Review: World Cup 1930-2010 by Aczel

It’s not every day you stumble across a masterpiece but that’s exactly what happened to me today.  In my local bookstore, there it was, a uniquely illustrated and fascinating hardcover history of the FIFA World Cup titled, World Cup 1930-2010.

The book’s illustrator is Germán Aczel.  To put it simply, the man is a genius – hand and creative mind act as one.  The writer, Randall Northam (founder of SportsBooks) compliments Aczel’s drawings with fluid text and quirky facts.

Your zygomaticus major and risorius muscles will get a serious workout as you turn each page.  If you’re not smiling, close the book and start again.

Only a few pages in and there’s a glorious sketch of the Jules Rimet Trophy.  Then a detailed storyboard of the 1930 World Cup Final which Uruguay won 4-2 against Argentina.

Each tournament is examined in the most idiosyncratic fashion.  Tactical player lineups and fan facts sit perfectly amongst the divine sketches that get more emphatic with every turn of the page.

As a zealot of the Italian game (and an FC Internazionale Milano fan), the depiction of Giuseppe Meazza in ’34 is really quite something.  The Italians were just as dashing then as they are now.

Be sure to keep an eye on the formations used by the teams contesting each Final.  How the game has changed.  Hungary broke the two-defender mould in ’54 with three and in ’58, Brazil used four.  Aczel introduces us to a 17-year-old, Pelé and a sketch of one of the greatest goals of all-time against Sweden in the Final.  What a frontline: Garrincha, Vavá, Pelé and Zagallo.  What a team.

Brazil’s dominance in ’58 and again in ’62 is beautifully illustrated.  As is ’66 when England won their first and only tournament against West Germany.  Again, Aczel designs the lionheart in delicate style.

Bobby Moore holds the Jules Rimet aloft and if you look closely you’ll see a hilarious likeness of Nobby Stiles, famous for his victory jig, minus his front teeth.

Banks, Cohen, Moore, Wilson, Ball, Stiles, the Charltons, Peters, Hunt and Hurst dominate 12 pages that will take Anglophiles back to the nation’s proudest sporting achievement.  It’s certainly a highlight.  The sketch of the Russian linesman conferring with the referee as to whether the ball had crossed the line is priceless.  We’ve all seen the footage.

Perhaps the most important of all World Cups was ’70.  The Brazilians dominated yet again and the world’s best got to showcase his talents for the last time.  A Seleção bid farewell to the great, Pelé.  Aczel captures the skill, emotion and momentous occasion artistically.  You’ll be stuck on these 10 pages for a while, trust me.

’74 features a page dedicated to remembering the era’s hairstyles.  As a fan of sideburns, I find this one particularly funny.  No one did hirsute like the Germans and Dutch.  There’s a magestic caricature of the Dutch master, Johann Cruyff and a comic representation of the Cruyff Turn – thoroughly enjoyable.

Aczel shows us the brilliance of “Total Football” in serious detail and carefully stresses the characteristics of the Final by drawing Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer’s men in all their glory.  We also see the new, solid-gold, FIFA World Cup Trophy.

The “paper storm” portrayal of Argentina’s victory in ’78 is surreal.  The world learned to never take Argentina to extra-time.

There are some passionate drawings of Italy’s ’82 triumph, Azzurri fans.  But the infamous, Harald Schumacher clattering of Patrick Battiston when West Germany played France in the Semi-Final is the pick of the bunch.

It becomes clear that Aczel (an Argentinian by birth) has a strong affection for the ’86 Finals.  No surprise.  The drawings which accentuate the flair and unequalled gifts of Diego Maradona are perhaps, the best I’ve seen.

Maradona’s “Hand of God” moment followed by the “Goal of the Century” please the eye.  In ’86, it was all about El Diego.  For many, myself included, he’s the best player to have ever played.

Italia ’90 is a real treat.  Aczel opens with the penalty which decided the Final – West Germany defeating Argentina by a goal to nil.  He perfectly captures the angles of both the taker, Andreas Brehme and the outstretched goalkeeper, Sergio Goycochea.  Brilliant.

There is some serious effort put into the depiction of this tournament.  It’s obvious that Aczel really lived through this period (as did I).  West Germany, led by Lothar Matthäus, were just unstoppable.

USA ’94, this is hot, hot, hot!  Bebeto’s rockin’ the baby, Oleg Salenko scores five goals against Cameroon and Maradona’s international career ends in drug controversy – all superbly illustrated in colour.  What about Roberto Baggio’s missed penalty?  Well, see for yourself.

France hosted the ’98 Finals and Aczel features the iconic, Zinedine Zidane.  Of course, this tournament would make his career.  David Beckham’s red card for kicking-out at Diego Simeone and Dennis Bergkamp’s goal of the World Cup are the standout drawings.  France’s 3-0 drubbing of Brazil in the Final was pure teamwork.

A state-of-the-art ball, a glittering performance from a real Brazilian superstar and the vindication of an Englishman made South Korea/Japan ’02 a highly engaging Finals.  Asian football is on the map.  Don’t laugh too hard at the picture of Ronaldinho.  Brazil are champions, again!

The World Cup in ’06 will be remembered forever.  It was meant to be a fairytale ending for a truly graceful man.  However, for Zidane, it was more like a nightmare.  Aczel comes up with, for me, the funniest sketch in the book.

Zidane’s headbutt into the chest of Italy’s, Marco Materazzi is sidesplitting.  The tournament cannot be discussed without mentioning this moment.  Materazzi apparently made a derogatory comment about Zidane’s sister and the France captain wasn’t about to let it slide.  He saw red, literally, and the Italians hoisted another trophy which they probably deserved for their uncompromising defence.

So, the final set of illustrations of course, belong to the highlights of last year’s tournament in South Africa.  What stands out here is the creation of the modern footballer.  Aczel does an amazing job at painting Cristiano Ronaldo as a superhero, Lionel Messi as a little magician and Fernando Torres as some kind of matador.

If you don’t buy this book, you’re missing out on a visually fixating journey through time.  The world game has never been so carefully crafted in pictures, so meticulously scribed and fun in so many ways.

This is one for the coffee table not the bookshelf.  Everyone can enjoy this thoroughly entertaining look at the World Cup.  Just don’t ask me to lend it to you.

Buy World Cup 1930-2010.

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