Escape to Victory

7 12 2010

As we continue our look at some of the great sides from history it is impossible to overlook the Allied side of the Second World War in the 1981 film Escape to Victory.

This team never actually lined up together in a competitive game you say?
You try telling them that their epic 4-4 wasn’t competitive.

The side boasted a spine of three World Cup winners in Bobby Moore, Ossie Ardiles and the incomparable Pele.

I sense that they would have lined up in a broad 2-3-5 or a W-M formation that was the fashion of the 1940s. Clearly the flexibility of Russell Osman could have helped provide this fluidity of movement between the two formations. Moore took advantage of this as he grabbed a goal and managed to bizarrely pop up on the right-wing to provide the assist for Pele’s spectacular equaliser.

This was a true team effort though. Sure there were the stars, but not only were the rest of this team willing to put themselves on the line for the side – they were even prepared to serve out the rest of their days in a Nazi prison camp for the cause. That’s real dedication.

In the advanced positions, Kazimierz Deyna, Paul van Himst and Hallvar Thoresen all boast truly remarkable records. Deyna had captained Poland in two World Cups while the scoring record of the Belgian forward, Van Himst, is astonishing – 233 goals for Anderlecht at more than a goal every other game. Thoresen’s strike rate at PSV is similarly impressive with 106 league goals in 196 matches. These were no mugs.

In the midfield engine room, it was the Ipswich pairing of Russell Osman and John Wark that ably assisted the impeccable Ardiles. Out wide there was Mike Summerbee of Manchester City fame to fire in the crosses.

At this point, you may have noticed the more controversial selections in the side. At the back with Bobby Moore was the actor Michael Caine. It is easy to deride the man but in truth Caine’s leadership skills were crucial to the morale of the side and he seldom looked out of his depth alongside Moore.

In goal was the faintly ludicrous sight of Sylvester Stallone. The athletic American had a questionable knowledge of the rules and is even thought to have proposed running around the entire German team to score the winner. That said, many keepers wouldn’t have held on to the penalty save from Werner Roth. Swings and roundabouts.

The team showed its grit and determination, not to mention considerable skill, as they clawed their way back from 4-0 down to earn a dramatic draw. Take the time to enjoy Pele’s equaliser .. I believe he counts it in his official goal tally.




2 responses

8 12 2010
Josh Askew

Great stuff!

10 12 2010

I’m pretty sure that when Pele gets injured, being captain Michael Caine yells “Oy! I’ll go up front, you play at left back!” to another player. However, I can’t confirm this from the youtube clips I’ve looked through or even the script.

I only know this as it became a somewhat legendary piece of footballing footage amongst me and my friends. The idea of an ageing actor such as Caine ordering the likes of Wark, Ardiles and Van Himst is hilarious.

This suggests that the team were playing some sort of 4-4-2, or at least a back four. However, in this system you’d expect Russell Osman to be playing centre half, and if I remember correctly he scored the Allies third goal from open play.

As an aside, Osman managed (and played) for Cardiff during the mid 90s. In the first few games I remember standing in the Canton Stand chanting “OSMAN! ESCAPE TO VICTORY! OSMAN! ESCAPE TO VICTORY!” He was a poor manager, but I remember being genuinely excited that we had a coach who had been part of such an epic film.

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