Conflict over sponsors puts Brazil at disadvantage
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -Despite having home-field advantage at the Confederations Cup, Brazil may be affected by its lack of practice time with the official ball for the World Cup warm-up tournament.
The hosts haven't trained much with the Confederations Cup ball because it's made by a sports company that is a rival of the team's main sponsor - and now Brazil's players are racing against time to get used to it.
Brazil is sponsored by Nike, so it avoided using the Adidas ball throughout its two-week preparations for the tournament.
The players only started practicing with the ball on Tuesday, four days before it plays the opener against Japan in Brasilia.
Some players have acknowledged that it is taking a bit of time to adapt to the lighter and livelier Adidas ball, called the Cafusa.
"They are different,'' Brazil 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 also was used during the recent warm-up matches against England and France.
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 allowing 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.
Brazil striker Fred said goalkeepers are likely to have trouble with the Adidas ball again this year.
"For us, the strikers, this ball is wonderful,'' he said. "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 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.
The Cafusa was presented last year. The name represents three symbols of Brazilian culture: Carnival, football and samba.
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.
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