the ball with very little spin and as the ball rotates lazily in the air, the seam disrupts the air flow around the ball at certain points on the surface, causing an unpredictable deflection.

“With the world’s best players in Germany this summer, there are bound to be plenty of spectacular scoring free kicks.

“But watch the slow motion replays to spot the rare occasions where the ball produces little or no rotation and where goalkeepers will attempt to keep up with the ball’s chaotic flight path.”

Ken Bray’s The Football Scientist blog (which will contain analysis and commentary on the scientific aspects of the World Cup): http://footballscientist.blogspot.com

Source: University of Bath

Explore further: Math modeling handbook now available

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Football displays fractal dynamics

Mar 19, 2014

Football fascinates millions of fans, almost all of them unaware that the game is subject to the laws of physics. Despite their seemingly arbitrary decisions, players obey certain rules, as they constantly ...

How will the 2014 World Cup ball swerve?

Mar 05, 2014

There are now only a few months to go until the biggest sporting event of 2014 – the FIFA World Cup in Brazil – and questions are being asked. Will the stadiums be ready? Are the airports ready for the crowds? ...

Recommended for you

Not just the poor live hand-to-mouth

14 hours ago

When the economy hits the skids, government stimulus checks to the poor sometimes follow. Stimulus programs—such as those in 2001, 2008 and 2009—are designed to boost the economy quickly by getting cash ...

Math modeling handbook now available

17 hours ago

Math comes in handy for answering questions about a variety of topics, from calculating the cost-effectiveness of fuel sources and determining the best regions to build high-speed rail to predicting the spread ...

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

17 hours ago

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

Male-biased tweeting

19 hours ago

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Male-biased tweeting

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Not just the poor live hand-to-mouth

When the economy hits the skids, government stimulus checks to the poor sometimes follow. Stimulus programs—such as those in 2001, 2008 and 2009—are designed to boost the economy quickly by getting cash ...

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

Phase transiting to a new quantum universe

(Phys.org) —Recent insight and discovery of a new class of quantum transition opens the way for a whole new subfield of materials physics and quantum technologies.

Imaging turns a corner

(Phys.org) —Scientists have developed a new microscope which enables a dramatically improved view of biological cells.