Book Review: The Story of the World Cup

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Brian Glanville’s famous book has been updated for Russia 2018, and he pulls no punches in his latest update covering Brazil 2014. We take a look at one of football’s most celebrated writer’s latest update to his epic The Story of the World Cup series – out now ahead of this year’s tournament.

For history geeks, The Story of the World Cup is a gold mine of information. In chronological order, Glanville takes us through the build-up, background, key events and results of each tournament. Each one appears dogged with controversy, with familiar tales that have impacted World Cups from the very outset, whether that be stadiums barely ready in time or Argentina kicking off about something.

From the very first tournament in Uruguay – ignored by most European teams – through to the increasingly commercial evolution of the game through the decades, the reader learns how the game has changed, both for the better and the worse. We see the effect that contemporary politics has on each tournament, particularly Italy’s controversial 1934 triumph and Argentina 1978.

Glanville tells the tale of each tournament, summarising each with a handy results reference page.

His most recent chapter takes us on the journey through Brazil 2014, a World Cup that I attended for 10 days. He dedicates plenty of print to the most standout moment of the tournament: Brazil’s stunning 7-1 defeat to eventual Weltmeister, Germany. David Luiz comes in for particular criticism, but the story goes much deeper, as Glanville explains.

Outside Write editor, Chris Lee, at the Maracanã, Brazil 2014

There were plenty of other controversies at Brazil 2014, which Glanville discusses: whether that be Luis Suarez’s return to biting, or Colombian Juan Zúñiga’s knee in the back of Neymar that ended his World Cup and, possibly, Brazil’s chances with it.

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For me, as a football historian, I found it a fascinating read, especially reflecting on the early World Cups I remember, such as 1986 and 1990, in particular. Personally, I find these tournaments often disappoint, especially at the latter stages. There hasn’t been a really entertaining final since 1986, but onwards to Russia we go with a really open field.

If you love your football history and World Cups in particular, then The Story of the World Cup is an essential companion.

Buy The Story of the World Cup here on Amazon:

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