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The ESPN World Cup Companion (excerpt)

The ESPN World Cup Companion (excerpt)

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An excerpt from THE ESPN WORLD CUP COMPANION written by David Hirshey and Roger Bennett, with an introduction by Steve Nash.

Nothing unites—and excites—the sporting planet like a World Cup. For one month every four years, billions of people rearrange their lives, play hooky, and ignore their loved ones in order to watch 22 men kick a ball in pursuit of a small gold statue and athletic immortality.

On the eve of one of the most historically significant World Cup of all—the first to be held in Africa—you need a tour guide more than ever. Learned yet lively, elegantly designed, and bursting with historical photos, The ESPN World Cup Companion celebrates every World Cup since 1930, highlighting each era’s Greatest Players, Games, Teams, Players, Rivalries, and Cult Figures. But coauthors David Hirshey and Roger Bennett relish the game for all its beauty and vulgarity, subtlety and brutality, examining every aspect of World Cup culture; here you’ll find a rogue’s gallery of the game’s biggest divas and divers, the DNA of the world’s powerhouses, the psychodrama of the penalty shoot out, the physics of the free kick, the five soccer fans you’ll meet in hell, and even the art of scoring off the field.

The ESPN World Cup Companion captures all the sweat, blood, tears, and bad hairdos of the last 80 years. Whether you’re a casual fan or a long-time aficionado of the sport, this book bridges the gap between merely watching the planet’s biggest sporting event and truly understanding it.

So paint your face, hoist your vuvuzela, or just grab your trusty remote, but whatever you do make sure The ESPN World Cup Companion is by your side.
An excerpt from THE ESPN WORLD CUP COMPANION written by David Hirshey and Roger Bennett, with an introduction by Steve Nash.

Nothing unites—and excites—the sporting planet like a World Cup. For one month every four years, billions of people rearrange their lives, play hooky, and ignore their loved ones in order to watch 22 men kick a ball in pursuit of a small gold statue and athletic immortality.

On the eve of one of the most historically significant World Cup of all—the first to be held in Africa—you need a tour guide more than ever. Learned yet lively, elegantly designed, and bursting with historical photos, The ESPN World Cup Companion celebrates every World Cup since 1930, highlighting each era’s Greatest Players, Games, Teams, Players, Rivalries, and Cult Figures. But coauthors David Hirshey and Roger Bennett relish the game for all its beauty and vulgarity, subtlety and brutality, examining every aspect of World Cup culture; here you’ll find a rogue’s gallery of the game’s biggest divas and divers, the DNA of the world’s powerhouses, the psychodrama of the penalty shoot out, the physics of the free kick, the five soccer fans you’ll meet in hell, and even the art of scoring off the field.

The ESPN World Cup Companion captures all the sweat, blood, tears, and bad hairdos of the last 80 years. Whether you’re a casual fan or a long-time aficionado of the sport, this book bridges the gap between merely watching the planet’s biggest sporting event and truly understanding it.

So paint your face, hoist your vuvuzela, or just grab your trusty remote, but whatever you do make sure The ESPN World Cup Companion is by your side.

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Published by: Random House Publishing Group on May 03, 2010
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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08/21/2013

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THE ESPNWORLD CUPCOMPANION
Everything You Need to Know About the Planet’s Biggest Sports Event
David Hirshey and Roger Bennett
T
BALLANTINEBOOKS
 
 xv
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hen Zinedine Zidane lowered his headand drove it into Marco Materazzi’schest in the dying minutes of the 2006 World Cup final, nearly everyone on the planetrecoiled in slack-jawed horror. How could the GreatZizou, one of the game’s true geniuses, tarnish hislegacy over some run-of-the-mill trash talk? To American viewers, Zidane’s
Coupe de Boule
im-mediately earned a place in the sports pantheon of cheap shots, alongside Kermit Washington suckerpunching Rudy Tomjanovich and Mike Tysonsnacking on Evander Holyfield’s ear. Yet it also marked the tipping point in the American consciousness of a tournament thathad escalated from cult status to can’t-afford-to-miss-it-for-fear-of-looking-clueless-around-the- water-cooler Big Event. The final between Italy and France drew an estimated 16.9 million viewersfrom sea to shining sea, eclipsing both the NBA and NHL playoffs and nearly equaling the audience(17.2 million) for the previous year’s World Series.Perhaps most astonishing is the fact that the viewingnumbers continued to spike
after 
the U.S. crashedout in the opening round. Unlike the Olympics, where the American appetite is largely limited to watching the Red, White, and Blue win a boatloadof gold, the World Cup goes beyond chest-thumpingpatriotism to—dare we say it—an appreciation fora sport where we’re not number 1, or even number10. (All together now: “We’re Number 14!”) And yetenough of us played hooky during the 2006 WorldCup to account for this staggering statistic: Thetournament cost the U.S. $1.2 billion in lost labor because of the number of fans who skipped outof work at all hours of the day to watch the WorldCup telecasts. A couple of years earlier, we got to witness first-hand the roots of this strange phenomenon at ourlocal Irish soccer bar in New York City, where fateoriginally threw us together as pub mates hunger-ing for the weekly soccer broadcasts from En-gland, Germany, and Spain. Actually, it was almostimpossible for us to miss each other, given that, atkickoff time, we were virtually the only customers.Not that we were a match made in soccer heaven,mind you, coming to the game as we did fromopposite sides of the field. One of us hails fromNew York, the other from Liverpool. One bleeds Arsenal red, the other lives and dies with Everton.One of us came of age during the apotheosis of thesport—Brazil’s mind-blowing World Cup–winningside of 1970. The other suffered as England foundincreasingly theatrical ways to shatter the heartsof a nation in the late ’80s and early ’90s. We wereconnected simply by our shared love of soccer andall it represents. After the last World Cup, we realized that some-thing was afoot. The guys who used to parade inaround halftime, decked out in their Ohio State orFlorida jerseys, and walk straight past the row of TVs in the front room showing English Premiermatches on their way to the College GameDay tele-casts in the back, actually started to arrive earlier tocheck out what all the soccer fuss was about. Overthe weeks and months that followed, their curiosity intensified:“What’s with all the diving and whining?”“Where are all the freakin’ goals?”“Why does that dude in goal wear a water polohelmet?”“Wait, there are two Ronaldos?”It wasn’t long before they began making pro-nouncements of their own:“They’re playing a 4-5-1? That’ll never workagainst the midfield diamond.“If Ron Artest played soccer, he’d be MichaelEssien.”“Zonal marking on set pieces is insanity!” When the next season of the English PremierLeague rolled around, many of our pub mates evenadopted a team (that is, if you consider Tottenham ateam) and, instead of watching in lunatic isolation, we were surrounded by a rowdy mix of scream-ing, jumping, expletive-spewing fans who, despite
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