Re: Pity about the predictability -
No, predictable is better.
I would rather see an artist like Pirlo sweetly stroke a free-kick into the exact spot of the net he wants to, because he can, than watch some poser like Ronaldo* or Roberto Carlos* just hit the ball as hard as they can and hope it bends the right way.
And I'm not surprised the 'old' balls were better than those from the last 2 World Cups, which could take some weird trajectories.
*Note - I believe both are / were great players, it's just simply not true that they are / were great freekick takers. Carlos particularly got his reputation off a single freekick and he spent the rest of his career blasting them at the sky. Ronaldo does his macho pose run-up thing and more often than not blasts it straight at the wall or keeper