Ball problem means Brazil could struggle at Confederations Cup

A worker sets up an advertisement banner at the National Stadium ahead of the Confederations Cup in Brasilia, Brazil.
Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Hosts Brazil have had little chance to practice with the official ball being used at the Confederations Cup because the team has stuck with the ball produced by its main sponsor, Nike.

The Brazilian football federation denied Thursday that sponsors had played a role in determining how the team prepared for the eight-nation tournament. The players only started practicing with the ball produced by Nike's German rival Adidas on Tuesday, four days before it plays the opener against Japan in Brasilia.

The federation said the team was using Nike balls only because they were the match balls for recent friendlies that Brazil played against England and France.

"The players needed to get used to the Nike ball for those matches,'' Brazilian federation spokesman Rodrigo Paiva said. "Now they are practicing with the Adidas ball because it's the ball that they will use in this tournament.''

Now Brazil's players are racing against time to get used to the Adidas ball, which one Brazilian player said is going to cause problems for goalkeepers.

"For us, the strikers, this ball is wonderful,'' said striker Fred. "When you shoot, it swerves three different ways and then goes into the net. The goalkeepers will suffer with it for sure.''

Fred and the other Brazilian starters had their first practice with the Cafusa ball on Wednesday after only starting physical training the day before. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari set up some drills that allowed the players to get a better feel for the new ball.

"We paid special attention to crosses and shots on goal to try to get used to how to strike the ball well,'' Jean said.

Other players acknowledged that it is taking a bit of time to adapt to the lighter and livelier Adidas ball.

"They are different,'' defender Jean said. "This ball swerves a lot more than the one that we had been using. It's good that we started training with it because it makes a difference.''

Brazil had been using the Nike ball since it started preparing for the Confederations Cup two weeks ago. The ball was also used during the recent warm-up matches.

The goalkeepers were allowed to use the Adidas ball for a few minutes in some of the sessions, but only after starting No. 1 Julio Cesar expressed his concern to the coaches.

Julio Cesar made headlines in the 2010 World Cup after loudly criticizing the Jabulani Adidas ball, saying that it wasn't fair to goalkeepers. He made a mistake that played a part in Brazil's elimination to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, failing to clear a cross into the area and letting in a goal in the 2-1 loss to the Dutch.

"The last time I complained things didn't go our way, so I'm not going to talk about it this time,'' he said.

This is only the second time that a specifically designed ball has been launched for the so-called "Festival of Champions.'' Adidas also provides the official match ball for the World Cup.

Brazil will also play Mexico and Italy in Group A of the Confederations Cup. Spain, Uruguay, Tahiti and Nigeria are in Group B.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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