Judge Ryan Keefer wonders if the World Cup can be held elsewhere from now on. It just doesn't feel right to see that many Germans clapping and singing in unison, you know?
The 18th tournament featuring the world's greatest soccer players commenced over the summer of 2006 in Germany; and this film chronicles the events that followed.
Players, coaches and teams who participate in the World Cup have their countries' hopes and dreams riding at their feet. In some countries, players who stumble with an inadvertent miscue could find themselves or their families receiving death threats, and in one case after the 1994 World Cup, a Colombian player was murdered after accidentally scoring a goal against his team. However, when things work out well, the participants are remembered for their lifetimes. If they are fortunate enough to win the trophy, it's safe to say that they might never have to pay for a meal or a pint at the pub ever again.
Simply put, soccer is the greatest uniter among people. Peasants on the streets of Rio can play with the hopes of being the next Ronaldo. Kids in broken homes in industrial British towns can play to become the next Beckham. And anyone, anywhere who possesses enough talent can play on the world's must public stage. Every four years, hundreds of countries play for the right to be among those final 32 squads that will get their shot at it all.
In this official film from the World Cup, directors Michael Apted (The Up Series) and Pat O'Connor (Circle of Friends), along with fellow Irishman Pierce Brosnan (The World is Not Enough) help to convey all the highs and lows of the notable games. Remastered in high definition (but only presented in standard def) and presented in widescreen, most of the camera angles are from the field level and without narration or musical accompaniment, to give the viewer as much of a look into the excitement behind the game as possible.
The feature does go by pretty quickly for the most part which is actually a bit of a feat considering not only is it almost two hours long, but Brosnan's narration is pretty minimal throughout. However the bragging part about it is also something that detracts from the overall viewing experience. The lack of secondary activity, be it a music soundtrack or other narration puts a bit of a damper on things. Comparing this film to any of the old NFL Films presentations is a night and day comparison. Where an old Super Bowl film has the soundtrack of horns combined with John Facenda's bass voice, painting effective portraits of scenes, events and players, the 2006 World Cup film has…well, it's got a guy who used to be James Bond, periodically throwing it a bit of trivia or two.
Don't get me wrong, I love soccer, and there are some sequences in the film that are pretty good. Argentina's 26 touches of the ball before it reaches the back of the opponent's net is reminiscent of the legendary Brazilian teams of the '70s, when it comes to ball control and wizardry. The Portugal-Netherlands debacle in all its yellow and red card glory is given enough time to show how amateurish, even comical, the referee's decisions were. And some of the standalone crystallized moments of the tournament are captured as well. In a match between England and Portugal, English striker Wayne Rooney kicked the groin of a Portuguese player, which was dutifully reported to the referee by Portuguese midfielder (and Manchester United teammate) Cristiano Ronaldo. Rooney was shown the red card and ejected from the match, which England eventually lost on penalty kicks. Aside from the result of the match, what infuriated Britons nationwide was the shot of Ronaldo sending a wink to the bench after Rooney was shown the red. There was talk that Ronaldo shouldn't bother to return to play for his club after the tournament, but as of this review, it has since subsided and his club has recaptured the top spot in the English Premier League.
Then you have the cranial assault shot heard around the world. Zinedine Zidane was playing in his last matches as a professional. The 34-year-old Frenchman from Algerian parents had been slowed to some extent by injury, and had even retired from international competition before, but when the French were in danger of not qualifying for the tournament, he returned to play for his country. Despite some hiccups where he was suspended for a key game in the first round of play due to yellow card accumulation, he showed dazzling skill that reminded fans why he was named FIFA World Player of the Year three times in a five year period. He scored the only goal in the semifinals that got the French to the finals, where they were up against an Italian squad that was stingy on defense, allowing only one goal over a multi-match stretch. He scored the first goal in the Final (only the fourth player ever to score in two World Cup Finals), and could only stand defenseless as Italian defender Marco Materazzi evened the match with a goal off a corner kick. As the game drew on and opportunities became scarce, Zidane had an ideal shot at goal, but was stopped by Gianluigi Buffon. Several minutes later, Zidane and Materazzi exchanged some words, and Zidane headbutted Materazzi in the sternum, sending him to the ground and sending Zidane to the showers with a red card. What exactly was said between the two players remains a mystery, though dominant speculation seems to be on Zidane's female relatives and their perceived promiscuity, but it's anyone's guess. After that, the French fought valiantly with the Italians and ultimately lost the game on penalty kicks, the second such occurrence in history. The win proved to be vindication for an Italian team, most of whom play in a domestic league who was under the harsh scrutiny of a match-fixing scandal.
Upon further reflection, the last two paragraphs were a good deal of what Brosnan said during this piece, but I didn't take almost two hours to do it. For FIFA to make more compelling features in the future, some artificial drama should be included, whether they want to admit it or not. It's about entertainment, and unfortunately in soccer, action alone doesn't speak for itself.
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