If we look back on the previous FIFA World Cup editions, we would see that the World Cup had some cracking official match balls in different years. The official World Cup match balls have undergone a radical transformation since the Uruguay World Cup back in 1930, the first edition of this grandest event.
After years of transformation, World Cup balls are currently smarter, rounder, lighter, softer, certainly more technological, laboratories-tested, and proven.
1930 to 2019 Women’s world cup, FIFA has used 32 match balls, but which one is the best among them?
With that note, we’re here to sort out and make a list of the 10 best FIFA World Cup balls.
#10. Etrusco Unico (Italy 1990)
The Italy 1990 World Cup followed the trend of showing homage to the host nation and named the match official ball “Etrusco”. The name originated from the Etruscans which was a civilization of ancient Italy. Just like the name, the intricate design of the ball was also inspired by the fine arts of Etruscans.
Despite being manufactured with a sturdy inner bladder, the ball’s design was a bit underwhelming. It was the first-ever Tango-styled soccer ball that included a single layer of black Polyurethane (PU) foam along with Etruscan lion heads decorating each of the 20 Tango triads.
The ball was also used in the 1991 Copa America in Chile, 1992 UEFA Euro, and Spain Summer Olympics in 1992.
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#9. Telstar 18 (Russia 2018)
Telstar 18, the official match ball of the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup, was a development of the traditional Telstar, Adidas’s first-ever supplied official World Cup ball in the 1970 World Cup. Also, it was the first ball since 1994 which came with predominantly black and white patterns.
Unlike Telstar’s 32 panels, Telstar 18 had six only which were textured and perfectly glued together. the black hexagons smartly fading away into the grey pixels gave a gradient, mosaic effect. After having a series of extensive tests in the Adidas laboratory and being played in many youth competitions, the ball was picked for the World Cup.
Despite all of these, the ball still drew criticisms, especially from the Goalkeepers as they faced more difficulties while gripping it. David de Gea, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and Pepe Reina were some of the big names among them.
#8. Tricolore (France 1998)
The first time Adidas introduced a World Cup Ball with a multi-colored design was in 1998 when Tricolore debuted. As the name suggests, the ball had a design with red, white, and blue flairs just like the host country France’s flag.
While focusing on the introduction of color, Tricolore didn’t compromise with the design quality at all. It used syntactic foam to build the ball which gave it not only a better compression but also higher rebound characteristics. Also, to ensure better control of the ball and make it even more responsive, gas-filled micro-bubbles were used in the syntactic foam which evenly distributed the overall impact on the ball.
Despite all these, the colors were the highlights of the ball, just like what FIFA intended.
#7. Tango (Argentina 1978)
Tango, the official ball for the 1978 Argentina World Cup was named after their traditional Tango dance. FIFA was initially unsure about the ball’s quality and had doubts over its global reach. They even had their backup plan ready as numbers of ‘Telstar 1978’ were produced besides Tango. But Tango eventually turned the table and ended up being one of the most famous, globally reached, and iconic World Cup balls ever.
Tango used an all-white base instead of Telstar’s black panels and the base was further filled with circularly arranged black triangular patterns. The ball was made of real leather with a waterproof shiny coating. The interlocking tread design of this stylist ball creates seven circles in its overall spherical region. Due to its elegant and nicely-built design, the Tango was one of the most recognizable and most sold balls the World Cup has ever experienced.
#6. Azteca (Mexico 1986)
Tango was used again in the 1982 Spain World Cup, but in the following edition of the 1986 Mexico Cup, FIFA started designing official tournament balls for the specific host country. Aztec, the match ball for the 1986 World Cup, originated from the world-famous Mexican ancient Aztec empire. It also became the first tournament ball where the design was inspired by the host country’s Aztec murals and architecture. The intricate design of the ball successfully captured the brilliant Mexican heritages.
But more importantly, Azteca was the first synthetic ball to be used at a World Cup and that’s how World Cup bade goodbyes to the heavier football days of leather balls. Synthetic balls can easily turn to their actual shape and also provide more durability. The ball also used the rain-thwarting polyurethane (PU) coating for the first time as well. Azteca got a massive leave forward with its finest performance on the ground, at higher altitudes, and also on a wet pitch.
#5. Jabulani (South Africa 2010)
The first-ever World Cup arranged on African soil was criticized for many things, and Jabulani was also one of them. Undoubtedly, this 2010 Official World Cup match ball was one of the most gorgeous looking and aesthetically prettier balls the World Cup has ever encountered, but there were many arguments over this item as well.
Adidas originally had the plan to design a ball that was even rounder than earlier balls, and they decided to decrease the number of panels on the ball to do so. Consequently, Jabulani was manufactured with just 8 panels on it, rather than having 14. Adidas also used modern high-tech 3D panels and “grip and groove” technology to make the ball the most comfortable and players-friendly one.
Despite all such efforts, footballers complained about the extremely unpredictable trajectory of the ball which caused more trouble for the goalkeepers. The ball was not only causing the aerodynamic disasters but also was allegedly responsible for erratic passing or shooting. Although, Adidas denied such accusations from the very beginning as the ball was lab-tested and even certified by NASA! Rather NASA declared that Jabulani knuckles at a higher speed due to the smoother surface and fewer seams which basically left the doubters with no ground.
#4. Fevernova (South Korea & Japan 2002)
As for the first time the FIFA World Cup headed towards Asia, Adidas decided to break their 20-year long old tradition of linked triangular patterns on the tournament ball and started doing an experiment with Fevernova, the 2002 official FIFA World Cup match ball. The ball got rid of the traditional Tango look for newer and larger golden, green, and red colored triangular patterns of four hexagons. The revolutionary and colorful theme of the ball was completely based on Asian cultural varieties.
Fevernova was 3-mm thick as the ball was composed of 11 layers, including a special foam layer filled with gas balloons. The external cover of the ball was built with a combination of rubber and polyurethane material. According to Adidas’s statement, they used the advanced syntactic foam layer to ensure a more accurate flight path. But the ball felt way lighter than usual and many footballers complained about the unusual longer flight of the ball. For example, Buffon called the ball “a ridiculous bouncing ball’. Despite such flight issues, the ball was a memorable one.
#3. Telstar (Mexico 1970)
The Mexico 1970 was a historic World Cup as it was the first time the soccer world experienced the official tournament ball for the first time in this tournament edition. The first-ever World Cup official match ball was known as the ‘Telstar’. It came up with the black and white panels to improve television visibility while being live broadcast worldwide.
The 32-panel design of the ‘Telstar’ was based on the work of former Danish Goalkeeper, Eigil Nielson. The introduction of Telstar truly changed the global image of football forever. This was the first ball that featured a pentagonal or hexagonal design, which is currently recognized by the worldwide football community.
There were some bugs in the first iteration as well. It didn’t include any Duralast waterproofing system and the golden marked lettering looked a bit dodgy. Despite these minor flaws, Telstar was an iconic ball in the history of the soccer World Cup and FIFA decided to latch on to the ball. They eventually took it global.
#2. Brazuca (Brazil 2014)
After having some bad experiences with the Jabulani in the 2010 Africa World Cup, FIFA decided to go with a newly developed ball, Brazuca which was “the most tested ball ever”, as per Adidas’s claim. The word came from a local Brazilian slang that describes “national pride in the Brazilian way of life” according to FIFA’s sources. The ball featured multi-colored ribbons that imitated famous Brazilian “wish bands”. The multiple colors on the ball also featured Brazilian fans and fit along with the vibrant tournament.
Brazuca once again came with decreased number of panels. The reduction to the 6 panels ensured better consistency of the ball and provided better players flexibility. The polyurethane panels were thermally-bonded and provided long, deep, visible seams like the traditional hand-stitched balls. This feature enabled Brazuca to fly without causing any boomerang just like its predecessor Jabulani and other balls. The panels also kept the ball water-resistant and the latex-made bladder provided better rebounding than many other balls.
Before finally selecting the ball, it went through extensive testing by the individual players, different teams, and national associations. Adidas also sent its versions in certain league matches under disguise form to receive players’ and teams’ feedback. Brazuca was the first-ever FIFA official ball that was named after a public vote where more than one million Brazilian fans voted. Having a night blue colored textured on the bold white base, it’s Brazuca which was the most colorful ball that’s ever used in this Mega event.
#1 Teamgeist (Germany 2006)
“Teamgeist” was the official match ball for the 2006 World Cup, Germany’s second goes at hosting this summer tournament. The German word ‘Teamgeist’ means team spirit, and it was taken by FIFA to show honor to the host nation’s tradition of cooperative national strength over individual excellence. Although Germany 2006 got famous for Zidane’s headbutt on Materazzi’s chest in the final which cost France lose the title, the official ball was an incredibly successful one that missed the major highlight in the end.
This was the first time since the introduction of the World Cup match ball in 1970, Adidas went to vary from the 32 panels and went for 14 curved panels on Teamgeist. Moreover, these panels were bonded rather than just stitched together. This resulted in making the ball rounder, lighter, more consistent, and even water-resistant. The sleek and shiny ball was also an eye-catchy one as well. It successfully overshadowed the traditional earlier match ball.
Teamgeist was black-and-white printed accompanied by the traditional colors of the German soccer team jersey. The ball allowed players to improve their accuracy, flair style, and ball controlling ability significantly as it successfully reduced the three-panel touchpoints up to a level of 60%, and also the panel lines length got decreased by a margin of 15%, thus allowing the players enjoy more flexibility and uniform movement while playing with the ball regardless of the points of impact.
Despite some complaints regarding the ‘knuckleball effect’ of the ball while being airborne, Teamgeist is the best performance-oriented ball among them all. Adidas produced an exclusive gold version for the finale, ‘Teamgeist Berlin’.
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