Between the Lines

"Of all unimportant subjects, football is the most important" – Pope John Paul II

Review: Why England lose

Posted by hakanrylander on October 9, 2009

Why England loseThis book combines the skills of a top journalist with those of “Britain’s foremost sports economist” in a very successful way.  Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski give us the rare pleasure of an enjoyable read about academic subjects.

Among the topics they cover are “How to avoid silly mistakes in the transfer market”, “Why football clubs don’t make money”, “The country that loves football most” and, amazingly, “Are Manchester United really a problem?” (The answer is no.) Some of the questions they answer very convincingly, others less so, but most of the time you have fun reading their explanations. 

The best part is probably the chapter dealing with England’s lack of success. The authors start by listing eight phases to describe the traditional pattern of an England World Cup campaign. A pattern that looks very familiar to any football fan looking at England from the outside.

  1. Certainty that England will win the World Cup
  2. During the tournament England meet a former wartime enemy
  3. The English conclude that the game turned on one freakish piece of bad luck that could happen only to them
  4. Moreover, everyone else cheated
  5. England are knocked out without getting anywhere near lifting the cup
  6. The day after elimination, normal life resumes
  7. A scapegoat is found
  8. England enter the next World Cup thinking they will win it

Having beaten Croatia is of course more than enough to now place us firmly in phase eight.

Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski: Why England lose & other curious football phenomena explained (HarperCollins)

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