World Cup 2018 warm-ups: the 9 best football documentaries to stream

Forget Escape to Victory, these are the football flicks you need to watch...

At the 2010 World Cup, Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe got so bored between games that they watched the full video of Wazza’s wedding.

Don’t be like JD and Wayne. If you find yourself at a loose end during any of the 19 or so hours per day that there’s no football on, take your pick from Stuff’s list of the best soccer cinema.

We promise every single one will be better than watching the Rooney in-laws doing a conga.

First Team: Juventus

Ever since Brendan Rodgers allowed cameras behind the scenes during his Liverpool tenure it’s been generally accepted that doing so is a bad idea – but Juventus clearly haven’t seen Being: Liverpool.

So far three episodes of First Team: Juventus have been released, covering the period between the start of the season and Christmas 2017, so while it feels a little incomplete it offers some interesting insights into the lives of some of the world’s best players.

And with legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon recently bringing his time in Turin to an end after 17 years, it’s a good time to find out what he’s like off the pitch.

Watch First Team: Juventus on Netflix

Next Goal Wins

32 teams from across the globe will compete at the World Cup in Russia, but a lot more than that take part in qualification. One of those is American Samoa, a national team that is rated among the worst on the planet, having once lost 31-0 to Australia.

This doc follows the side’s attempts to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and it doesn’t matter that you already know they failed, because it’s so full of irresistable characters you’ll be rooting for them regardless.

Watch Next Goal Wins on Amazon Prime

One Night in Turin

It says a lot about the Three Lions’ recent World Cup performances that Italia ‘90 is so fondly remembered – but as a tournament it had everything (except an England victory).

There were Gazza’s tears, Gary Lineker having a little accident on the pitch, Pavarotti, and a glorious failure – a curiously English speciality.

Based on Pete Davies’ excellent book All Played Out, it’s a shamelessly nostalgic behind-the-scenes account that also has something to say about the way football and its fans get treated by the powers that be.

Watch One Night in Turin on YouTube

Les Bleus

France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup looks frighteningly good but the past 22 years haven’t all been plain sailing for Les Bleus. This feature-length documentary forensically examines the period between the successful campaign that resulted in winning the 1998 World Cup on home turf, and hosting Euro 2016 two years ago.

There are flops, fallouts and controversial handballs (we’re looking at you, Thierry), yet they still experience more glory than the England team has in over half a century.

The trailer’s en français, but don’t worry, it’s got subtitles on Netflix, so you can leave your GCSE at the door.

Watch Les Bleus on Netflix

The Two Escobars

When Colombian defender Andres Escobar scored an own goal against the hosts during USA ‘94 his team crashed out of the World Cup, but much worse was to come for the resident of the coke-ravaged city of Medellin: a month later he was shot dead.

This episode of ESPN’s excellent 30 for 30 series examines the connections between the murdered player and notorious kingpin Pablo Escobar, a man who funnelled serious amounts of money into the sport and also called Medellin home.

Watch The Two Escobars on Watch Documentaries


Getting to watch Lionel Messi play every week is something most football fans take for granted. So what will we do when he eventually retires from embarrassing defenders wherever he goes?

If YouTube compilations are a little lacking in narrative, this 97-minute doc tells the full story, including home video footage of him as a child playing in Argentina, to conquering the world with Barcelona.

And as Messi is a man of very few words, it includes testimonials from some of the greatest to ever play the game, including his team mates Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique, and the late, great Johan Cruyff.

Watch Messi on Netflix

The Game of Their Lives

Mention North Korea today and the first thing that comes to mind is probably being nuked into oblivion by an egomaniac with bad hair – but enough about Donald Trump.

When the North Korean football team arrived in England for the 1966 World Cup they might as well have been visitors from another planet, but they knocked out the favourites Italy and, even more sensationally, won over the people of Middlesbrough.

In The Game of Their Lives, the surviving members of the team speak to outsiders about the experience for the first time.

Watch The Game of Their Lives on YouTube

The Four Year Plan

Lots has changed at Queens Park Rangers since The Four Year Plan was made but one thing remains the same: they’re still not in the Premier League.

Considering the parade of clowns that were running the club between 2007 and 2011 that’s hardly surprising. What is surprising is that they let a film crew document everything that went on, but money and ego will make people do funny things.

One thing’s for sure, this is a plan that it would be foolish for any other club to follow.

Watch The Four Year Plan on Amazon Prime

Graham Taylor: An Impossible Job

In a world where most managers spout nothing but sanitised banalities about the lads doing their best/not doing well enough, this fly-on-the-wall account of Graham Taylor’s time in charge of the England national team in an absolute goldmine of catchphrases.

From the classics “Can we not knock it?” and “Do I not like that!” to the moment he asks the linesman to thank the ref for getting him the sack, it’s gloriously Partridge, a little bit Brent, and unmissable from start to finish. Warning: contains fruity language.

Watch Graham Taylor: An Impossible Job on YouTube