NZME's award winning* football blog Goalmouth Scramble is back. Our rotating stable of football writers will offer daily hot takes on all the action from the World Cup in Russia. Today, Chris Rattue talks wobbly footballs and dodgy goalkeepers.

Will they behave?

No, not the World Cup crowds - the footballs.

Footballs have been controversial since the first World Cup final in 1930, when Uruguay and Argentina insisted on using their own ball. Argentina won the first half with their ball, but Uruguay stormed home using their ball in the second spell.

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Powerhouse German sports company adidas got in on the World Cup football-providing act for the 1970 tournament and have held on to this cherished position.

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Goalmouth Scramble: The World Cup's best bets

Excuse the pun, but World Cup football names have gone full circle since that tournament in Mexico.

The satellite look. Photo / Getty Images
The satellite look. Photo / Getty Images
Finding space...the original Telstar satellite. Photo / NASA
Finding space...the original Telstar satellite. Photo / NASA

The 1970 ball was named after the Telstar satellite, it's brother from a different mother.

This year's ball is named the Telstar 18 and it has one big advantage - it's not the 2010 Jabulani ball.

The Jabulani may be the most infamous ball in sport, a much-derided piece of you know what which Brazilian 'keeper Júlio César reckoned was of supermarket quality.

Nasa was called in after the tournament in South Africa and discovered that a smoother surface and reduced seam length was the problem, making a well struck ball act like a crazy bumblebee.

What Nasa was unable to discover, however, is why England goalkeepers are the butt of so many jokes no matter which ball is being used.

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Goalkeepers are World Cup cannon fodder - make a mistake and the whole world knows about it. Rightly or wrongly, England 'keepers are seen as particular liabilities in major tournaments.

Two World Cup incidents stand out.

Big David Seaman — who like the Jabulani had a very smooth surface — allowed a 35-metre free-kick from Brazil's Ronaldinho to float into the net during a 2002 quarter-final in Japan.

Eight years later Rob Green helped a long, dribbly shot from American Clint Dempsey across the line. The World Cup curse was established.

England's latest lamb to the slaughter is Jordan Pickford, who gets a decent work out every week because he plays for Everton in the EPL.

I can't find out what Pickford thinks of the Telstar 18. But Spain's David De Gea couldn't muster any enthusiasm for it after a draw with world champions Germany.

"It's really strange, it could have been made a lot better," said the Manchester United stopper.

His Spanish backup Pepe Reina, who at 35 has seen a few footballs, was sceptical to put it nicely.

"I bet you as much as you like that we'll see at least 35 goals from long range in Russia, because it's impossible to work out," Reina announced, not seeming to realise that most fans would love to see 35 goals from long range in Russia.

Reina added: "It's covered in a plastic film that makes it difficult to hold on to. Goalkeepers are going to have a lot of problems with this ball."

The 2018 ball is based on the 2014 World Cup ball, but with a bit more drag and stability achieved by significantly increasing the seam length.

This should actually help the goalkeepers, although still stand by for some howlers.

On that note, the goalkeepers most like to produce a shocker.

1) Jordan Pickford
He's English.

Frenchman Hugo Lloris. Photo / Photosport
Frenchman Hugo Lloris. Photo / Photosport

2) Hugo Lloris

The Spurs 'keeper is known for gaffes and left his near post unguarded for a goal in France's draw with the USA this week. One of the Lloris classics came last year when the ball was curled into the net from halfway after he gift-wrapped a pass to Sweden.

3) Igor Akinfeev
No pressure, at home. When he's good he is very, very good, but when he's bad...Akinfeev already has a World Cup classic under the belt, a Loris Karius-type moment against Korea in Brazil.


To balance the ledger, goalkeepers most likely to star.-

Manuel Neuer of Germany. Photo / Getty Images
Manuel Neuer of Germany. Photo / Getty Images

1) Manuel Neuer

He's German. Getting the ball past Neuer will be like trying to wrestle power off Vladimir Putin, even if the German legend is returning from a long term foot injury.

2) Essam El-Hadary
Whatever happens, the Egyptian will be a good news story at the age of 45, the oldest-ever player in the World Cup finals. El-Hadary is on to a winner in Group A, where Russia and Saudi Arabia aren't exactly Lionel Messi. The group - Uruguay apart - is so bad that Egypt should get through, after which 'High Dam' El-Hadary might spring a few leaks against Spain or Portugal.

3) David De Gea
Always a terrific shot stopper, even when he was learning the EPL ropes at Manchester United. The Spaniard is a leading candidate for the highlight reels.

*Goalmouth Scramble's 'award' was more of an inter-company acknowledgement in an email from 2012.