Bad bounces? Try an NFL ball

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Bad bounces plaguing the goalkeepers? Try an NFL ball.

That's part of Mexico's solution for the unpredictable way the Jabulani ball has acted early in the World Cup.

At Monday's practice, Mexico goalkeeping coach Alberto Aguilar used NFL footballs in a drill to better prepare his players for, well, that which you can never really prepare for.

Numerous World Cup players, especially keepers, have complained about the official ball, saying its flight is difficult to judge. England's Robert Green fumbled a long-range shot by Clint Dempsey into his net, allowing the United States to get a 1-1 draw. Algeria keeper Faouzi Chaquchi was fooled by Robert Koren's shot for Slovenia's only goal in a 1-0 win.

So during Monday's workout at Waterhouse College, Guillermo Ochoa, Luis Michel and starter Oscar Perez practiced for a stretch with the oblong-shaped NFL ball.

Gripes about the Jabulani ball are not new and none of the 32 teams at the World Cup has made an official complaint to FIFA.

"The ball has been produced by Adidas, which is a long-standing partner of FIFA and very experienced in this field," said Nicolas Maingot, head of FIFA's media department. "It has been tested and it has been proven."

Proven or not, an imaginary jury of World Cup players deliberating the Jabulani case seems to be leaning strongly toward a conviction.

Gianluigi Buffon, closing in on Dino Zoff's Italian record of 112 international appearances as a goalkeeper, said Monday it was possible to "hear some deep breaths from the tribune" whenever the Jabulani took flight.

"This ball goes and goes and goes. I hope the goalkeepers go, go, go, too," Buffon said, while American keeper Marcus Hahnemann said the Jabulani was too light and allowed too much spin.

Other top goalkeepers, including Spain's Iker Casillas and Brazil's Julio Cesar, have raised concerns about the ball, as have Brazil striker Luis Fabiano and Denmark's Daniel Agger, who had a Jabulani bounce off his back and into the wrong off a header by teammate Simon Poulsen, giving the Dutch their first goal in a 2-0 victory Monday.

Next up for Mexico is a Thursday game against France, which comes off a 0-0 draw with Uruguay in which the French sometimes were as effective as if they were kicking American footballs.

All four Group A teams are tied with a point each, and Mexico captain Gerardo Torrado said El Tri won't be intimidated by the 2006 World Cup finalists.

"France is a team with great players and we respect them, but on the pitch it's 11 on 11," the midfielder said. "It's not names that play but men."

Thierry Henry is the only remaining player from France's 1998 World Cup winner. Defenders Eric Abidal and William Gallas, midfielders Alou Diarra and Florent Malouda, and forwards Franck Ribery, Sidney Govou and Henry are left from the 2006 squad.

Mexico drew 1-1 with South Africa on Friday's opening day of the tournament. Despite being favored against South Africa, Mexico needed a 79th-minute goal from Rafael Marquez to earn a point. The midfielder was unguarded inside the penalty area to take a cross from Andres Guardado and score.

"We had a good first half and a not-so-good second half against South Africa, but our will to win and make history is the same," striker Carlos Vela said. "We know we are a high-quality team and now we have to prove it with results."