If you’re only going to read one book in preparation for the World Cup, this is probably the one you should choose.

David Hirshey and Roger Bennett tell the stories of some of the tournament’s most spectacular moments and introduce readers to (or remind them of) many of the World Cup’s heroes and villains, and Hirshey and Bennett seem to be having a fine time as they do it. The writing is energetic and often funny. The photographs are terrific. And, of course, the subject is irresistible.

Biases are certain to abound in a book like this, and they are present here. In maintaining that Italy and France have built one of the great World Cup rivalries, the authors contend that “what the French live to create, the Italians seek to destroy.” It’s intriguing (and great fun) that of the U.S. team that will open against England on June 12th, the authors opine as follows:

 ”In recent World Cups, a number of underdogs have shown that teams without marquee stars can go deep  into the tournament precisely because they are highly organized, motivated, and egoless. Turkey, South  Korea, and Senegal played that role at the 2002 World Cup, and it is a formula that the current American  squad could well follow in South Africa.”