New-look ball for next stage of Cup

MOSCOW • A new ball will be used for the knockout stages of the World Cup, starting with the first match in the round of 16 on Saturday when France play Argentina.

The adidas Telstar Mechta, that comes in a red design inspired by the colours of host nation Russia, will replace the group-stage ball, Telstar 18, that has a black-and-white "metallic print execution and texture graphic effect" and has the same design elements.

Mechta translates as "dream" or "ambition" in Russian and the red reflects the "rising heat" of knockout-stage football, said Fifa on its website.

The Telstar 18 was criticised when it deflated three times - twice during France's win over Australia and again during Uruguay's victory over Saudi Arabia, forcing Fifa to defend the ball in a statement.

Notably, goalkeepers like Spain's David de Gea and Pepe Reina, and Germany's Marc Andre ter Stegen, gave the thumbs down to the ball when it was used in friendlies in the lead-up to the World Cup.

"Goalkeepers are going to have a lot of problems with this ball. It's really strange. It could have been made better," said de Gea, who allowed a Cristiano Ronaldo shot to slip through his grasp during his side's first game against Portugal.

"It's covered in a plastic film that makes it difficult to hold on to," added Reina.

Ter Stegen said it "moves a lot".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2018, with the headline 'New-look ball for next stage of Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe