“There’s nothing quite like a World Cup,” Michael Owen once said and, for such a simple premise, the words ring true. The tournament generates anticipation, excitement and drama without any need for fictional exaggeration. It seems like an impossible task to capture and distill the genuine emotion of “Gazza’s tears”, the manic joy of Marco Tardelli or the anguish of Asamoah Gyan seeing his penalty crash against the crossbar into a feature-length production but – for the sake of FIFA endorsement – the third instalment of the Goal! trilogy tries to do just that under the title Taking on the World.
Following the story of Santiago Muñez, the first two films track his journey from unknown Mexican prodigy to being embraced by the city of Newcastle after helping them into the Champions League before a glamour move to Real Madrid. The clichéd vices of life in the Spanish capital as a professional footballer begin to affect his personality and relationships before he then helps Real Madrid to European success to secure eventual redemption.
The third film takes the story to the 2006 World Cup in Germany but has to contend with the loss of big-name squad members such as Anna Friel. The actress stayed at home but declined to tweet her disappointment at missing out while wishing the lads all the best for the summer. Instead, the film focuses on two new protagonists in Charlie Braithwaite and Liam Adams who make England’s World Cup squad despite health risks and personal troubles respectively.
Under the direction of Andrew Morahan, responsible for Wham!’s Last Christmas video, Goal 3 shows some of the absolute worst aspects of football and almost nothing good.
There’s a brashness about the two England players despite the storyline inferring that they are out of form and skipping training. An uncomfortable amount of time is given to the character of the football agent – flash, arrogant and self-interested – as he encourages his client to “relax; kick back; shag some of the most beautiful women on Earth.”
The England fans adopt the embarrassing “what happens on tour, stays on tour” mantra as they travel around in a caravan with the St George flag painted across it and feature in a sequence about one of the group being punched for staring at a German barmaid’s breasts.
England crash out on penalties to Portugal in the quarter-finals in the most unimaginative piece of writing conceivable and, in an objectionable nod towards modern football, Mike Ashley has a cameo, in his Newcastle shirt, as he swears at a slimy member of his entourage with all the thespian grace of a man who would vomit into a fireplace.
Maybe then, this film hits the perfect tone for a World Cup. Hopes are built up despite distinctly average performances in the preceding years before a hopeless performance against the backdrop of a minority of fans acting like fools leads to everyone asking where is the funding going if the only constants are penalty heartbreak, anger and shame.
Bring on Russia.