Why England Lose: And Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained

Looking for a good read about soccer? Here's your book.

Marco Brindicci/Reuters
Popular soccer book "Soccernomics" predicts that the US soccer team will eventually become "kings" of the soccer world.

This book has been called soccer's answer to "Freakonomics." Originally published in Britain with the title "Why England Lose: And Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained" (and yes – before you write in to correct my grammar – that really is the title), it was republished here in the US last fall as "Soccernomics." Naturally – and apparently successfully – "Soccernomics" was promoted as "an essential guide for the 2010 World Cup."

According to independent bookstore newsletter Shelfawareness, it is today the bestselling soccer title and fourth most-popular sports title in the US.

The authors make an interesting pair. Simon Kuper is a sportswriter and Stefan Szymanski an economist; they claim that their combined analytical skills help to reveal "counterintuitive truths" about the game of soccer. They argue that the English soccer team actually performs better than should be expected, that spending too much for star players is a bad idea, and that soccer teams are generally bad business investments.

The book's subtitle here in the US may help to explain its appeal to American readers. "Soccernomics" promises to explain, "Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey – and Even Iraq – Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World's Most Popular Sport."

Depending on the outcomes of today's matches (England vs. Slovenia, the US vs. Algeria), Kuper and Szymanski may either look very bright – or have some explaining to do.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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