Match-ball design is a science that tends to work against goalkeepers. That's been the case for a while, and shows no sign of abating: after Germany and Spain's draw on Friday, AS's Joaquín Maroto had the good journalistic instincts to ask David de Gea, Pepe Reina and Marc-André ter Stegen about the 2018 World Cup ball, and the trio were in complete agreement: It's difficult for keepers; it makes weird movements. Their complaints echo the gripes we've heard from plenty of stoppers who have come before them. To quote their two most illustrious recent predecessors, for example, Gianluigi Buffon branded the 2002 effort a "ridiculous kiddies' bouncing ball", and Iker Casillas described 2010's as a "beach ball".
Outfield players tend not to have so many complaints
Though not unheard of, outfield players usually have fewer complaints. After all, soccer's very essence makes the ball the keeper's foe, while those in front of them want it as their ally. And, in their continuous revamping of the ball, Adidas think more about those facing the posts than underneath them. Their goal is to produce a highly 'responsive' ball that rewards a clean strike and reacts consistently; one that doesn't change as the match progresses, be it through wear and tear, rain... They want to make it faster; they want passes to travel further and shots to reach the goal at greater speed. It isn't lighter, as some are saying; it can't be. Its weight is as the laws of the game set out. But it 'flies' better.
Keepers stand between football and goals...
For goalkeepers, it's back to square one every four years. Ubaldo Fillol, a World Cup winner with Argentina in 1978, is in no doubt: "As long as Fifa can [use the ball to] put keepers on the back foot," he said, "it'll continue to. It has done so for years." Custodians are expected to be quick about goal-kicks and use their feet when a team-mate under pressure plays them a pass, and have even come to be sent off for conceding penalties... They grumble that life is made harder and harder for them, that no-one thinks about them. And that's true: they stand between football and goals; and what both fans and Fifa want is goals. And so Adidas seeks to make the ball even more of a keeper's enemy than, by the nature of the game, it already is.