Top positive review
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Deserves to be respected, but needs an editor
on 20 July 2010
I find it difficult to review this book accurately without spending more time on its bad points than its good points. However I think it's fair to sum up its good points by saying that Brian Glanville is clearly a very experienced journalist with a depth of knowledge about the game, its history and its characters that deserves to be respected. This is a comprehensive history of the game's greatest tournament written by someone who has been close to the action for most of it. It doesn't weigh you down with stats and is more than just a dry recap of the progress of each tournament, focusing on key moments and not being afraid to address the many controversies.
There are, however, numerous minus points I could mention, some of which are just personal observations but others which should surely have been dealt with at the editing stage. There are frequent factual errors which simply contradict something which is said elsewhere on the same page, or which clearly are wrong - players' names being spelt wrongly and correctly in the space of a few sentences, or simple errors which are immediately obvious to somebody who knows (stating the wrong number of teams in a particular tournament, for example) but which could confuse someone who doesn't. The book has been updated several times since it was first published in 1973, but the text of previous versions has not been revised in the light of subsequent events when really it should have been - for example expressing a wish that the first-ever penalty shoot-out in the finals in 1982 would remain the only one, something which could easily have been edited out of later editions when it became clear that it wouldn't be. The chapter for 2006 seems like a first draft, with one section being virtually a complete re-write of what had been said earlier in the book. The format of the chapters changes almost as much as the format of the finals themselves, creating a confusing inconsistency, and the chronology of each chapter can also be confusing as it jumps backwards and forwards within a tournament. Inevitably for a journalist, particularly one who's been around as long as Glanville, there is a lot of editorialising along the lines of the grumpy old traditionalist who despairs every time the game sells its soul for the sake of an extra few bob. Sometimes these opinions are based on a clearly flawed premise - the expanded tournament wasn't to blame for players being tired in later rounds, for example, because they didn't actually play any extra games themselves. Often they are fair points made, but the same point is made far too often in many cases. We know you don't like penalty shoot-outs, but we don't need to hear them being criticised like that every time it happens. Indeed there is a lot of repetition in this book, I know I was fed up with hearing about Claudio Gentile's "tender mercies" by the third time around. Yes, he was a bit rough and it was drily amusing the first time, but once is enough.
Anyway, none of these points were enough to actually spoil the book overall, hopefully they are just a forewarning for anybody whose tolerance level for such things is particularly low as the quality of the book overall far transcends these shortcomings.