With the World Cup so close after such a long wait, now is the time for the release of numerous pieces, books, and articles about the participants, each one vying to be the authoritative source. Besides some of the more reputable sources (such as the World Soccer Talk previews) there are few established sources of information about the tournament and the teams that are worth your time. One such resource is the new ebook The Globalized Game… well, kind of.
The book is the third edition of an every four year project by Harrison Stark, a writer for Slate and their soccer website The Spot. I have always found The Spot to be a pretty good guide to combining soccer with geopolitics or cultural stories, things Slate does well from a more left-of-center perspective. This book has that same feel to it – more of a casual conversation about the tournament and the teams, instead of a deep dive into the issues. This is probably because the team previews (which run 2-3 pages on average) are being modified and run on the site every day as a way to spread the site’s coverage.
The book itself is well written. It starts out with a chapter on why this World Cup may be “the last one” – i.e., the last tournament where nationalistic rivalries and unique style of play are present in recognizable fashion. As the corporate world takes over running the tournament, teams become more conservative in their style, and the old wars of the 20th century fade from memory, the Champions League has replaced the World Cup as the premier international soccer tournament. The argument is persuasive and the most in-depth, perceptive part of the book. I suspect Stark could write an entire book on this topic and it would be a great read; in this book it is only a lengthy introduction.
Instead, the majority of the book is a group breakdown with an analysis of each team. After a brief introduction of the team and each country’s soccer status, he reviews key players and a rising star. For the majority of readers of this site, the information will be redundant and nothing new, with only an occasional interest fact to keep the reader reading. The group analysis makes clear the authors thoughts on who will advance and, based on his history with the sport, it is worth noting especially if you are involved with any fantasy World Cup games.
I would hesitate for most of the readers of this site to purchase this e-book, even at its wonderfully low price of $3.99. I do so for two reasons. One, most of this information is too basic for many of our readers; Stark does not delve into statistical analysis or Kuper-esque analytics. Two, most of the content will be available on Slate and from what I’ve read so far it is comparable to what is in the book if not exactly accurate.
Instead, this book is something to purchase if you are new to the game, this is your “first” World Cup, or you have a family member with a budding interest in the game. It’s simple and easy enough to read that it would immensely benefit a novice.