Throughout the world, football is a potent force in the lives of billions of people. Focusing national, political and cultural identities, football is the medium through which the world's hopes and fears, passions and hatreds are expressed.
Simon Kuper travelled to 22 countries from South Africa to Italy, from Russia to the USA, to examine the way football has shaped them. At the same time he tried to find out what lies behind each nation's distinctive style of play, from the carefree self-expression of the Brazilians to the anxious calculation of the Italians. During his journeys he met an extraordinary range of players, politicians and - of course - the fans themselves, all of whom revealed in their different ways the unique place football has in the life of the planet.