I Scored a Goal in the FIFA World Cup Final is such a hokey title, that I thought this film must be a spoof. But no, it is an ESPN compilation of interviews of the then 33 remaining players who had actually done the deed, up through WC 2010.
The interviews are very short vignettes that were originally interspersed with ESPN broadcasts during WC 2010. Director Daniel Gordon compiled them into a 50 minute documentary. The vignettes are a bit difficult to digest at first, as the stories are not chronological, and there is not much context. You watch a ball go in, and you hear the crowd roar. The clips come in rapid succession, and it’s difficult to remember which teams are playing, which players are on the field, and what is the final score.
Still, the music is stirring, and the players’ personal drama of scoring in a WC Final is well communicated. When the vignettes are a little longer, they almost paraphrase a player’s career in one goal. For example, in WC 1950, Uruguayan Alcides Ghiggia scored the 79th minute game-winner against Brazil, in the defeat known as the Maracanazo. In his interview, the 83 year old Ghiggia repeats his famous line:
“The Maracana has been silenced by three people: the Pope, Frank Sinatra and me.’’
The film sheds light on the pressure on players to perform, and how things can go so well when teams come together. One of the best examples is Zinedine Zidane’s two goals and Emmanuel Petit’s stoppage-time goal in their WC 1998 triumph over Brazil. But the film also inspects Zidane’s spectacular moment of insanity in his WC 2006 loss to Italy.
There is quite a bit of coverage around England’s WC 1966 extra time win over Germany. The game had a controversial goal plus Geoff Hurst’s hat trick, the only one ever scored in a WC final. Zidane, Pelé, and Vavá are the only other players who have scored 3 goals in WC finals: Zidane in 1998 (2) and 2006, Pelé in 1958 (2) and 1970, and Vavá in 1958 (2) and 1962. For more stats, check this wikipedia page.
Germany gets extra screen time too, with Gerd Müller seeming like quite a likable guy. Opponents discuss how difficult it is to play Germany, because the Germans never quit.
The vignettes are pieced together to place the most dramatic moments towards the end. It increases the drama, provided that you are a World Cup scholar and know which game is which. But regardless of my confusion, films like this make me long for the days when ESPN held the broadcast rights to the FIFA World Cup. ESPN seeks to honor and preserve a sport’s history, while Fox, I feel, is just there for the money.
Daniel Gordon has directed multiple football films
Daniel Gordon has done other excellent work for ESPN: see his ESPN films Hillsborough and George Best: All by Himself. He has created a large number of sports documentaries, including a football film that I have not yet seen, The Game of Their Lives, about the 1966 North Korean WC team.
In 2017, photographer Michael Donald published a book of portraiture and write-ups with almost the same title, and I assume much of the same material. The number of surviving players had shrunk to 30, but the book was published just in time for WC 2018. This of course predicts a new edition every 4 years.
In English and the language of the players with English subtitles
6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6