SAO PAULO – The Brazuca seems on the surface to be as Brazilian as it gets.
The soccer ball that will become the most viewed piece of sporting equipment on the planet over the next five weeks was designed by adidas to reflect the World Cup host's colorful tradition, was tested to perform most consistently in Brazilian conditions, and even its name means "something typically Brazilian" in Portuguese.
However, the sphere that will be booted around by the world's premier soccer stars throughout the World Cup is actually manufactured in a country with no pedigree in the game whatsoever.
Pakistan is ranked a lowly 164th in the FIFA world rankings, has never qualified for a World Cup and got knocked out of contention for this one in the first round of Asian qualification more than three years ago, with a 3-0 defeat against 167th-ranked Bangladesh.
Yet, according to Reuters, a facility in Sialkot, Pakistan, has a long history of manufacturing world class soccer balls, where a mainly female team of experts assembles and glues the synthetic panels together before they are given preliminary tests for weight, water resistance and bounce.
After the difficulties experienced in 2010, when the controversial Jabulani World Cup ball was much criticized for being unpredictable and unstable in flight, the pressure was on adidas to deliver a product that would meet the expectations of the tournament's stars.
And while the event does not begin until Thursday, initial reviews from training camps involving the 32 teams – where the Brazuca has been primarily used – have been far more positive.
"It is good," said United States' backup goalkeeper Nick Rimando. "The ball seems to be behaving itself and it seems solid and predictable. I know there were a few issues last time, but I don't think we will see anything like that this time."
Adidas officials believed that part of the problem with the Jabulani was that teams had a limited amount of time to practice and prepare with it, and acted this time around to give players maximum exposure to the ball before the tournament.
"When you play with different balls in training or a match, having it weeks and months before the tournament is really important," said Germany's Lukas Podolski.
Adidas has supplied World Cup game balls since 1970, when the Telstar made its debut in Mexico. This year marked a greater level of fan involvement, with the company conducting an online poll to decide the name of the ball.
Antonio Zea, adidas' director of soccer innovation, told Yahoo Sports that over one million Brazilians voted, with Brazuca, a colloquial term used to describe typical or unique Brazilian-ness, winning out comfortably.
"We felt it was a good way to connect with the fans and get them to feel that they have a vested interest in the ball," Zea said. "When we took the ball on tour around the country the response was incredible."
After the troubles of 2010, the Brazuca already seems on course to be a more popular choice than its predecessor.