Conspicuous by its absence this Euro 2012 has been collective whingeing about the ball, which marred the World Cup in 2010. Yes, the Adidas Jabulani was likely one of the worst footballs ever designed, and unfortunately the tournament in South Africa will always bear the mark of the ball that whizzed around like a drunk college kid doing donuts in the parking lot at Denny’s.
But the Jabulani ball was awful not just because it was awful, but because it became a touchstone for people who didn’t care much for football to start talking. “What’s with the ball? I heard some players don’t like it.” “Did he miss that shot because of the ball?” “I’m pretty sure this tournament is bad because of the ball.” And so forth.
The worse part of it was that these assertions were not untrue. For a ball that weighed almost nothing it all, it really was a giant piece of shit. It’s partly for that reason it’s bothered me that, until now, no one has been willing to put any praise on the current Adidas Tango 12, which, in addition to looking simultaneously nostalgic and forward-thinking, is also quite good. Enter Jonathan Wilson:
At the Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon this time round, the official ball was the Comoequa – essentially the same as a Tango 12 but with a different pattern. Like the Jabulani, it is an eight-panel ball, but it is controllable. In the Cup of Nations there were five goals scored direct from free-kicks. The crossing was better. The long-range shooting was better. The goalkeeping was better. That has carried on into this tournament. There may only have been one goal scored directly from a free-kick so far (which feels like an aberration) but the ability of players to control the ball has been seen in the quality of the crossing.
Wilson asserts the reason we’ve seen so many headed goals in Euro 2012 is because the crossing is that much more accurate. I realize Adidas or whomever else who “won” a contract to design a game ball has to have something to show for their efforts: fundamental changes to its physical properties should be off the list entirely. Stick with the Tango 12: sure, change the name, the design, whatever you need to do. But let’s keep the status quo, shall we?