Sunday, 15 June 2014

Pakistani Brazuca has better aerodynamics than Jabulani: NASA

LOS ANGELES: The official 2014 World Cup game ball, the Pakistan-built Brazuca, has better aerodynamics than the 2010 version, the Jabulani, NASA said after conducting tests.
Players complained the official Jabulani ball from four years ago was too unpredictable – a result of the almost perfectly smooth design, which meant that the airflow over the ball pulled it in unpredictable directions.
Although some strikers were able to take advantage of the trait, the erratic trajectory drew complaints from goalkeepers who had trouble gauging where to block.
With memories of 2010 still fresh, Adidas – which designed and manufactured both balls – worked to create a more predictable piece of sports equipment this time around with the ball being produced in Pakistan.
“Adidas spent two and a half years developing and refining the ball, making it the most tested ball we have ever created,” the company wrote in a product description posted on the FIFA website, where the balls sell for $160 each.
“The Brazuca uses a groundbreaking six-panel design, which improves symmetry, uniformity and efficiency,” it said, adding that the “evolutionary panel shape creates flight speed and enhances roundness.”
The seams around the panels are deeper in the Brazuca than in the 2010 ball, NASA said, and the panels are covered in tiny bumps – all designed to direct the airflow around the ball to help it move faster and straighter.
“There is a thin layer of air that forms near the ball’s surface called the boundary layer, and it is the state and behavior of that layer that is critical to the performance of the ball,” explained Rabi Mehta, chief of the Experimental Aero-Physics Branch at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.
The tiny bumps and deep seams disturb that layer of air, Mehta said, which reduce the low-pressure wake behind a ball that slows it down.
He demonstrated the effect in a wind tunnel in the lab, releasing laser-highlighted smoke over the ball at different wind speeds to demonstrate the flow patterns.
“What we are looking for in the smoke patterns is at what speed the smoke patterns suddenly change,” remarked Mehta.
For the 2014 ball, that effect happens at speeds of around 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour – and is much less noticeable at 50 to 55 miles per hour, the typical kick speed of a World Cup player.
The reverse was true of the 2010 ball, Mehta said.
“The players should be happier with the new ball,” he predicted. “It is more stable in flight and will handle more like a traditional 32-panel ball.”

Colombia shrug off Falcao absence to beat Greece

BELO HORIZONTE: James Rodriguez rounded off a convincing 3-0 win for Colombia over Greece as the South Americans made light of the absence of injured striker Radamel Falcao in their opening Group C match at the World Cup on Saturday.
Full-back Pablo Armero had given the Colombians — appearing at their first finals since 1998 — the lead in the fifth minute while Teofilo Gutierrez’s 13th goal for his country shortly before the hour mark wrapped up the three points.
Rodriguez, nicknamed the ‘new kid’ as he is seen as the successor to legend Carlos Valderrama, known as ‘the kid’, rounded off an impressive performance with a sweet left footed shot in time added on.
Armero’s goal was the fastest in Colombia’s five appearances at a World Cup finals, beating the 19 minutes it took another defender Francisco Zuluaga to score against Uruguay in the 1962 finals in Chile
It took Colombia just five minutes to send their fans wild.
With Falcao watching from the stands, great work down the right by Juan Cuadrado outwitted the Greek defence and a step over by Gutierrez saw the ball come to Armero.
The 27-year-old fullback fired in a weak shot which took a deflection off a defender and past ‘keeper Orestis Karnezis.
The goal sparked an energetic goalline celebratory dance routine which drew in the players on the bench as well.
Greece, whose leading striker Kostas Mitroglou was left on the bench as he battles for full fitness after suffering a knee injury, had little to offer up front.
However, one bustling run from Celtic’s Georgios Samaras set up Panagiotis Kone but he had to stretch for the ball and his effort curled harmlessly wide.
Kone made a far better fist of it right at the end of the first-half as once again Samaras’s physical approach unnerved the Colombian defence and laid the ball back to his team-mate.
The 26-year-old fired in a powerful shot towards the top right hand corner but Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina produced a superb two handed diving save to deny him.
If the Greeks needed any encouragement to rescue the situation the fans provided them with it wielding a banner which read ‘We won’t say Greeks play like heroes, we say heroes play like Greeks’.
However, apart from one vain call for a penalty by Samaras the Greeks were incapable of threatening the Colombian goal and it was the South Americans who deservedly doubled their lead through Gutierrez.
Rodriguez’s corner was a poor one but a superb deft flick on by Abel Aguilar came to Gutierrez who tapped home from close range — his 13th goal in 31 appearances — and provoked another superb dance celebration routine.
Colombia may have thought they were safe but the Greeks gave them a warning that all was not done as Vasilios Torosidis found the unmarked Theofanis Gekas yards out from the goal, but the 34-year-old’s header beat Ospina only to cannon back off the bar.
It was the Colombians who rounded off the scoring as a flowing move ended with Monaco star Rodriguez side-footing the ball past Karnezis although the dance routine failed to materialise this time.

World Cup fever grips Pakistan

KARACHI: A corner of Karachi will forever be Brazil. Seen from overseas, Pakistan’s biggest city this week issued a fresh reminder of its reputation for chaos and violence but on its teeming streets, the more burning topic of interest is the World Cup now under way.
Earlier this week, militants laid siege to the city’s airport in a sophisticated night-time raid that killed 38 people.
But in the Lyari neighbourhood, the talk is all football.
Most of the homes in this gang-blighted slum are festooned with the flags of different national teams, with Brazil’s yellow and green colours by far the most popular.
Local resident Mohammad Ameen was busy preparing for his wedding Friday. Yet he was equally determined not to miss out on any footballing action, despite cricket ranking far ahead of football for most Pakistanis.
“I can’t miss the World Cup,” said Ameen.
“I have asked my relatives to come early so that we can wrap up the ceremonies early and I can watch the match with my friends.”
Former Pakistan international Aurangzeb Shahmir, who lives in the neighbourhood, said local residents are obsessed with the tournament.
“When you come to Lyari these days, you will realise that the football World Cup is on,” said Shahmir.
A football fiesta is also under way in Malir, which lies on the western edge of Karachi airport, as people do their best to forget about how Pakistan’s aviation hub was briefly turned into a war zone only a few days before.
“We started preparations for the World Cup late because of the airport attacks,” said local resident Jalil Baksh, whose house is painted with a tournament schedule and group standing tables.
“But now we can’t wait any more as the festival is on.”
But for the vast majority of Karachi’s estimated 20 million inhabitants, a television and a prayer that the city’s electricity supplies hold up will just have to do.

Messi begins pursuit of greatness

RIO DE JANEIRO:  Lionel Messi will be attempting to make his mark as an all-time great when Argentina tackle Bosnia-Herzegovina in their World Cup Group F opener in Rio de Janeiro in the early hours of Monday.
His devastating ability cannot be questioned, but without success with Argentina, there will always be an asterisk against his achievements.
But while his previous World Cup experiences in 2006 and 2010 proved unfulfilling, there is a feeling that 2014 should be Messi’s time.
He has been given everything he needs to succeed, with coach Alejandro Sabella carefully crafting his team to put Messi in an optimal position to thrive.
Having abandoned attempts to recreate Barcelona’s system, Sabella now asks Messi to line up on the right side of an extravagantly gifted three-man frontline, usually alongside Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero.
With Real Madrid’s Angel di Maria, man of the match in the Champions League final, also darting forward from midfield, it ensures that Messi is not the sole focus of opposition defenders’ attentions, but he rejects any notion that Argentina are a one-man team.
“I don’t think the Argentina national team depends on me – far from it,” he said.
“We’ve got a great group of players who can perform to their best and lift the trophy, which is our fundamental objective.”
Napoli striker Higuain is a doubt for Sunday’s match at the Maracana with an ankle injury, but Argentina’s strength in depth in attacking areas is such that Paris Saint-Germain’s Ezequiel Lavezzi is on hand to deputise.
Top seeds Switzerland clash with Ecuador
Switzerland will look to justify their top seed tag which raised many eyebrows ahead of the draw for the World Cup finals when they take on South American side Ecuador in Brasilia on Sunday in their opening Group E clash.
While outside Switzerland there may have been snorts of derision at their seeding, there is a lot of expectation within the country that a team with a core of players from the side that won the U17 world title in 2009 in Nigeria can become the first Swiss team to reach the quarter-finals since 1954.
Ecuador will be treated with the respect that comes from having finished ahead of Copa America champions and 2010 World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay in South American qualifying.
“It’s a very strong group,” said Switzerland boss Ottmar Hitzfeld. “All three teams are not easy to beat, otherwise they would not be qualified for the World Cup.
“But we have had a very good preparation so far. We do have the potential to qualify for the round of the last-16. That is our goal.”

Balotelli sinks England in muggy Manaus

MANAUS: Mario Balotelli’s second-half header earned Italy a 2-1 victory over an enterprising England side in an engaging World Cup Group D opener in Manaus on Saturday.
Amid muggy conditions in the Amazon rainforest city, Claudio Marchisio drilled Italy in front in the 35th minute, only for Daniel Sturridge to equalise two minutes later after a sweeping England counter-attack.
With 19-year-old Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling to the fore, England displayed plenty of endeavour, but they were ultimately undone by former Manchester City striker Balotelli’s goal shortly after half-time.
His header prevented England from avenging their defeat on penalties by Italy in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 and left Cesare Prandelli’s side well placed ahead of Friday’s meeting with Costa Rica — shock 3-1 victors against Uruguay earlier in the day — in Recife.
Prandelli described the lack of time-outs due to the heat as “truly absurd”, and said that he was relieved that Italy had been able to withstand England’s pressure.
“Physically, I think we were a bit better than England,” he said. “I think England are one of the strongest teams at the World Cup.”
England manager Roy Hodgson drew encouragement from his youthful side’s attacking vigour, but victory against a hurting Uruguay will now be imperative when the teams collide in Sao Paulo on Thursday.
“It is a bit tough to accept we lost the game,” Hodgson told the BBC.
“Even when they got back to 2-1, I thought we would get back into it. I thought that was the best I’d seen the team play.
“To take them so close gives us great confidence playing against Uruguay and Costa Rica.”
While Salvatore Sirigu deputised for the injured Gianluigi Buffon in goal for Italy, Hodgson sprang something of a surprise by fielding Sterling as a number 10, which obliged Wayne Rooney to play on the left.
Sterling was quick to catch the eye at the Amazonia Arena, lashing a 30-yard shot into the side netting, and his example encouraged Jordan Henderson to test Sirigu at his near post with a powerful strike.
As England continued to press, Sterling drilled a cross across goal, before Italy centre-back Andrea Barzagli toed a centre from Danny Welbeck across the face of his own goal and wide.
England seemed to be building up a head of steam, but perhaps emboldened by their good fortune, Italy went ahead.
Following a short corner on the right, Andrea Pirlo cleverly dummied a pass from Marco Verratti for Marchisio, who exploited oceans of space to steady himself and drive a shot into the bottom-left corner from 20 yards.
If England felt hard done-by, they did not show it, for within two minutes they were level thanks to a goal of delightful simplicity.
Sterling’s glorious pass released Rooney on the left and the Manchester United man dispatched a delicately weighted left-foot cross that Sturridge crashed home on the half-volley.
England’s celebrations were not without complications, however, as team physiotherapist Gary Lewin had to be stretchered away from the touchline after hurting his ankle amid the jubilation.
Italy finished the first half on top, Phil Jagielka heading off the line from Balotelli, before Antonio Candreva hit the post with a snapshot, and it was to prove an ominous portent of things to come.
After Sirigu had parried a low strike from Sturridge, in the 50th minute Candreva cut inside Leighton Baines with embarrassing ease on the Italy right and crossed for Balotelli to nod his side ahead from close range.
Prandelli stiffened his midfield by introducing Thiago Motta in place of Verratti, while Hodgson pitched Everton youngster Ross Barkley into the fray as England went in search of an equaliser.
Steven Gerrard was denied a penalty following a body-check by Gabriel Paletta, before Rooney lashed wide and Sirigu saved from Barkley and Baines, but as the game wore on and the humidity began to weigh even more heavily, so England faded.
Pirlo even came close to inflating Italy’s lead with a languidly struck injury-time free-kick, but the ball hit the bar.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

What our sports fraternity thinks...

With just one day remaining for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the world is feverishly debating about the outcome of the tournament. Fans from all over the world are eagerly anticipating the mega tournament as 32 teams will clash in the hot and humid conditions of Brazil.
Despite being wholly dedicated to their own professions, the sports fraternity of Pakistan is keen to voice its opinion on who deserves the most hype. Ranging from football to cricket and snooker to scrabble, all players young and old support their favourite teams fervently.
However, it is safe to predict who the crowd favourite is when it comes to the opinion of Pakistani athletes. After a discussion with these enthusiasts, it is evident that they back Brazil as the front-runners in this year’s edition. From the senior-most football player to the youngest national club player, Brazil seem to be the obvious contenders for the 2014 title.
Apart from the five-time winners, Spain, Germany and Portugal have been preferred over other teams. In some cases, individual players hold more importance than the teams. For instance, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Brazil’s Neymar seem to have a strong fan following in Pakistan. In a nutshell, it can be concluded that despite the Pakistan football team’s failure to qualify in any World Cups to date, the event has always been followed by the players from all sports of the country.

World cup fever: Brazil visa waiver for Pakistani football fans

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani’s travelling to Brazil for Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Football World Cup, will not require a visa to enter the country, said the Brazilian Ambassador in Pakistan Alfredo Leoni.
“Here in Pakistan, we’ve given 100 per cent waiver on visas to Pakistan fans to help them enjoy football extravaganza in our country,” he said
Around 500 excited Pakistani fans are travelling to Brazil to witness the biggest sporting carnival- the 2014 FIFA Football World Cup, Brazilian Ambassador in Pakistan Alfredo Leoni said on Thursday.
“We have issued visas to around 200 people from Pakistan, while the rest of Pakistanis are travelling to our country from other parts of the world,” Leoni told Rawalpindi Islamabad Sports Journalists Association (RISJA) here at Brazilian Embassy.
A RISJA delegation led by its chairman, Syed Ehtesham-ul-Haq and President Nasir Raja called on Brazilian Ambassador and presented him a souvenir in connection with FIFA World Cup that rolls into action in Brazil on Thursday.
Leoni praised Pakistan for supplying the balls for the World Cup and added that he was optimistic that the friendship and economic ties between the two countries would bolster in the years to come.
He said football is the world’s most popular sport and the fact that FIFA chose Pakistan to manufacture footballs for the World Cup tournament is not only an honour for Pakistan but also for him.
“Though Pakistan is 164th ranked soccer team, it has left all others behind in production of quality balls. I feel proud to be Ambassador in a country whose 100 per cent balls would be used in the FIFA World Cup,” he added.
Pakistan produces around 70 per cent of the total number of hand-made soccer balls in the world. Around the time of the World Cup the production jumps to more than 60 million balls. The central Pakistani city of Sialkot is the hub of the country’s football manufacturing industry.
Apart from producing footballs, cricket bats, and badminton rackets for domestic consumption, this small town also exports to the rest of the world.
Syed Ehtesham and Nasir Raja said that Brazil is amongst the top favorites in the 32-nation event and expressed their good wishes for Brazilian team and the nation. Brazil has come a long way since 2010 with a young squad eager to dominate in the international arena