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In 1950, when the U.S. soccer team traveled to Brazil to compete in the World Cup, local bookies didn't bother to set odds on its chances of defeating England in their first-round game. The Americans were a grab bag of soccer-crazy working-class World War II vets from St. Louis's Italian neighborhood and a few East Coast players led by Walter Bahr, whose sons, Matt and Chris, later kicked in the NFL. But the team pulled off a monumental upset when Haitian immigrant Joe Gaetjens, a 26-year-old dishwasher whom the coach didn't much want on the team, deflected a shot from Bahr into the net for a 1-0 victory. The Game of Their Lives (which opens on April 22) gets off to a hesitant start--the aggressively "period" sets threaten to draw attention from the story; the music is predictably sentimental--but once the characters emerge and the team travels to Brazil, those distractions fall away. The veteran sports-movie team of screenwriter Angelo Pizzo and director David Anspaugh (Hoosiers, Rudy) knows how to deftly use narration (by Patrick Stewart, as a St. Louis reporter who covered soccer) to interweave personal dramas (such as the ethnic tension simmering at the bottom of America's melting pot) and smartly choreographed on-field action. --Nancy Ramsey