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on 24 July 2014
These are some examples of the accuracy in Nick Holt's so-called definitive guide:

Laurent Blanc captained France to the 1998 World Cup victory (it was Didier Deschamps)
Luis Monti had a World Cup winners medal going into the 1934 World Cup (he didn't, he was a runner-up in 1930)
Sampdoria won the Serie A title just before Italia '90 (they didn't, they won it in 1991)
John Barnes scored a wonder goal in the Maracana in 1980 (it was 1984)
Gerd Muller scored in two European Championship finals (it was one in 1972, it was another Muller - Dieter - who scored in 1976)
The Iraq invasion was in 2001 (it was 2003)
The Cameroon/Congo conflagration happened in the 1974 qualifiers (it was in the 1978 qualifiers)
Scotland played Brazil in the 1986 World Cup (they didn't)
Charles Corver refereed France-Brazil in 1986 (it was Ioan Igna)
Sansom made a last-ditch lunge to stop Maradona's solo goal against England (it was Butcher)

Factual errors, sloppy typos, poor formating. It's a wonder this book ever got through and that's before we get to Holt's "outrageous" (i.e. controversial for the sake of controversial) opinions. Poor, poor stuff. Stick to Cris Freddi and Brian Glanville if you want a World Cup history.
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on 1 June 2014
A fairly enjoyable trot through the story of the World Cup, but Holt isn't really close enough to anyone who has made the tournament tick to tell me anything I didn't already know from reading other, more detailed football histories. Ironic really, as the author (or was it the publishers?) chooses to take issue with the work of authors like Simon Kuper and Jonathan Wilson, and better written, better researched World Cup books at the very start of his book. Bizarre. Their books are ground breaking. Nick Holt's isn't.
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on 15 June 2014
Part encyclopedia, part reference book, this is a comprehensive story of the World Cup, featuring all the characters and best games connected with the tournament since it began in 1930. Players, coaches, referees, politics, best national XIs and more, it is a long read, but it is a pleasure being reacquainted with the players and the matches of my youth and beyond in this way. Nick Holt has done extensive research, is clearly a football fanatic who gives just credit to his references throughout. He writes with the individual opinions of the true fan, yet covering the facts of tournament venues, qualifying competitions and finals matches with fairness and in good order. I am of the age where I 'remember' the events described in over two-thirds of the book. Despite the occasional proof reading error, this volume takes its place on my reference shelf, to be taken down to remind me of those matches and tournaments I loved, hated, or have simply forgotten through time. Now what was so special about the 1974 tournament? Ah, held in West Germany, won by the home team...time to move on.
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on 10 March 2015
One of the best books I have ever read on the world cup( and I've read plenty) it has just the right amount of frivolity, tongue in cheek moments to go with good, structured prose. The intermissions with best ever teams, classic matches, shocks also work well. Yes, there are a few mistakes mainly printing, but don't let that put you off! If you like world cups, this is a must.Excellent!
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on 26 May 2014
Overall I think this is an okay book to dip in and out of with the tournament around the corner. The writer has an extremely chatty style, full of observations and asides. Sometimes these work and sometimes they don't but it keeps a pretty breezy tone to the whole thing.

That extends to much of the coverage. From the opening bibliography where he suggests that Jonathan Wilson (author of "Inverting the Pyramid among others) takes football too seriously, you get a feeling that this hasn't been his main focus. That extends to the introduction where he claims that the World Cup is only the second biggest sporting event in the world after the Olympics; maybe true but probably not to a reader of a book about the World Cup!

Generally I think this book would best suit someone who doesn't know anything about either football or the World Cup. He starts off by explaining what FIFA and the FA are to give you a clue of the level that he's at. He also observes in a brief aside about Brazilian names that Ronaldinho was known as such to distinguish himself from the real Ronaldo, neglecting to point out that Ronaldo himself was known as Ronaldinho at the 1996 Olympics.

In terms of its claim to be the "definitive guide" I was left a bit short. Both the books from Fielder and Freddi are far more detailed in terms of the match reports provided (for instance only selected classic matches actually have the line-ups which both those books provide for every game). It does though have a load of other ephemera which might interest like stuff about World Cup films.

In contrast to the other reviewer, I didn't find that many genuine errors as I went through it, but they are to be expected given the volume of information here. The main ones I thought were the author's questionable judgements which there are a huge number of. He includes Djalma Santos for instance, widely thought of as the best right-back of all time, among a side of the worst players to ever win the World Cup. It's unclear if he's included as a wind up or the author is just clueless.

In summary if you want something in-depth, there are undoubtedly more detailed and comprehensive histories out there. If you have no knowledge of the tournament, want something to idly flick through or are maybe buying for a child this might be an okay choice.
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on 28 April 2014
I have only scooted through at the moment but like the mix of write ups, facts, results & quirky articles to provoke discussion (best teams by country & region).

To the previous commenter. In a book of this size you will always find small errors (1996 not 1966) & also make errors spotting errors. Chelsea parked the bus against Bayern Munich in the final after twice parking the bus against Barcelona in the semi finals.
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on 28 April 2014
Unlike the previous reviewer I didn't skim through this book looking for typos. Instead I read it all the way through and enjoyed it so much I bought a copy for my mate. It was a really comprehensive history through the years, the earlier matches were fascinating as I didn't know that much about many of the players - particularly some of the amazing heroics just after the war. Many of the more recent games I remember well and I particularly enjoyed the background to the big games. Really, really enjoyable to read, amusing, entertaining and actually with very few typos for such a Mammoth (!) book. Good value.
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on 11 June 2014
Holt's book is a strange affair. Lots of pages and yet nothing going on. I struggle with his early declaration of how his book is not, in any sense, serious about football, unlike work by Nick Hornby et al. This is a shame because Holt could learn a lot from the writers he is so disparaging about.
Brian Glanville's similar yet superior current book would be the better choice than this. If, however, you are a new football fan, then you may not realise just how poor this book is. Read One Night in Turin if you want World Cup drama. Avoid this book and watch every game from Brazil instead. You won't regret it.
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on 26 April 2014
Shocking at the back. Looking forward to some light reading in the build up to WC2014, I randomly flicked to page 741: ‘I have never understood why it is considered such poor form for a lesser team to adopt a defensive style against a side with clearly superior firepower. (Go on...) It was the same when Chelsea beat Barcelona in the Champions League in 2012…’
I remember Chelsea parking the bus, under caretaker di Matteo (in a style the Sulky One would have been proud of), but I’m sure they played BAYERN MUNICH in the final.
[4 mins Holt 0 Howlers 1]

p776 (under Best WC goals ever, at number 12, Bobby Charlton):
‘…Bobby Charlton made a habit of it [long-range slaps] and his bazooka against Mexico in 1996 was top drawer’. Brilliant goal, Sir Bobby, but in 1966: he would’ve been close to drawing his pension in 1996.
[11 mins Holt 0 Howlers 2]

With such a shabby defence, I thought I’d see what Holt was like at the front.
p8: ‘Will some clever coach find a way to counter Spain’s immaculate retention of the ball, like di Matteo and Heynckes did when they respectively frustrated and overpowered the much-vaunted Barcelona team?

Maybe Holty really does think Chelsea beat Barcelona in 2012 CL final…
[17 mins Holt 0 Howlers 3]

That’s all I’ve read so far… wonder what the final score was.
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