Could a $170 high-tech soccer ball be a reason for so many spectacular goals at Euro 2024?


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DUESSELDORF, Germany — With outrageous goals flying in from all angles, Euro 2024 has started with a bang.

Could a $170 high-tech soccer ball be to thank for this?

"When you strike it, it stays hit," England captain Harry Kane said.

The Adidas Fussballliebe, meaning "love of football" in German, is the official match ball of the European Championship. And players appear to have quickly mastered it with a slew of stunning, long-range goals.

"It's quick," Kane said. "For me, personally, it is better for the strikers or the goal-scorers than it is for the goalkeepers, so I'm not going to complain about that."

Nor are the fans after so many spectacular strikes.

There was Arda Guler's curling effort into the top corner from around 20 meters in Turkey's 3-1 win against Georgia. That was rivaled by his teammate Mert Muldur's volley from the edge of the box in the same game.

Romania's Nicolae Stanciu struck another from distance against Ukraine and nearly scored direct from a corner kick which hit the crossbar.

Xherdan Shaqiri scored a stunner for Switzerland against Scotland, and there were rockets from Italy's Nicolo Barella and Czech Republic's Lukas Provod.

"Any footballs for these tournaments aren't exactly made with goalkeepers in mind," Denmark keeper Kasper Schmeichel said. "It's a pleasure to strike. You can get good distance. They are certainly not made for the grip for the goalkeeper."

Official tournament balls have been criticized in the past. Some players complained that adidas' Jabulani ball for the 2010 World Cup was unpredictable.

UEFA says the Fussballliebe has been designed for "accuracy and consistency, supporting fast, precise play with maximum shape and air retention."

It is made of recycled polyester and more "sustainable bio-based materials" than balls used for previous tournaments, including corn fibers, sugar cane and wood pulp.

The ball, which was reduced to $85, sold out on Adidas' online store in the United States.

How it has contributed to the likes of Guler's wonder goal is not clear, but smart technology within the balls assisted VAR officials in overturning Romelu Lukaku's would-be late equalizer in Belgium's shock 1-0 loss to Slovakia.

UEFA is using connected ball technology, deployed at the 2022 World Cup, for the first time at a European Championship. It can help identify every touch of the ball and send precise data to video assistant referees. A chip fixed on a gyroscope inside the ball sends data 500 times per second to record the point at which it is kicked.

In combination with AI, it can help determine offsides, but in the case of Belgium it detected a marginal handball from Loïs Openda in the buildup to Lukaku's disallowed goal in the 86th minute.

"The sensor in the Adidas connected official match ball was able to accurately record the touch of the hand of the player with the surface of the ball," UEFA said. "This was the first time the fast and accurate technology supported a refereeing decision during a Euro 2024 match."

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James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

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AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

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