Ruud Doevendans

Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of the World Cup.

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Book review: "The all-time World Cup"

    Did you ever wonder whether Paolo Maldini would stand against Garrincha? Could Gabriel Batistuta have scored against Lev Yashin? How would the famous Dutch midfielders Rijkaard, Neeskens and Van Hanegem have done against the Germans Matthäus, Walter and Overath? Could Kopa, Zidane and Platini have fitted into one team?

    Great news for you! Englishman David Brooks, a commodities journalist by trade, has written a very, very nice book called “The all-time World Cup”. He took the 16 strongest nations in the history of the World Cup (although the inclusion of Scotland and the Republic of Ireland may be a bit commercial), and put together all their best players ever into one squad. These teams play each other in a classic World Cup format: four groups with four teams each, subsequently quarter finals, semi finals, a 3rd place play-off. And this great All Time World Cup ends with the big final, I’m not going to tell.

    The way in which David Brooks has made this book, is more than an enumeration of matches, a detailed description of the goals, saves and misses. He tells how the national team managers selected their squads, weighing up one player against the other. There are profiles of the world’s leading players and he describes the biggest matches that have taken place in past World Cups. David gives us head-to-head comparisons from the teams that make the quarter finals as well as his list of the 100 best players ever, which looks very legitimate. There is a lot behind this project. David for instance didn’t choose just to make teams with the best individuals (you won’t find a Garrincha-Zico-Didi-Rivelino midfield, for instance) but tried to compile balanced teams, containing enough defenders and ballwinners. It only makes the story more credible. Still he succeeded in bringing as many big stars as possible to the scene.

    And he may have found it difficult to choose from all Brazilian superstrikers, and the great bunch of world-class defenders that Italy has had. Who would be in your team? Ronaldo or Romario, Tostao or Ademir? Would you take Paolo Maldini as your Italian leftback, or still go for Facchetti? Rivera as their playmaker, Sandro Mazzola or even his father Valentino? David took a bit from everything, sometimes changing the line-ups during the tournament. With the current rotating system going around, it doesn’t feel strange at all. “The all-time World Cup” is not only nice to read, but it also puts you in the shoes of the great managers, with all their possiblities and problems. And who wouldn’t like to be in the position of Mario Zagallo, Vittorio Pozzo or Cesar Menotti? Remember it’s all fiction, but then again....the idea is so great. It brings Duncan Edwards together with Bobby Charlton again, it bundles up a Uruguyan central defence formed by Nasazzi and Santamaria. For this event, Johan Cruijff, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten together take on an Argentinian back-four containing Olguin, Ruggeri, Passarella and Marzolini. Simply divine!

    Are there no negative comments to make? Of course, with any book there are. But they are minor this time. Like I mentioned before, it’s hard to imagine Scotland and the Republic of Ireland among the 16 strongest football nations in World Cup history (respectively 22nd and 36th on the all-time ranking). Although a Scottish attack with Dalglish, Law and Alan Morton as well as Ireland’s midfield with Giles, Keane and Brady is worth the world stage every inch. I would like to have seen the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia included, since they participated as one country for most of the history of the World Cup. And not without success. Both can field superb all-time teams. David chose another format, included for instance Russia but without the great Ukrainians (Blokhine, Shevchenko) and Georgians (Chivadze, Kipiani). He could have added yet a bit more of reality by including referees, and yellow and red cards. Elements that just belong to football.

    Still, this is a book very much worth reading and it should be in every soccerfan’s bookshelf. It gives you a great insight in football history. David is a man with a great knowledge of the game, he has a compelling style of writing and he manages to tell about the matches in a way that you see it happen before your eyes. And the idea of having players from totally different eras play with and against each other is simply tempting. A phrase from the France-Spain match, played in group 2, tells it all: “Platini, Kopa and Zidane picked their way through the Spanish defence, and it took a classic performance from Zamora to keep things decent.” How would you like that? You know it is not real, but at least it feels like it’s real. Your imagination does the rest.



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