Despite the usual furore over even the slightest change in world football, the official 2018 World Cup match ball has largely managed to steer clear of criticism.
There might have been reservations ahead of the tournament, not least concerns from Spain goalkeeper David de Gea, but even his error against Portugal hasn’t been enough to turn the tide.
It might be down to everyone being preoccupied with VAR, or the great form of England distracting us from anything else as they embark on their place in the World Cup final, but the adidas Telstar 18 seems to be doing its job.
What’s that, we’re getting a new ball for the World Cup knockout stages? Okay then.
Adidas has unveiled the Telstar Mechta, whose name translates as ‘dreams’ or ‘ambitions’.
According to the manufacturer, it builds on the best of the Brazuca – the ball used at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The Telstar Mechta is similar to the group stage ball, only it’s got more red on it, in an effort to reflect both the colours of Russia and the intensity of the tournament’s latter stages.
Earlier World Cup balls have brought allegations of flying unpredictably, but those comments have been less prominent at the 2018 tournament. Peru’s Christian Cueva and Iceland’s Gylfi Sigurdsson might look for a scapegoat, though, having both blazed penalties over the crossbar, though Lionel Messi is unlikely to make excuses after his own struggles.
Players won’t have to adapt to a ball that moves differently – the World Cup knockout stage ball is different in look only – we can hope to see some more stunning long-range goals as the tournament goes on.
Some of the best World Cup goals of the past, such as Maxi Rodríguez’s volley for Argentina in 2006 and David Luiz’s free-kick against Colombia four years ago, have come in the knockout stages once players got a handle on how the ball moved.
With that in mind, there’s every chance the best goal of the 2018 World Cup is scored with the adidas Telstar Mechta.