The Anatomy of England, By Jonathan Wilson

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The Independent Culture

Is hindsight a wonderful thing? It is in this thought-provoking reappraisal of 10 key games in England's football history.

Rather than relying on received opinion, Jonathan Wilson has forensically examined these matches again kick by kick on film or video, or in the case of the earliest games, from newspaper reports, drawn from both countries involved. He dates England's slide from supremacy back to a 4-3 defeat against Spain in 1929, their first loss to continental opposition.

Wilson also gives the highs due credit – 1966, plus a 3-1 beating of France in 1982 and the 4-1 demolition of Holland 14 years later. Wary of generalisations, he cites "the lust for speed and fear of thought... hard-wired into the personality of English football" as a problem, instancing the hoofing of long balls for the final 13 minutes of the European Championship qualifier against Croatia in 2007. Whatever happens in South Africa, this book should be required reading for all future England squads.