The 2014 football World Cup is finally almost here - and we're so excited we're almost hyperventilating.
With a total of 64 matches taking place, there won't be any shortage of action to keep you occupied over the next month. But at the same time, you can't spend all of your day watching, then re-watching the games. Well you could, but that might be overkill.
Instead, why not set aside a few hours each day to do something different. Read a book, for instance, or watch a film or listen to a podcast.
There's only one stipulation - they all have to be football-related, obviously. Fortunately, we've rounded up the best of each over the next three pages.
Many words have been penned about the beautiful game, and you can expect to see mountains of verbiage written across the newspapers and blogosphere this summer. But if you want to dig deeper, you can't beat a book; we've picked out five titles that offer in-depth analysis of tactics, player biographies and paens to the spirit of Brazilian football.
Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life
As we’ll soon be tired of hearing this summer, football is pretty important to the Brazilians. Here Alex Bellos (a Rio-based Brit who also ghost-wrote Pele’s autobiography) explores the quirky, sometimes seedy underside of that passion, from the cattle-like selling of players to Autoball: soccer played with cars. All football life is here.
And Gazza Misses the Final
Now this is a weird but oddly wonderful approach to revisiting old games. Rob Smyth and Scott Murray’s minute-by-minute Guardian match reports have acquired such a cult following that they’ve now covered 20 old World Cup games too, including the infamous 1990 England vs Germany semi-final. A novel new way to re-experience the agony.
More after the break...
Inverting the Pyramid
Jonathan Wilson’s entertaining tome is a bible for both tactics geeks and those who only watch big World Cup games but want to chip in with some sensible-sounding soundbites. The newly updated version progresses from the gung-ho 19th-century seven-strikers system to the ‘tiki-taka’ of Barcelona and Spain, who sometimes use no strikers at all.
An exhaustive but enlightening profile of the Barcelona icon by Guillem Balague, a familiar face from Sky’s La Liga coverage. The well-connected journo gained official backing for this biog, and explores the shy superstar’s road to glory, while also analysing his relative lack of success with Argentina. Will the real Lionel light up Brazil?
The Story of the World Cup: 2014
Venerable sports scribe Brian Glanville updates his seminal history of the World Cup, bringing it bang up to date. Each tournament gets a preamble of background info, profiles of the contenders, and reports on the opening games, second round and finals. An excellent primer; it's particularly entertaining to read about the 1950 Brazil tournament's difficulties in getting the Maracanà Stadium ready on time. Plus ça change…
£0.99 (Kindle edition), amazon.co.uk