What: The official ball of FIFA 2014
Technology: Six-panel assembly
The promise: Improved stability, aerodynamics
Story: Thanks to Adidas R&D, the official FIFA soccer ball represents a significant improvement over the classic 32-panel Buckminster model. Brazuca, the latest iteration, boasts a surface of six thermally bonded, windmill-shaped modules. The fewer the panels, the more curved the orb’s arc. Four years ago, players griped that Brazuca’s predecessor, the eight-panel Jabulani, had poor aerodynamics and was difficult to control.
Yet Brazuca, tested by 600 players over two and a half years, features more dimples and deeper seams, giving it lower drag and making it more stable. As a promotion leading up to the tournament, Adidas has also released the Brazucam, with six built-in cameras; to view such players as Spain’s Cristian Tello and Germany’s Manuel Neuer knocking it about during friendlies, check out the ball’s Twitter feed.
What: All-knit cleat
The promise: Exceptional fit, feel and control
Story: If it looks like a high-tech sock, that’s essentially what it is. The Magista makes the most of Flyknit, used on the shoe’s entire upper. Nike designed the boot to feel like an extension of the body and free up players to perform more “creatively.” Contributing to its seamless comfort are the Dynamic Fit Collar, which hugs the ankle; Brio cables, which knit a web between the eyelets and the outsole; and NikeSkin, a 0.1-millimetre coating that insulates against water and cold air. On the sole, conical studs and a Pebax and nylon plate provide 360‑degree rotational traction. To see if the shoe lives up to its hype at FIFA, watch France central defender Mamadou Sakho. Among those sporting the neon footwear, he says “it’s a true revolution.”
What: Jerseys, shorts and more
Technology: PWR ACTV
The promise: Muscle performance
Story: Lately, various athletes, including Serena Williams, have shown up at matches sporting strips of kinesiology tape on bare skin. Some scientists suggest these adhesives deliver nothing more than a placebo effect, while physical therapists believe taping can help alleviate muscle pain, relax muscles and offer a whole host of other benefits.
Now Puma has integrated compression materials and athletic taping directly into soccer apparel. In its slim-fit shirts, shorts and socks for such FIFA competitors as Chile, Ivory Coast and Algeria, it incorporates ACTV tape in strategic spots. The segments provide micro-massages and improve energy supply to active muscles. Italy’s captain, Gianluigi Buffon, whose teammate Mario Balotelli is shown here rocking the ensemble, says, “The technology will ensure that we are physically equipped to perform at our best.”