Jabulani, the name for the World Cup football, seems to be the word on everyone’s lips this morning. As day six of the tournament dawns the ball seems to be the biggest talking point so far. Goalkeepers had been complaining about the ball before the world cup even started and they have now been joined by more and more of the outfield players. Indeed football fans must be wondering what has happened to their once deadly strikers and midfield maestros as pass after pass goes astray and shot after shot goes ballooning over the bar or wide of the post.
After 14 matches have been played, 23 goals have been scored and if you take out Germany’s 4 goal haul against Australia the figures would be fairly bleak on the goal scoring front. Adidas who make the Jabulani ball say it is the most spherical ball that has ever been produced and this should help it to fly more accurately through the air. The makers have come out in defence of the ball saying it is the high altitudes that are causing the problems and not the ball. The only team that seemed to have any mastering of the ball so far were the Germans and with only 4 teams left to make their bow in the group stages we have seen most of the big guns as it were. The only exception to this is Spain who gets their campaign underway today with a match against Switzerland. It will be interesting to see how the Spanish perform using the Jabulani seeing as they are many people’s favourites for the tournament.
It is interesting to note that the Germany game took place at sea level and also that the Germans have used the ball in their domestic league for the last season. As far as I know other football associations had that opportunity but turned it down. The Germans could have given themselves a huge advantage by doing this and fair play to them if it has. England’s Fabio Capello was offered the chance of bringing his playing staff to a specially convened conference on the new ball but for some reason he turned it down, a decision that could come back to haunt him if England don’t do well.
The first round of group matches won’t be complete until today and it may be a little to early to judge the quality of football in the tournament as we will have to see how Germany perform if they have to play at high altitude and indeed how England play when they come down from their base which is 1,500 metres above sea level. The only problem for England is that if they win their group, their last 16 match will send them straight back to Rustenburg for that encounter with the runners up from group D, which at the moment doesn’t look like Germany. Hopefully all the teams can get to grips with Jabulani in the very near future and that the quality of the matches will improve because quite frankly it has probably been one of the worst starts to a World Cup Tournament that has been seen.
There is no great excitement in the matches. No cracking goals from 25 yards out although Ronaldo’s shot which crashed against the post would have been something special had it gone in. First round matches can be cagy affairs and when the second round matches start it will see teams having to make a decision as to whether they sit back and face the possibility of going out, or play a more attack minded game and ensure they are not facing a high pressure match where they have to get a result to go through. It all seems a lot to be placing on a piece of plastic that is filled with air and got the name Jambulani and was then sent to South Africa 2010 and then became the star of the show when in reality the star of the show should be the football that is played and not what the football is played with.