World Cup 2014 : #1 TV Preview

“Our aim is for this to be the first truly 24/7 World Cup” [Barbara Slater, BBC Sport director, 2014] 

Every four years thirty-two countries compete in sixty-four matches to prove once and for all who is the best footballing nation on the planet. It’s a time when all fans put aside club bias and come together as one to cheer on the Three Lions of England in a bid to blur the desperate close-season blues. Football in June is a God send to us fans so enthralled by the sport that we get up at silly o’clock every weekend, boarding coaches and trains, spending thousands of pounds, consuming pint after stomach-stretching pint, watching ordinary people do extraordinary things. In order to keep that buzz over the summer, contests between Ecuador and Honduras on a Thursday afternoon for two hours suddenly feel like the only thing that matters. Yes the World Cup is nearly upon us!

This week the squads were announced and as usual there were a couple of surprises, some familiar faces and some downright odd choices. I’m not talking about Roy Hodgson’s England squad – I’ll mention that in a separate blog post – but the on-air teams assembled by our broadcasters BBC and ITV. The full press releases can be found here;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/mediapacks/worldcup2014

http://www.itv.com/presscentre/press-packs/2014-fifa-world-cup#.U3QBj9q9KSM 

As with every major international tournament the race is on to add to the broadcaster’s own line up of existing pundits and commentators with top names from the international game. BBC announced the signing of Thierry Henry a number of months ago and he should be an interesting one. His only experience of UK TV punditry is with Sky Sports on their Champions League coverage earlier this season and he did a good job, if somewhat casual. Clarence Seedorf will be another cool character but is untested on our screens, likewise Brazilian Ex-Middlesbrough star Juninho. Rio Ferdinand adds the English flavour and has already done a couple of stints for BT Sport this season. Predictably he’s drawn criticism for this but from what I’ve seen of him on camera he’s got the basics of being a natural broadcaster and can add some much needed insight into an England camp which undoubtedly will dominate the discussions in the build up.

ITV’s international line up is very interesting. They too have gone for the tried and untested. Former Brighton boss Gus Poyet, so ubiquitous last summer and the early stages of the season on our screens, has been signed presumably to give the Uruguayan angle when England face them in their second group game. He also happens to be opinionated, intelligent and loves the limelight. He’ll be a great pundit and has bags of experience of it. Fabio Cannavaro has not. He’s a huge name to be able to bring in. I’m not sure how good his English is but I suspect he’s there more to attract attention rather than freshen up the analysis.

ITV World Cup 2014 ITV’s World Cup core

Alongside the new faces there are many more familiar ones that will dominate the schedules over the course of June and July. ITV have called upon several ex-BBC World Cup men in the form of Ian Wright, Lee Dixon, Gordon Strachan and Martin O’Neill to fit in next to Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira. The English viewpoint is provided by current international Andros Townsend and ’98 World Cup coach Glenn Hoddle. In addition to this summer, Hoddle will continue with ITV for the Euro qualifiers over the next few years. He’s someone highly regarded as amongst the best Sky use after Neville, Carragher and Souness; all of whom have been used in the past by ITV for international tournaments.

The Beeb regulars Alan Shearer, Danny Murphy and Robbie Savage will work with Alan Hansen for the final time as he retires at the end of the summer. He will be missed, if not only for nostalgic reasons, but in recent tournaments his disdain for some of the lesser countries has been all too prevalent and probably is the right time to call it a day. There’s no doubting he’s a very knowledgeable pundit and does offer the viewer something not immediately obvious. The criticism that recently he’s been phoning in his analysis is a valid one though. Many of the BBC pundits will be combining studio roles with co-commentary so the likes of Lawrenson, Keown and Kilbane will be very busy. The positive is there’s no Mark Bright this time, ditched after a bafflingly-long time as number two (in every sense).  The BBC look to be stronger in the commentary box than their rivals for the first time in a long time.

BBC World Cup 2014 BBC’s World Cup band

Guy Mowbray will continue to cover the England games and the final in his role as number one. The rest of the matches will be shared out as equally as possible with Steve Wilson, Jonathan Pearce, Simon Brotherton and Steve Bower certainly clocking up the miles across the vast areas of Brazil. The latter trio have all benefitted from regular live games on BT Sport this past season and go into the tournament much sharper than two years ago, where their main regular gig was restricted to solo highlights only. Phil Neville is a new addition to the gantry and will work with Mowbray for England games, of which we hope there’ll be more than just the three. He’s done a couple of unbroadcast practice pilots with him and I’m interested to see if he’s anything like his brother Gary. If he’s half as good we’re in for a treat.

ITV look bare in comparison. Only the regular number one pairing of Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend (not to be confused with the aforementioned Andros, who sounds as if he’s the Greek equivalent) survive from the Euros two years ago. So stalwarts Peter Drury, Jon Champion and Jim Beglin are all elsewhere this time. As is Craig Burley, who unexpectedly found himself doing the final in South Africa when Beglin was struck down by illness. Champion was initially supposed to go with ITV but opted for a more lucrative ESPN America gig so Sam Matterface and Clarke Carlisle are promoted to second choice pairing. Completing the regular commentary line up will be Joe Speight, for his first international tournament, and, combining studio role with co-comms, Lee Dixon. He’s been a regular for American network NBC all season and will be interesting to hear. There will also be others but as yet they haven’t been named.

Anchoring the coverage will be the ones we all expected; Gary Lineker for the fourth consecutive World Cup on the BBC, and Adrian Chiles for his second on ITV. In doing so Chiles becomes the first ITV host to lead consecutive World Cups since Brian Moore in the seventies! A quite remarkable statistic which even the great Des Lynam couldn’t break. Support provided by the excellent Matt Smith for his fourth and Mark Chapman for his first TV World Cup. Gabby Logan, Dan Walker, Jason Mohammed and Gabriel Clarke will all be on the plane as well as others who’ll no doubt crop up here and there.

The promos are beginning to air, the countdown is gaining interest and the soap fans are starting to fret about their beloved Coronation Street being shunted all over the schedules like it’s a Ben Elton sitcom. The focus is gearing up now the regular seasons are pretty much done and dusted. I don’t know where I’ll be watching the games yet, but one thing’s for sure; I cannot wait for it to all get going. I don’t wanna miss a thing.

See the first BBC World Cup promo here
watch the itv World Cup ’emotions’ promo

About Mark O'MEARA
I am Mark O'MEARA.

One Response to World Cup 2014 : #1 TV Preview

  1. This is a topic which is close to my heart… Thank you!

    Exactly where are your contact details though?

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