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World Cup Picks: Victory

Picking a bunch of movies to watch in anticipation of the world's greatest sporting event isn't easy.  There aren't many soccer-themed movies, period.  So this series of picks will include movies about soccer, featuring soccer, or maybe just related in some tangential way to the beautiful game.

This 1981 film (called Victory in the States and Escape to Victory elsewhere) drops Sylvester Stallone into a German POW camp during WWII where the prisoners pass the time with pick up soccer matches in the yard.  Stallone is the typical boorish American who only knows how to play "American Football" but he realizes that he needs to team up with the others to make a go at an escape.  Strangely, he does escape, finds a cute French girl, gets plans to bust the rest of the guys out, and then gets himself caught again.

When the Germans organize an exhibition match between the prisoners and a team of Germany's best, the multi-national superstars (including Pele) and their coach, Michael Caine, decide to use the game as a means to escape.  But at halftime, they have a change of heart when they realize that they can win.  Though the film is a little cheesy and Stallone's macho American character Hatch isn't the character that you want to follow, it's still got some great in-game action and supporting characters.  

Pele is fantastic fun to watch and he's nicely contrasted by the Germans who seem like cold monsters on the field.  I love the way that Stallone is useless at the game because he can't figure out how to play without using his hands, but when he winds up sitting in as the team's goalkeeper, it seems oddly prescient.  I don't know if this is the greatest soccer movie ever made, but it's definitely my favorite.

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