It’s a tough job writing content for a football blog when there’s no football to talk about.
With no real football, I’m going to take a look at some fictional football instead, in doing so blatantly stealing an idea that has already been used by numerous blogs and podcasts. But unlike most of them, I’m going right to the bottom – starting with the direct-to-DVD hell that is Goal III: Taking on the World.
If you didn’t already know this was bad, the DVD cover should warn you.
The Story So Far…
Football films are usually a bit rubbish. Cheesy. Predictable. Actors can’t play football. Footballers can’t act. Just a few of the common accusations levelled at them.
But the Goal! Trilogy aimed to change all that. With backing from both FIFA and Adidas, it aimed to create a film series with unparalleled access to some of the biggest leagues in the world and the World Cup itself.
The first film isn’t exactly The Godfather, but it’s a charming enough underdog story. Stannis Baratheon from Game of Thrones spots Santiago Muñez (Kuno Becker) playing football in LA and offers him the chance of a lifetime – a trial with Newcastle United.
He overcomes a number of hurdles (his asthma, clashes with teammates and a tabloid scandal) to establish himself in the team, win the affections of a nurse (played by Anna Friel) and score the goal which takes Newcastle into the Champions League.
The second film sees him move to Real Madrid but his dream move turns sour as he suffers lots of off-field issues and struggles to cope with his newfound fame and fortune.
He sacks his agent, gets arrested for punching a photographer and breaks up with his girlfriend after he cheats on her with a TV reporter. Despite all this, he still manages to play a major role as Real Madrid win the Champions League – la décima arriving eight years earlier than in reality.
The third film was supposed to feature Muñez’s adventures at the 2006 World Cup. But that’s not how things worked out…
While the first two films were released in the cinema and were moderately successful at the box office, this one was made on a much-reduced budget (reportedly only $10m) and went straight to DVD so a lot of people don’t even know it exists.
Unfortunately, I can confirm it does.
The film is barely much longer than an actual football match (96 minutes) but the plot jumps around numerous locations, juggles far too many characters and is cursed with a lazy script stuffed with terrible dialogue, outdated stereotypes and casual misogyny.
So let’s take a look at five reasons why the final film deserves to be considered among the worst films of all time.
Cast of Characters
Imagine if after the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and all the other supporting characters just disappeared from the story and Return of the Jedi started off with Luke Skywalker hanging around with a bunch of random characters who have never been mentioned before but everyone acts like they’ve been friends for years.
Well this is effectively the storytelling decision that Goal III makes.
Presumably the other actors weren’t contracted for all three films, or maybe the massively reduced budget didn’t allow for them to return.
So let’s meet Charlie Braithwaite and Liam Adams, English players at Real Madrid and Santiago Muñez’s best friends. Two characters who have never been mentioned before but are suddenly integral to the plot.
The audience doesn’t know these characters so why should we care about them in the same way as the ones we’ve got to know over two previous films? There’s nothing special about either character either, they’re just two generic jack-the-lad English footballer types.
There’s also a new agent character played by Nick Moran, who has form for appearing in truly reprehensible football movies, having previously starred in 2004’s Soccer Dog: European Cup.
The only characters from the previous films who appear in this one are a bunch of Newcastle fans from the first film, who head to Germany in a camper van to support England and pop up occasionally to provide “comic” relief. Their “hilarious” antics include drinking too much, fart jokes and lusting after foreign women.
There’s also an inexplicable cameo from Mike Ashley who is shown watching England’s opening game in a Newcastle shirt – which makes no sense as he only bought Newcastle in 2007, around a year after the events of the film.
For a movie that is supposedly about the World Cup, long stretches of it contain next to no football at all. And although the second film left a number of plot threads hanging, these are more or less completely abandoned – which makes this almost feel like a stand-alone film rather than the final part of a trilogy.
We meet our three heroes while recording a BBC World Cup promo, featuring an England v Mexico final (of course) though England deserve a black mark against them for needlessly wearing their away kit in this fictional scenario.
After finding out they’ve been selected for their countries’ World Cup squads Braithwaite, Adams and Muñez head straight to the training camp to begin their preparations. No, sorry they actually go to Romania where Braithwaite is filming a small part in an extremely low-budget horror movie. As you do just before the biggest tournament in football.
It makes no sense for Braithwaite, who let’s not forget is supposed to be a top player for Real Madrid and England (he’s famous enough that people in Romania recognise him) to basically be an extra, wearing leather fetish gear in a soft-porn vampire movie. It sounds made up, but honest-to-goodness this is what happens.
And there’s even less reason for Muñez and Adams to tag along other than plot contrivance.
While there, they’re involved in a car crash which puts the three of them in hospital and *SPOILER ALERT* rules Muñez out of the World Cup with a broken arm.
And it’s almost 40 minutes before we see the start of the World Cup, supposedly the centrepiece of the film. Actual action from World Cup matches is mixed in with the antics of the Geordies and Braithwaite and Adams reacting to England goals from the bench. And to make matters worse, when they do play, they’re shown wearing squad numbers 25 and 26, which aren’t allowed in the World Cup.
Then just as it’s getting going, the football takes a back seat again with the personal lives of the main characters taking over. On that note…
It’s Genuinely Depressing
If Goal II gave us something of an insight into the darker side of footballing stardom, then Goal III is determined to push the boundaries even further with all our heroes suffering one misfortune after another.
I’ll talk more about Santiago Muñez later on, so first let’s deal with his new best friends, Charlie Braithwaite and Liam Adams.
Braithwaite instantly falls for an actress he meets filming and by halfway through the film they are engaged. Then tragedy strikes – he gets subbed off after a collision in the match against Ecuador and later collapses in the changing room before dying in the ambulance on the way to hospital – the result of an aneurism caused by the car crash. This is dark, totally unnecessary and worst of all, the film hasn’t done enough to make us care about Braithwaite, a paper-thin character, so his death really means nothing.
And of course, despite the death of a member of their squad, England play on. None of the players bar Adams go to his funeral, they couldn’t even get the Sven lookalike to film a scene! But you know who is there? The Newcastle fans from earlier on. Even though they don’t actually interact with Braithwaite at any stage.
Now for Liam Adams. At the start of the film, he is portrayed as a full blown alcoholic, whose personal problems have led to him getting released from Real Madrid. He is frequently shown drinking during the film (leaving the film set to find a bar in Romania, pouring vodka into a water bottle) and even during the World Cup, he is shown going out and getting hammered a nightclub. Discipline in Sven’s squad must have been even more laissez-faire than we previously thought!
And as if he hasn’t suffered enough, it’s him who misses the decisive penalty against Portugal which sees England eliminated.
He also has a bit of a breakdown after discovering that he has a daughter by a former girlfriend, who initially spurns his advances but they reconnect at Braithwaite’s funeral (of all places) and get married at the end – their wedding intercut with scenes of Italy lifting the trophy, which seems to imply that it happened at the same time? So that would mean they got married a week after the England-Portugal game. I don’t know, this film has serious timeline issues.
It’s supposed to end the film on a happy note, but it’s not earned in the slightest.
One of the big selling points of the original two films was that the football scenes were realistic – filmed in the actual stadiums and using real players. Santiago Muñez chatted to the likes of David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Alan Shearer in the dressing room and on the training pitch.
No such access for the cameras here – the most we get here are lookalikes of Sven Göran Eriksson, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard (the latter two only seen from behind) in the England scenes. Any time Braithwaite or Adams are shown on the bench receiving instructions, it’s from an unnamed coach played by an extra. The real players only appear in match footage.
And it’s the attempts to merge this match footage with the actors in the studio which is one of the film’s biggest failures.
Check out the trailer if you don’t believe me.
The sight of David Beckham whipping in a pinpoint cross in a packed stadium in Germany in one frame being met by a header from an actor in front of a badly rendered stadium backdrop in another takes you right out of the film.
The crowd in the background is full of blurred out, often static people and the difference between the clips of real players and the zoomed-in close ups of the actors is painfully obvious. It’s just cheap looking, hardly surprising because the film was made for a fraction of what the others cost.
And because they only use archive footage, we know what’s going to happen! There’s never any sense that we’re going to see Adams score a last-minute winner against Portugal because the budget wouldn’t stretch to filming some new scenes with England playing another match.
Santiago Muñez – Supporting Character
The Goal! trilogy is the story of Santiago Muñez – except he’s barely in this one.
The makers of the film obviously didn’t believe that watching him play for Mexico in the World Cup would be a selling point so instead the story mostly focuses on England.
As I said earlier, he doesn’t even get to achieve his dream of playing in the World Cup – his injuries sustained in the car crash at the start of the film force him to drop out of the squad and even though he scored in the Champions League Final in the previous film, Real Madrid sell him to Tottenham. Considering how ruthless Real Madrid have been with players and coaches in the past, this is somehow the most plausible part of the whole film.
Rather than just doing the decent thing and writing him out, he gets to hang around awkwardly as a glorified extra, going to all the England games to support his best friends, going to Braithwaite’s funeral and the being Adams’ best man at the end.
He deserved better.
As did the audience. I pity anyone to actually paid to watch this. Thankfully I didn’t have to (neither do you if you want to subject yourself to it) as the whole thing is on YouTube.
The tag line for Goal! was “The Dream Begins”, Goal II was called “Living the Dream”, this one is just a nightmare from start to finish.
A New Hope…
Somewhat interestingly, while I was writing this an interview with Kuno Becker surfaced in which he speaks candidly about the third film.
“It’s a piece of sh*t, that’s what it is.
“It’s a bad movie, it’s a disgrace and they did a horrible job in every single way. They blew it.
Doesn’t get more honest than that!
Becker has continued acting, mostly appearing in Spanish language productions in his native Mexico, but occasionally popping up in guest roles on American TV shows, including House, CSI: Miami and the revival of Dallas. But he revealed in the interview that he has turned his hand to writing and one of the things he has written is a screenplay for Goal 4…
The idea revolves around an older, wiser Muñez, now making his way as a coach, although Becker admits it may not happen because of financial reasons, namely the amount of money needed to secure the rights to the characters.
Surely no one who sat through the third film would begrudge him a chance to give his character a proper send-off?