Only a word like ‘mammoth’ could have justified the 781-page book that goes the extra mile to be comprehensive in every way. If you like football, we suggest you pick this “most comprehensive guide to the World Cup, from 1930 to 2014”. But you have to be fact-friendly because it’s packed with reams of information.
An artist works on a graffiti in celebration of the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 at Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo. Pic/AFP
The lowdown is that here is a book that is chatty in tone, pre-supposes your knowledge of the game and massive when it comes to facts. For instance, at the start, when you are trying to ease the spine of the book (which ironically reminds us of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace) you enter the section, ‘A Brief-ish guide to terms and tactics’. Just into the fourth sentence, Holt speaks of how “the first proper formation to evolve from the game’s early days of kick-and-rush was the 2-3-5”.
The Mammoth Book of The World Cup: The Definitive Guide 1903-2014 by Nick Holt, Penguin India, Rs 499. Available at leading bookstores.
But getting down to pretty much the sport of the century, Holt nails it bang on as he speaks of how various nationalities contributed to how the game is played. Like, “the Dutch developed a fluidity of movement…the Germans added a level of stamina…the Soviets introduced a pressing system” and so on. There are riveting accounts of where the World Cups were played, what was the action on the field like and what were the key historic moments that inspired players and fans alike. We also love the unofficial information when it comes to age, indiscipline and even the unfortunate murder of Colombian defender Andres Escobar. Not only that, it also predicts what the World Cup that will kick off in Friday hold.
Our grouse is basic. We have known football fans to be glued to the screen, YouTube and even their gaming consoles but we feel that there are very few and far between who will pore over the book to take in the humongous undiscovered information it offers. The centre is peppered with a blink-and-miss selection of few images but this spectacular sport definitely deserves more.
Nick Holt's predictions for FIFA World Cup 2014
Who will be the stars?
Paulinho, Sergio Aguero, Kevin Strootman, Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller, Yaya Toure, Lenardo Bonucci, Danny Welbeck, Yevhen Konoplyanka, Gary Medel, and Diego Godin. It is hoped that Messi would step up, and Suarez will be an influence, shabby, as his behaviour has been, he remains a world-class footballer of the highest quality.
Who will be the biggest let-down?
Belgium will struggle to cope with the expectancy and the heat.
Who will win?
Everybody assumes Brazil will win at home but the pressure will be huge. I think Argentina will win, hopefully with more grace than they have shown in the past. They have a class squad and aren’t managed by a lunatic.