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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars

on 9 April 2017
I really wish Freddi would do the European Championships as well; this is about as good as it gets for sports books. After an introductory section for each tournament, the games are covered individually, with the starting line-ups, goal scorers and times (where known) given first, followed by an account of the game itself.

The author strikes a nice balance, giving a blow-by-blow account of the games while also adding a bit of colour. Quotes taken from foreign newspapers help with this. He's also a stickler for detail, with the correct spelling of even the most obscure players' names having been researched, often by contacting their nations' FAs.

The original version of this book, back in 1998, was of course printed on paper. It isn't suited quite so well to the Kindle, at least for me. I like to flick back and forth to remind myself of what's happened previously to a particular team, which is time consuming on the electronic version. This problem looks unavoidable, though, so I still give it the maximum 5 stars. More please!

This review is for the 2013 edition, featuring all the World Cups up to 2010, plus the five pre-1930 Olympic tournaments.
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on 16 May 2006
When the first edition of this book was released in 2002, I was hugely impressed with the sheer scope of this book. Fortunately, Cris Freddi has kept up his high standards with a thorough update of this reference book. This book fully lives up to its title as 'Complete book of the World Cup' as it contains every record, every team, referee, match, match report one can think of for the World Cup.

Although many World Cup reference book has much of this material, what sets this book apart from the rest are the fascinating match reports written for every single match played in the World Cup finals. The match reports are witty and offer interesting and individual analysis of the key action.Quite clearly, the book has been exhaustively researched and the material is accessible and clearly presented.

If you were to buy just one book on the World Cup, I would have no hesitation in recommending this book for you to buy. A fantastic read.
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on 26 February 2014
Buy this book. Buy it right now.

This is the best edition of the best football book ever written. People who have bought previous editions need to get this one immediately, as it's been completely revised and also includes three brand new sections, covering the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and also a fantastic new section at the beginning covering the pre-1930 Olympic football tournaments, the "world championships" that predate the 1930 World Cup. Any one of these sections would be worth the £7 currently being asked, as a stand-alone supplement; to have all three *and* an updated, electronic version of the earlier book, which was so good to start with, is a no-brainer. If you're interested in the history of international football and don't buy this, you are missing out.

When the first edition of this book appeared back in 1998 I completely devoured it; in Cris Freddi, the World Cup found its perfect champion, a compelling storyteller and diligent researcher, a completely detached observer with a great eye for detail and a good line in puns. The book was the monument the World Cup has always deserved, crammed with comprehensive detail, correcting any number of longstanding myths and mistakes, and (maybe most importantly) entirely impartial, both in terms of its completely even-handed treatment of every team, and its ready willingness to call out FIFA and to criticise the tournament itself.

Two more editions followed, and perhaps most impressively, the text was completely revised each time, even if it meant sacrificing a fascinating story which turned out not to be verifiable, or a great one-liner which no longer worked; Freddi's willingness to take a blowtorch to his own masterpiece in the name of accuracy and standards can't have been easy, but it's something which has left a lasting impression on me.

Still, when the last edition appeared eight years ago (taking us up to the end of 2002, a tournament which Freddi began with an exposé of FIFA corruption and ended by calling it a "joke of a tournament"), I assumed there'd be no more. I can't express how happy I was to see this new edition, and the involvement of Guy Oliver, responsible for Oliver's Almanack (the best world football yearbook on the market by a country mile) is like some sort of dream team.

The new sections aren't perfect - the proofreading is a bit shoddy in places (a few typos and a couple of clunky sentences), and I could have done without some of the lengthier political asides which often seem to have little to do with the game at hand - but these are minor quibbles, and are totally outweighed by the sheer quality of the football writing, which matches (even exceeds in places) the excellence of the rest of the book. It's scholarly without being boring, thorough without being nerdy, superbly readable without being lightweight.

People who've bought previous editions of this book will know how good it is; all you need to know is that it's now bigger and better than ever, and cheap as chips. Buy it right now, read it from cover to cover, and bring on Brazil.
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on 7 April 2014
The 2006 version of this title, which covered every single match played in the World Cup since its inception in 1930, was the greatest book on football ever written. Freddi has since expanded the contents of that, adding the action from the 2006 and 2010 editions, plus details of the Olympic tournaments of 1908, 1921, 1920, 1924 and 1928, which were de facto world championships.

The greatest book on football ever written - redux. What's not to love?

An essential purchase whether you're a young fan wanting to learn more of the game's rich history, or an older punter who fancies revisiting some of those golden memories. The breeziest of reads, too, no small feat given the amount of detail woven into the narrative. It's an absolute steal.

Buy it now, and turn yourself into an expert in time for the World Cup in Brazil. (If you're reading this after the World Cup in Brazil, buy it now, and turn yourself into an expert in time for the World Cup in Russia. You'll have four years head start on everyone else.)
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on 5 September 2004
This is easily the greatest World Cup book ever. It features full statistics from every game: Team lists (including full names), scorers, goal times, referees, match reports and photographs of matches and memorabilia from 1930-1998.
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on 18 November 2008
As a sportswriter, this is an invaluable book; it is simply the most informative, comprehensive and accurate reference book there is on the history of the World Cup. Many of the basic errors which remain on FIFA's official match reports are corrected and the length to which Freddi goes to source accurate information, especially on the pre-66 World Cups, puts the rest of us to shame. It has full names, with appropriate diacritics, for all players and accurate goal times and attendance figures. But it is so much more than that.

Freddi is a real writer, not just a sports anorak. Every match from 1930 to 2002 is reported on in an engaging, informative way which does more than simply recycle footballing clichés and received wisdom. They are written with a wry wit, the book is peppered with innumerable delicious asides which rival Bill Bryson and Dara O'Briain for observational humour such as, "Recoba, known as 'El Chino' for the Oriental features he simply didn't have..." and the ingenious "...the bushy haired (Paul) Breitner, a Marxist with Harpo tendencies...". They make it worth ignoring the book's value as a reference and simply reading from cover to cover.
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on 1 March 2014
This book is a treasure of information. Everything you need to know about the Olympics and the World Cup can be found here.
There are line-ups, goal scorers, attendances, match reports, you name it. The author has even added some comments of his own which is fun and interesting reading.
As the Danish contributor to the European Football Yearbook, published by UEFA, I can highly recommend this book for every follower of international football.
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on 20 January 2014
Overall, this is an important contribution to the collection of books on the history of the tournament. He's clearly revisited the previous text and updated it where more information has come to light and the inclusion of the Olympics is an added bonus. There is a logical flow (he goes on a group by group basis unlike Brian Glanville who jumps back and forth between matches) and he adds a sceptical eye to some of the taller tales which dominate other works. However, it does have a number of weaknesses which are worth highlighting given the overwhelmingly positive previous reviews.

1. The format of the book is not well suited to the Kindle. This is effectively a work of reference as Freddi's staccato style makes it challenging to read in large volumes. When this was available in hard copy it was easy to jump around to specific matches and look up individual events, yet on the Kindle it is hard to navigate, meaning you have to return to the table of contents after each match to move on to another game.

2. The coverage is quite haphazard. Obviously some matches are more eventful than others but there is a massive discrepancy between the level of detail devoted to each game. In particular the coverage for France 98 onwards is very detailed regardless of the game, meanwhile earlier tournaments often get very little. As an example England's draw with West Germany in 1982 is covered in less than 50 words, in comparison when they faced Germany in 2010 (in both cases their fourth match of the tournament) there is coverage extending over 1,000 words. That means that a lot of important older matches are rather cursory in their coverage while inconsequential modern ties are discussed ad nauseam. In 1990 the final gets a fleeting mention because "the heart's not in it." That means that only the winning goal and the two sendings off even get a mention!

3. One of the most admired aspects of Freddi's work has always been his meticulous research. Beyond doubt that applies to the spellings of players names (his attention to umlauts and the like is beyond reproach). Yet in certain instances there is a suspicion that he hasn't (despite his claims in the preface) actually watched the footage. There are quite a few instances where there are errors in the descriptions of passages of play (who provided the goal, defenders who missed tackles etc). This is an improvement on some of the alternative offerings but is still a shame.

4. At times he veers dramatically to make political observations which bear almost no relation to what has gone before. For instance at the end of the report of the USA's loss to the Czech Republic, "For the first time, the referees in a World Cup tournament had to take a written test in English - while civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan were still being killed in industrial numbers by English-speaking troops. And Guantanamo was going to be around for a while." Similarly at the end of a discussion of a match between Mexico and Iran, an aside about protests against the presence of the Iranian vice-president is concluded: "Meanwhile Israel was killing its regular quota of unarmed Palestinian civilians: 14 in 9 days this time, including children on a beach during the first days of the finals, then topping up with another 22 in July. With the usual impunity, of course. Read Palestine international Mahmoud Sarsak on his 45 days of detention and torture." Not only does this disrupt the flow of the book, it is jarring in what is supposedly a history of the World Cup, rather than one about the author's personal views about international politics.

5. Freddi very rarely covers the events of a single match in chronological order. This makes it very difficult to work out what happened when. Goals are described out of sequence while other events are rattled through at breakneck speed, leaving you wondering quite how things played out. These are often followed by lengthy asides on unrelated subjects (like the political comments mentioned above) which have little or no relevance for the matches at hand.

Overall, this is one of the best books available on the subject but it remains some way off being the definitive article. The claims that this is the only World Cup book you'll ever need ring rather hollow.
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on 12 June 2014
An honest and detailed book that gives you the real version of events and not the sugar coated stories all other books seem to. Its particularly interesting to read how certain players performed. Some not as good as many myths have suggested. Brilliant. A must for any world cup fan. Cant wait to read the updated brazil 2014 story.
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on 8 January 2014
As reviews of World Cup history go, this one is simply the best! Entertaining read from cover to cover, and an absolute must for would-be officianados of World Cup finals history; Cris Freddi's book does exactly what it says on the cover - a complete review of each tournament - every match ever played from 1930 to 2002, including line-ups, goal-scorers, managers, referees, attendances, and group tables. The match text provides all kinds of little-known, but valuable detail, as well as clearing up many inaccuracies included and perpetuated in other publications. The Kindle edition has been updated to include the 2006 and 2010 tournaments, and pre-1930 Olympic tournaments, making a superb book even better.
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