World Cup 1994 on ITV

World Cup Logo

FIFA brought the world of football to the United States of America for the staging of the fifteenth World Cup in 1994. However, the tournament would perhaps be best remembered for events off the field. On the opening day, America was gripped by an altogether different occasion involving a sports star as former NFL player OJ Simpson went on the run from the police in a car chase which gripped the nation and played out Live on television, following suspicions of murdering his wife. When the football did get underway, it was once again Diego Maradona who grabbed the headlines for the wrong reasons when he was sent home after two group matches due to failing doping. He was found with a ‘cocktail of drugs’ in his system, which came as no surprise to anyone who saw his extreme close-up celebration at the camera after his one and only goal this summer against Greece. And Colombian defender Andres Escobar was tragically murdered by members of a drugs cartel five days after his country was eliminated from the tournament, believed to be in retaliation for his own goal against the host nation in the group stages. Elsewhere there were no home nations present at the World Cup for the first time since 1938, owing largely to Graham Taylor’s disastrous campaign with England and a Scotland side in decline. Republic of Ireland were the nearest representative and upset the odds immediately by beating Italy in New York. They graced the knockout stage before elimination at the hands of the Dutch. The competition culminated with the first ever Final penalty shoot-out, as Italy were defeated by Brazil in one of the most laboured of matches. British broadcasters BBC and ITV were there to beam the vast majority of matches direct to our late-night living rooms. In this post I look at the efforts of ITV, who opted to base themselves over in the International Broadcast Centre in Dallas.

 

ITV Sport logoPresenters; Matthew Lorenzo, Tony Francis
Pundits; Denis Law, Ray Wilkins, Don Howe, Jack Charlton
Commentators; Brian Moore, Alan Parry, John Helm, Peter Brackley, Rob Palmer
Co-Commentators; Ron Atkinson, Kevin Keegan, Trevor Francis
Reporters; Gary Newbon, Gabriel Clarke, Phil Mepham


TITLE SEQUENCE & THEME TUNE

ITV Titles

Theme: Daryl Hall & The Sounds of Blackness – Gloryland

ITV’s title music was also the tournament’s official song, sung by Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates fame, accompanied by Minnesota based gospel choir The Sounds of Blackness. Gloryland featured heavy saxophone use, patriotic lyrics and was very catchy. The titles lasted just under a minute and incorporated the ITV Sport logo and programme sponsors Panasonic into the piece. The song was also used on the closing credits as well as instrumental stings going in and out of advert breaks.

ITV titles 1 ITV titles 2 ITV titles 3 ITV titles 4

Lots of typical American imagery featured, with the flag draped and the eagle flying through, mixed with football action which was updated throughout the tournament. The flags of the various participants were also shown rippling across the screen. It ended with the eagle landing and turning its head to the side, where its eye would form the letter O of the World Cup 94 title card. Early in the tournament, the flags would unveil US landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore instead of footballing action, and were variable depending on the match or programme it was introducing. Below is the title sequence to the Italy v Spain Quarter Final.


PRESENTATION TEAM

ITV Lorenzo IBC

Matthew Lorenzo anchored ITV’s World Cup coverage for the one and only time, in doing so becoming the youngest lead presenter of a tournament at the age of 35. He enjoyed rather a whirlwind success with ITV, having joined the Sport department ahead of the 1993/94 campaign to front Live Champions League football. The competition had launched the year before with Ian St John at the helm but a shake-up of personnel saw huge change. Carlton and independent production company Grand Slam Sports took over from LWT in producing the football and cleared out the majority of their old guard; Saint and Greavsie, Elton Welsby and Nick Owen to name a few. In came Lorenzo with a newer breed of pundit; Don Howe, Ray Wilkins, Trevor Francis and, a returning favourite, Denis Law. This new team saw one of the most dismal England campaigns in recent times as, under Graham Taylor, the national side failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. ITV picked up away matches in the Netherlands and Poland as well as friendly competition the 1993 US Cup. England failed to win any of those five matches.

Lorenzo 94 Tony Francis 94ITV Studio 2

Undeterred by England’s failure, ITV decided to base their entire production on location for the first time at a World Cup. In 1990 there was a dual presentation from London and Italy and previous tournaments had largely been based in their London Studios. But for this one their infamous Dallas bunker was the setting, part of the International Broadcast Centre shown above right. However, as this was a windowless studio disconnected from the atmosphere of the grounds and the comforts of home it really lacked the desired effect. Indeed, many viewers perhaps would not have known they weren’t in London at all. Lorenzo was a perfectly competent host, hired on his ability to remain cool, relaxed and witty in the style of Des Lynam on the Beeb. But that doesn’t translate as well when there are regular ad breaks and scripted links. ITV’s coverage of the tournament was panned by critics, viewers and even their own staff and it seemed Lorenzo was made scapegoat. When the tournament ended he was given the boot and wasn’t even invited to their World Cup wrap party – according to a 2017 interview Lorenzo gave to the hugely entertaining Quickly Kevin 90s football podcast. He returned to where his broadcasting days began – Sky – and forged a successful career hosting multiple Live sports and magazine programmes including the first incarnation of Goals on Sunday. When Matthew wasn’t hosting in Dallas, his understudy on highlights, previews and other Live games was Tony Francis (above right); previously ITV’s Champions League reporter and host in the Central region.

Law 94 ITV WilkinsITV duo

ITV’s core punditry line up was small but their US base did allow for co-commentators to do stints in the studio and vice versa. Leading the line was former Manchester United striker Denis Law. After a hugely successful career in the North West of England, the Scotsman became a regular in the media after retiring in 1974, including at the ’78 World Cup for BBC. In the 1980s co-hosted Granada’s highlights show Kick Off Match with Elton Welsby. He was part of ITV’s commentary team for the 1982 World Cup, a role he resumed alongside Brian Moore for Manchester United’s early Champions League adventures at the beginning of the 90s. For this World Cup he was largely studio based with occasional stints on the road up on the gantry. As the tournament progressed, so did his tan as those hot summer days started to show! A mainstay of this ITV studio was former England international Ray ‘Butch’ Wilkins. The ex-midfielder was a regular at tournaments for the national side before his last cap in 1986. Whilst still playing at club level he was now a regular in the media. For Italia ’90 he co-commentated for BBC and was a constant presence on Channel 4’s groundbreaking coverage of Serie A in the early part of the decade. When ITV picked up a couple of England Live matches, he joined the team for those, including a furious appearance after defeat to the Netherlands thanks to Ronald Koeman left England all but unable to qualify for USA ’94. His combative playing style was at odds with his friendly, charming persona on television and would go on to feature heavily on the box for many years to come across a variety of broadcasters as well as being in and out of coaching.

Howe 94 ITV Charlton

Another stable of Channel 4’s excellent Football Italia coverage was Don Howe (above left). Going into this tournament, Howe had recently joined new England manager Terry Venables’ set up as assistant coach, having previously worked under Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson for several years. As a right-back, his playing career was largely at West Brom before joining Arsenal. When he went into management, he took charge of both clubs amongst others. Howe’s reputation as a coach was very high and was brought in to add a tactical perspective, following Andy Gray and Alan Hansen’s lead on other networks. The fourth regular in the studio team was Trevor Francis, another of ITV’s recent England international recruits. Francis’ distinctive West Country accent and nasally tone made his voice instantly recognisable and, like Wilkins, came across as a very likeable man on screen. Despite being 40 years old at this World Cup, Francis had only just finished playing, enjoying a player-manager role at Sheffield Wednesday. He worked for ITV’s coverage of the 1990 World Cup as well as the 1988 European Championships and was a voice in demand when his playing and managing schedule could fit. The final member of the ITV studio was unavailable for the first couple of weeks due to actually being part of the tournament! Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton slotted in to the line-up after his side exited at the last 16 stage. His brother Bobby had been a familiar presence over on the BBC during the 1980s, punditing and commentating on Cup Finals and major tournaments, whilst Jack had been involved on ITV even earlier; part of the fiery 1974 World Cup panel in London with Brian Clough and Derek Dougan. Jack Charlton took over the reins of Ireland in 1986 and had successfully guided them to the Finals in his first four qualification campaigns – ’88, ’90, ’92 and this one. During the Euros in Sweden two years earlier, he also worked for ITV once Ireland had been knocked out and during his weeks in America made many friends with press and journalists around the world. He’d continue to be a presence on ITV for the following years.

ITV Moore & Atkinson

In the commentary box leading ITV’s coverage was once again Brian Moore. This was his seventh World Cup with ITV and was very much THE voice of football for them stretching back three decades. With ITV’s relatively small portfolio now compared to previous years, he would cover pretty much every big match they had; European Cup Finals, England internationals and major tournaments. For this Cup, he was reluctant to spend the duration away from his family and so had a break during the last 16 matches, returning to England for a few days. This gave an opportunity for bigger Live matches to the rest of ITV’s bunch; Alan Parry, John Helm and Peter Brackley. As with 1990, Moore focussed solely on commentating instead of combining it with presenting. Opening ITV’s tournament was second choice Alan Parry. He joined the network from the BBC in 1985 principally for Live athletics commentaries. Over the next couple of years he became more and more involved in their football, and by the time Martin Tyler left for Sky, Parry had risen to number two for Italia ’90 and Euro ’92. He was Central’s voice of the Football League, commentating on a Live match most weeks and one of only a few who survived the big overhaul behind the scenes. Helm joined Yorkshire Television in 1981 and covered matches around the country when the highlights were networked two years later. This was his fourth World Cup for ITV and was given perhaps his most high profile assignments yet, covering the non-Live Semi Final and Third Place Play Off matches for the highlights shows. This was Peter Brackley’s first World Cup back at ITV after four years on satellite television with Sky and Eurosport; including Italia ’90 for the latter as well as the former’s first ever Live match which came from the Zenith Data Systems Cup (also Sky One showed a tie from that Cup between Crystal Palace and Swindon in February 1990, which coincidentally had Matthew Lorenzo as pitchside reporter and Ron Atkinson alongside Brackley). Completing the commentary line up was Rob Palmer. He was one of ITV’s rising stars, having joined Granada from BBC radio earlier in the decade. His previous career was actually on the field, as goalkeeper for the likes of Derby’s youth academy as well as in America and non-League. For ITV his voice was heard on Live League matches in the North West and various highlights, including for the first time at a major tournament.

Atkinson & Newbon

Keeping the commentators’ company on the gantry were ITV regulars Ron Atkinson and Kevin Keegan, along with the previously mentioned Trevor Francis and Denis Law who combined it with studio appearances. Atkinson was the principle summariser and had been on and off for many years, whenever he wasn’t in management. His major tournament commentaries date back as far 1980 where he did the Final with Brian Moore and covered ever subsequent Championships to this point bar Euro ’84. His perma-tan, recognisable voice and fondness for creating his own language turned him into a popular cult figure and was the go-to man for ITV whenever a big match was on and was Central Television’s main man. His partnership with Brian Moore was particularly enjoyable. The other regular partner was Kevin Keegan. The ex-England hero had featured in the studio for ITV during his playing career, including on the groundbreaking World Cup punditry panels during the 1970s which continued on into the 80s. With Ian St John dropped, Keegan took his tournament co-commentary spot behind Atkinson for this Cup and featured on the Champions League. He combined this with his first managerial position at Newcastle United where he was enjoying great success. ITV used him whenever they could from this point on.

ITV Newbon Clarke 94

Reporting on the action around the country and on the touchlines were Gary Newbon, Gabriel Clarke (above right) and Phil Mepham. Newbon was the chief reporter and covered the Republic of Ireland matches as well as the pick of the rest, interviewing players and managers. His association with ITV dates back to the 1960s when he began with Westward TV before becoming most known for his work in the Midlands on ATV then Central. He was the main pitchside reporter across ITV’s Live output – England, European Cup and tournaments – as well as hosting regional presentations of news and sport. Understudy to Newbon was Gabriel Clarke. He joined Saint and Greavsie‘s show as a reporter in 1991, voicing goal round ups, features and interviews until its demise the following summer. He would appear in front of the camera following this tournament, hosting the new Endsleigh Football League Extra networked highlights programme. Another voice heard during coverage of this World Cup was Phil Mepham, doing programme features and round ups. Mepham was a sports reporter for the Central region, clearly signalling which area the new ITV Sport bosses were getting much of their talent from. In the Final credits, Mepham was listed as ‘News Editor’ rather than reporter.


LIVE MATCH SELECTION

ITV’s pick selection of the World Cup was front-loaded, choosing to guarantee themselves with a couple of the Republic of Ireland’s group matches ahead of unknown knockout clashes. As a result, this left them with the middle of the night kick-off time for the Semi Final and the weaker looking Quarter Finals. They showed one fewer match in the group stages than their BBC counterparts (technically one and a half as only the second half of USA v Romania was Live and even that was a last minute decision replacing scheduled highlights), which lead to calls of their coverage being a bit half-bothered. With the kick-off times being quite unfriendly to UK audiences, and having no English representatives, it was impressive that so much of the group stage was covered Live. Clashing matches were not, with Eurosport picking up the bulk of those (and simulcasting many others with the terrestrial channels). Overall, ITV broadcast nineteen World Cup matches Live and direct from USA 1994.

GROUP STAGES; Friday 17th June
Spain 2-2 South Korea (12.30am Kick Off)

Saturday 18th June
Rep of Ireland 1-0 Italy (9pm)

Monday 20th June
Netherlands 2-1 Saudi Arabia (12.30am)

Tuesday 21st June
Germany 1-1 Spain (9pm)

Wednesday 22nd June
USA 2-1 Colombia (12.30am)

Thursday 23rd June
South Korea 0-0 Bolivia (12.30am)

Friday 24th June
Rep of Ireland 1-2 Mexico (5.30pm) & Sweden 3-1 Russia (12.30am)

Saturday 25th June
Belgium 1-0 Netherlands (5.30pm)

Sunday 26th June
USA 0-1 Romania (9pm) *2nd Half Live only*

Tuesday 28th June
Brazil 1-1 Sweden (9pm)

LAST 16; Saturday 2nd July
Spain 3-0 Switzerland (9.30pm)

Sunday 3rd July
Sweden 3-1 Saudi Arabia (6pm)

Monday 4th July
USA 0-1 Brazil (8.30pm)

Tuesday 5th July
Italy 1-1 Nigeria, 2-1 AET (6pm)

QUARTER FINALS; Saturday 9th July
Italy 2-1 Spain (5.05pm)

Sunday 10th July
Sweden 1-1 Romania, 2-2 AET – SWE win 5-4 on penalties (8.30pm)

SEMI FINALS; Wednesday 13th July
Brazil 1-0 Sweden (12.30am)

FINAL; Sunday 17th July
Brazil 0-0 Italy, AET – BRA win 3-2 on penalties (8.30pm)


COVERAGE & GRAPHICS

ITV Sport Ident ITV Sponsor

The ITV Sport logo kicked off the coverage of each programme by fading in over a spinning football, incorporated into the title sequence and sponsorship whilst Gloryland began to play. The logo was adapted to have the American style stars and stripes across the letter V. ITV’s coverage was sponsored by Panasonic using the tagline “Great shots of the World Cup”. Their sponsorship bumpers had children painted with the various colours of the competing nations flags. After this, the USA flag draped over the screen and the full title sequence came to life as the beat of the music kicked in.

ITV intro ITV Mepham

ITV’s graphics were simplistic, mostly using a lower third bar flying in and out from right of screen. The Americanised ITV Sport logo was placed on the left whilst the text was bold on the top line and italicised on the bottom line. These were used during the studio coverage. Above left; we have an example of the introductory graphic setting the scene for the upcoming Live game with the fixture and kick off time. Above right; the on-screen graphic at the beginning of Phil Mepham’s report captioning his name in the build up to Italy versus Spain.

ITV graphics 1 ITV aston 1

Above left; Full screen graphic outlaying Italy’s group and their odds to win it at the beginning of the tournament during the preview programme. The background featured a couple of flags, as also appearing in the title sequence. Above right; ITV’s World Cup astons for managers and players. The additional detail shows the flag of the country, in this case Brazil for their manager Carlos Alberto Parreira.

ITV Italy line up ITV Spain line up

ITV’s team formation line up graphic would differ depending on what part of the programme they were shown, with an opaque background if shown during the studio parts and a semi-translucent background for kick off. Above left; the Italy formation for their match against Spain as shown during the pre-match build up with the pundits. The same background is being used as earlier and the starting eleven is lined up in their playing positions. Above right; the formation graphic that the commentator ran through immediately before kick-off. The semi-translucent graphic allowed the stadium to become the background. This example is also from Spain’s clash with Italy.

Ireland Team FIFA graphics

If ITV did not use their own graphics for the team line ups ahead of kick off, the world feed graphics would be used, as shown above left. This would be the same on the BBC. The world feed graphics had a blue background with italic writing and underlining dots. During the match at occasional intervals, the clock would appear in the top right of the screen, as shown above right. Any in-game graphics for player names, yellow cards, substitutions etc would all be world feed.

ITV Kick Off ITV Comms

At the kick-off of each ITV match, the scene would be set by graphics in the lower third on the right hand side. The fixture would flash up followed by “Live from the” stadium and location information; above left. ITV then added their commentary team name checks; above right. These were made in the style of the official world feed, with a blue background and white text. The panels featured the same faint lines within the blue, mimicking the official tournament branding.

ITV replays ITV in game aston

For action replays, the footage would fly in from the left of screen into the middle with a big white border; above left. Once done, the replay would fly out to the right hand side in a similar fashion. This was the same across the world and occurred for all matches bar the final, where the white border was replaced by a thicker bar stating the two competing countries. Above right; an example of an in-game name aston for Swedish forward Kennet Andersson. As mentioned earlier, these graphics were provided by the host broadcaster for the tournament and used around the world.

ITV Scorebar

The host broadcaster did not provide a permanent scoreboard, allowing each rights holder to add their own custom one over the top of the pictures. Scoreboards and on-screen clocks weren’t particularly common on UK television. Indeed, it was seen as somewhat revolutionary when Sky Sports adopted one for the launch of their Premiership coverage in 1992, however other sports and broadcasters had used permanent scoreboards on occasions prior to this. ITV followed suit the following year for their European and domestic football coverage and by the time of the 1994 World Cup it was very much a rarity to not have the constant reminder of the score and clock present on the main UK broadcasters. Above; the US-style ITV Sport logo was slapped on the top-left of screen, with translucent boxes surrounding it. The scoreline with full team names appeared in a bar on the right, whilst the timer went underneath the logo. For broadcasters that did not use a permanent clock, the world feed graphics popped up on occasions with a reminder of the score at the bottom of the screen and the time in the top right above a nice little pie chart showing the match progress (demonstrated higher up the page). This was very similar in principle to the domestic scoreboard used in previous months by ITV, with the logo left of the fixture and clock.


FEATURES & SUPPORT PROGRAMMING

Highlights and preview programmes did exist in the ITV schedule but they were not regular. The late night kick offs did allow for an extended build up and therefore an opportunity for highlights of that day’s other matches. For the primetime kick offs, coverage was generally kept to a minimum, with fifteen to thirty minute intros and little by way of post-match reaction and analysis. Tony Francis often presented what little amount of preview and review programming there was, with former magazine staple Saint and Greavsie now axed following the loss of top flight football in 1992.


THE FINAL

ITV’s coverage of the World Cup Final was hosted Live from their Dallas studio inside the International Broadcast Centre. Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton was a guest alongside the regular studio team.

BRAZIL 0-0 ITALY (AET, BRA win 3-2 on pens) World Cup 1994 Final, Los Angeles
Sunday 17th July 1994, 8.30pm Kick Off ITV Logo

ITV Credits 1 ITV Credits 2

PRESENTER Matthew Lorenzo GUESTS Jack Charlton, Don Howe, Ray Wilkins & Denis Law
COMMENTATORS Brian Moore & Ron Atkinson
Hosted from the IBC, Dallas     8-11pm Live on ITV (Extended to approx 11.30pm)

Trophy Lift 2

For details on BBC’s World Cup 1994 coverage click HERE.

World Cup 1994 on the BBC

World Cup Logo FIFA brought the world of football to the United States of America for the staging of the fifteenth World Cup in 1994. However, the tournament would perhaps be best remembered for events off the field. On the opening day, America was gripped by an altogether different occasion involving a sports star as former NFL player OJ Simpson went on the run from the police in a car chase which gripped the nation and played out Live on television, following suspicions of murdering his wife. When the football did get underway, it was once again Diego Maradona who grabbed the headlines for the wrong reasons when he was sent home after two group matches due to failing doping. He was found with a ‘cocktail of drugs’ in his system, which came as no surprise to anyone who saw his extreme close-up celebration at the camera after his one and only goal this summer against Greece. And Colombian defender Andres Escobar was tragically murdered by members of a drugs cartel five days after his country was eliminated from the tournament, believed to be in retaliation for his own goal against the host nation in the group stages. BBC pundit Alan Hansen clumsily, and presumably accidentally, described defending during the Argentina versus Nigeria match the day after Escobar’s death in the worst way; “the Argentine defender wants shooting for a mistake like that.” Elsewhere there were no home nations present at the World Cup for the first time since 1938, owing largely to Graham Taylor’s disastrous campaign with England and a Scotland side in decline. Republic of Ireland were the nearest representative and upset the odds immediately by beating Italy in New York. They graced the knockout stage before elimination at the hands of the Dutch. The competition culminated with the first ever Final penalty shoot-out, as Italy were defeated by Brazil in one of the most laboured of matches. British broadcasters BBC and ITV were there to beam the vast majority of matches direct to our late-night living rooms. In this post I look at the efforts of the BBC, who opened the tournament with the ceremony and the first match.

 

BBC SportPresenters; Des Lynam, Bob Wilson
Pundits;
 Jimmy Hill, Alan Hansen, Terry Venables, Gary Lineker, David O’Leary, Steve Coppell, David Baddiel, Frank Skinner
Commentators; Barry Davies, John Motson, Tony Gubba, Clive Tyldesley, Gerald Sinstadt
Co-Commentators; Trevor Brooking, Liam Brady, John Fashanu, Chris Waddle
Reporters; Ray Stubbs, Hazel Irvine, Garth Crooks


TITLE SEQUENCE & THEME TUNE

Grandstand Titles

Theme: Leonard Bernstein – America (from West Side Story)

The BBC went route one with their choice of theme tune; using ‘America’. Taken from the musical West Side Story, they used Leonard Bernstein’s instrumental version. The familiar tune was definitely one that would stay in your head but after the monumental success of the 1990 titles with Nessun Dorma, this was a bit of a climb down. However, the celebratory joy of the American World Cup came across in this tune even if the dog barking sound effects were a slightly odd addition!

BBC titles 1 BBC titles 4 BBC titles 2 BBC titles 3

The titles kicked off with the instruments blaring in full flow whilst cutting to various shots of famous American landmarks. Starting with fireworks by the Statue of Liberty before flashing through the likes of the Brooklyn Bridge and the huge buildings that crept into the New York skyline. When the music quietened, the titles switched to clips of footballing action, updated as the tournament progressed. In the example here, we saw the likes of Ray Houghton’s goal against Italy in the group stage and Jack Charlton’s celebrations on the sidelines, amongst other goals and crowd shots. To emphasise the host country, the stars and stripes adorned the top and bottom bars of the screen. When the music came back round to the bombastic bars of the chorus again, the title sequence was coming to a close with a spinning ball filled with previous World Cup winners lifting the famous trophy. As the track reached a crescendo, the red stripes of the USA flag covered the centre before a ball flew from the bottom right to act as the flag’s ‘stars’, revealing the title card “World Cup ’94”. Below, the titles to the Brazil v Netherlands Quarter Final.


PRESENTATION TEAM

BBC Host BBC Pundits

Desmond Lynam was once more at the helm of the BBC’s World Cup coverage, fronting the opening match, key games and, of course, the Final. As the corporation’s principal football presenter, Lynam had just finished the second season chairing the best of the action from the Premiership on Match of the Day since the Beeb regained the rights to the top flight in 1992. He previously hosted the show’s FA Cup coverage from 1988 and USA 1994 was his fourth FIFA World Cup. Lynam anchored more than just football though, he was a real all-rounder with his work fronting Grandstand and light entertainment shows. Consequently, he was absent for much of the group stage, instead hosting coverage of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, but was present for the Republic of Ireland games and the latter stages. Bob Wilson deputised. A regular in the studio was pundit Alan Hansen. The Scotsman joined BBC television for the new Premiership rights in 1992, having previously covered European football for Sky as soon as he retired from playing in ’91. He was also heard on BBC Radio Five Live and quickly earned a great reputation for his considered, authoritative and forthright analysis. He made his name playing in the great Liverpool sides as a centre back during the 1970s and 80s, winning everything there was to win. Hansen excelled with his studio work during his first international tournament with the BBC.

BBC Lineker BBC Lineker studio

One of England’s all-time great goalscorers, the 1986 World Cup Golden Boot winner, Gary Lineker earmarked a career in the media once his playing days were over. He made occasional media appearances during previous tournaments, either by doing the TV interviews for England or, once knocked out, appearing on the broadcasts as a guest. He was still a professional during this tournament, plying his trade in Japan for Nagoya Grampus Eight, whom he joined in the summer of 1992. Two injury-hampered seasons followed. He returned to England whenever he could during this spell, enjoying stints on BBC Radio 5 Live and Match of the Day, including the first Premiership version of the programme in August ’92. However, instead of just going down the usual route of punditry, it was clear Lineker also wanted to be in the presenter’s seat. During the build up to the opening match of the tournament – Germany versus Bolivia – he presented a piece to camera previewing some of the big hitters; above left. Back in the studio, host Lynam told us, “We’ll be seeing quite a bit of Gary, of course, over the next couple of weeks or so”, as Lineker’s BBC career began in earnest. He appeared mostly as an analyst for this tournament but would soon go on to front shows once hanging up his boots for good in September of this year.

BBC Wilson BBC Coppell

For now though, the number two football host was Bob Wilson. He had been the host of magazine preview show Football Focus for the past twenty years upon retirement from keeping goal for Arsenal for more than a decade. Wilson made the leap from player to presenter straight away, rather than via the pundit seat, and also hosted Grandstand and Match of the Day during his time with the BBC. He played a major part during the 1994 World Cup whilst number one Des Lynam was engaged with fronting Wimbledon tennis for much of the group stage. Anchoring World Cup proceedings from Television Centre in London allowed Lynam to return to the fold for the bigger group games but it was Wilson who did much of the heavy lifting on both Live and highlight programming. One of the BBC’s recruits for this tournament was former Manchester United and England winger Steve Coppell. The 1977 FA Cup winner had his playing career cut very short due to persistent knee injuries. It stemmed from a terrible challenge in a World Cup qualifier against Hungary in 1981. He struggled through for two years before calling it quits in October ’83 at the age of twenty-eight. The following summer he moved into management and began his relationship with Crystal Palace, managing them for eight years before resigning last year following top flight relegation. Being out of work, he used the summer opportunity to sit in the BBC studio and analyse the World Cup, providing both a player and coaches perspective, but was keen to get back into management.

BBC Venables BBC Hill

Two long-standing members of the BBC team were present once more in the studio. Terry Venables was a familiar face on the corporation since the mid-1980s, appearing on commentary before becoming more established in the pundit role. His playing career was almost exclusively London based, enjoying success from midfield at Chelsea and Tottenham as well as spells at QPR and Crystal Palace. After retiring in 1975 whilst at Palace, he was handed a coaching role with the club before taking over as manager the following year. Since, he’s had spells with former clubs QPR and Spurs as well as taking charge of Spanish giants Barcelona for three years, he was able to combine this with tournament appearances for the BBC. He hadn’t actually taken charge of Tottenham since 1991, instead moving to Chief Executive for two years before being dismissed. In January of this year, he was appointed England manager following Graham Taylor’s notoriously bad campaign culminating in failure to qualify for this tournament. Another regular on the Beeb was the one and only Jimmy Hill. This was his eight World Cup as a broadcaster, stretching back to 1966. He presented Match of the Day for fifteen years from 1973, often with Bob Wilson as co-host, before moving back into the analyst seat when Lynam took the helm in 1988. As the most senior pundit, he was still going strong at the age of sixty-five during this World Cup, featuring on all the big games including the Final. Completing the line-up of regular studio guests for this tournament was former Arsenal and current Leeds defender David O’Leary, shown on our right of the picture, below, with Liam Brady. With Arsenal, the Irishman won all domestic honours; League, FA Cup, League Cup and Charity Shield. He won sixty-eight caps for the Republic of Ireland and played at the previous World Cup in 1990. After joining Leeds last summer and starting the campaign well, a serious achilles injury kept him out of action for most of the 93/94 season. It was something he would not recover from and, although officially in rehabilitation on the books of Leeds, he would never play again.

BBC Brady and OLeary

Whilst the studio team were all based in London, the commentary was done on-site in America. Co-commentators utilised for this Cup were number one Trevor Brooking, along with Irish representation in the form of Liam Brady; shown in the picture, above, on the left. Brooking was celebrating a decade on-air with the BBC having joined after finishing his playing career, appearing over half a century of matches for West Ham’s midfield. He appeared both in studio for Match of the Day and was first choice as Live match summariser, commentating across both BBC radio and television during his media career. Former Republic of Ireland midfielder Liam Brady was covering his second consecutive World Cup for the BBC, both featuring his national side. After retiring from playing in 1990 he managed Celtic from the following year before joining his current post at Brighton and Hove Albion in 1993. Unfortunately for Brady, both spells have been marred by financial trouble at the top and poor form on the pitch. He was co-commentator for all Ireland’s matches as well as select others during the tournament. Providing a current player’s view from the gantry were John Fashanu and Chris Waddle. With Fashanu in the final couple of seasons of his playing career, he was looking for media roles. When ITV sporting entertainment giant Gladiators launched in the UK in 1992, he was host alongside Ulrika Jonsson and launched his catchphrase ‘Awooga!’ into the public conscience. He attracted controversy during his career both on and off the field. On it, his elbow during the 93/94 season fractured Tottenham captain Gary Mabbutt’s eye in a sickening clash. Off it, he publicly denounced his own brother Justin for coming out as gay in 1990, a decision he later regretted. John Fashanu’s finest day in football came when, as John Motson put it, ‘the Crazy Gang beat the Culture Club’ to win the 1988 FA Cup with underdogs Wimbledon, defeating Liverpool by a goal to nil. He spent the last eight years with the Dons but would move to Aston Villa after the World Cup for his final season before retirement. His struggled to take to co-commentary, with his fellow broadcaster having to pick up a lot of the slack during matches, confined mostly to the midnight BST kick-offs.

BBC Davies

Leading the BBC’s commentary team for his one – and sadly, only – Live World Cup Final as number one was Barry Davies; above, seen hosting the BBC’s Review of the Tournament from December ’94. He celebrated twenty-five years at the BBC in July. After serving as number two behind John Motson for so long, he was rewarded with this summer’s showpiece climax, having had experience on European club Finals during the 1970s and 80s and the 1972 European Championships Final between USSR and West Germany. This meant John Motson would have to settle for second best in 1994, including sharing Republic of Ireland duties with Davies on one Live game apiece. Motson did get to do the BBC’s Semi Final as well as the likes of USA’s first match, Brazil, Germany and Italy games too. The pair covered eighteen of the BBC’s twenty Live matches between them, leaving the other commentators to pick up the remaining couple of games as well as the non-Live ones for highlights. Clive Tyldesley was the man getting the nod for the other two Live fixtures, having joined from ITV in the summer of 1992. This was ahead of the relaunched Premiership Match of the Day, getting the chance to voice top flight fixtures on a regular basis as well as voiceovers and reports across the sporting output. Tony Gubba first covered a World Cup for the corporation in 1974, commentating on every tournament since. Owing to the large travel distances across the States, a fifth voice was needed to cover the highlights. Gerald Sinstadt, who moved over from ITV in the mid-80s, was chosen. As well as commentating, he was a familiar voice to the MotD goal round-ups at the end of the programmes.

BBC Studio 2

Fulfilling the roles of reporter in the USA were Ray Stubbs, Hazel Irvine and Garth Crooks. Stubbs started with the BBC in 1983 on local radio as a presenter and commentator before moving to Manchester after three years to produce. It was as a producer that he went to Italia ’90, for investigative sports programme On the Line, and since the formation of the Premiership he too voiced round-ups as well as touchline reports for Live FA Cup fixtures. He followed the fortunes of the Republic of Ireland from their US camp this summer. Hazel Irvine was another transfer from ITV, following the 1990 competition where she reported from the Scotland camp. At the age of twenty-eight, she became the youngest ever presenter of Grandstand in June ’93. Crooks was previously in the studio as an analyst for the 1982, ’86 and ’90 tournaments but was dispatched around America to showcase the vibrancy and atmosphere of the competition this time round.


LIVE MATCH SELECTION

BBC Sport broadcast a total of twenty Live matches during the USA 1994 World Cup, kicking off the tournament with the opener featuring holders Germany and concluding with the Brazil versus Italy Final. They showed the Republic of Ireland’s final group match with Norway which saw Jack Charlton’s men progress to the knockout stages. Whilst ITV front-loaded the tournament, the BBC had control over the picks for the knockouts, selecting the best potential clashes including the first choice UK prime-time Semi Final, Ireland’s Second Round defeat to the Netherlands on Independence Day and the Quarter Finals of both Germany and Brazil. Their coverage, although UK based, was much better received than ITV’s Dallas location.

GROUP STAGES; Friday 17th June
Germany 1-0 Bolivia (8pm Kick Off)

Saturday 18th June
USA 1-1 Switzerland (4.30pm) & Romania 3-1 Colombia (Midnight)

Sunday 19th June
Cameroon 2-2 Sweden (Midnight)

Monday 20th June
Brazil 2-0 Russia (9pm)

Tuesday 21st June
Nigeria 3-0 Bulgaria (Midnight)

Thursday 23rd June
Italy 1-0 Norway (9pm)

Friday 24th June
Brazil 3-0 Cameroon (9pm)

Saturday 25th June
Argentina 2-1 Nigeria (9pm)

Monday 27th June
Germany 3-2 South Korea (9pm)

Tuesday 28th June
Rep of Ireland 0-0 Norway (5.30pm)

Thursday 30th June
Bulgaria 2-0 Argentina (Midnight)

LAST 16; Saturday 2nd July
Germany 3-2 Belgium (6pm)

Sunday 3rd July
Romania 3-2 Argentina (9.30pm)

Monday 4th July
Netherlands 2-0 Rep of Ireland (5pm)

Tuesday 5th July
Bulgaria 1-1 Mexico, AET – BUL win 3-1 on penalties (9.30pm)

QUARTER FINALS; Saturday 9th July
Brazil 3-2 Netherlands (8.30pm)

Sunday 10th July
Germany 1-2 Bulgaria (5pm)

SEMI FINALS; Wednesday 13th July
Italy 2-1 Bulgaria (9pm)

FINAL; Sunday 17th July
Brazil 0-0 Italy, AET – BRA win 3-2 on penalties (8.30pm)


COVERAGE & GRAPHICS

BBC Ident BBC Sport Ident

When the BBC 1 ident came on followed by that iconic BBC Sport sting, you knew you were in for a treat. Above left; this set of BBC idents came in back in February 1991 and was their second major international football tournament, following the 1992 European Championships. Known as the ‘virtual globes’, the circle rotated around the numerical 1 in the centre. The BBC Sport ident followed, with that classic jingle that will surely now be playing in the heads of those of a certain vintage at the very sight of that image; above right. The gold tinge of the ‘nucleus’ around another rotating globe came in for major events beginning with the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, with this ’94 World Cup their international football tournament debut.

BBC Studio BBC Opening Ceremony

Coverage was hosted from Television Centre for all matches bar the Final, when Des and the team travelled out to the States to present on-site. Above left; the establishing shot of the sofa studio, taken from the opening match between Germany and Bolivia. Joining Lynam in the studio were principal analysts Alan Hansen and Jimmy Hill. Above right; the panel behind Lynam was a television screen, allowing Live pictures to be shown behind him as he and the panel discussed the match. In the example, the Opening Ceremony was about to begin. There were two studio sets used during the coverage of the World Cup, the main sofa area is shown above. A desk and chair set was also used, as detailed further down the page.

BBC Final Italy BBC Final Brazil

The host broadcaster provided graphics ahead of, and during, the match for channels all over the world to use. This included the team line ups as shown above. Their graphics were on a translucent blue panel with italic white text. The official tournament logo was incorporated in, with the white dots underlining the headings and the striped ribbons of the US flag appearing in the background. Above left; the Italian line up in numerical order for the Final. Above right; the Brazilian starting XI for the Final laid out in formation, shown after the numerical list as the commentator talked us through the players. These graphics would fade or appear in, with little animation or fanfare. Considering these were US graphics, they were rather simplistic and understated.

Aston 1 Replay transition 2

In-play graphics were also provided by the host broadcaster across all of BBC, ITV and Eurosport. Above left; the world feed name aston for Italian talisman Roberto Baggio. Again, this featured the blue panels with white dots and italic text. The addition of the flag and three letter country code was placed on the right, whilst a yellow number appeared left of the name to indicate the squad number. Above right; the replay transition as we returned to Live action. Replay pictures flew in from the left of screen with a thick white border. Once complete, the replay flew back out towards the right of screen as shown. This was the case throughout the tournament other than the Final, where the fixture adorned the border instead.

BBC Scorebar

This was the first international tournament where the BBC provided a permanent on-screen scoreboard and clock. With occasional experiments using this on other sports during the 1980s, a scoreboard became a permanent fixture on the football coverage in this country when Sky Sports launched in the early 1990s. The BBC took to the idea in the 1993/94 season for their UEFA Cup broadcasts and deployed it for this World Cup. Above; similar to that of ITVs, the BBC logo appeared in the top left of the screen with the clock underneath and the scoreline to the right. The timer appeared within a translucent box whilst the fixture was in a yellow italic font. This formula remained a constant throughout the rest of the decade, with only a few minor tweaks along the way.

BBC graphics BBC Sub

The host broadcaster’s graphics did not stretch to a permanent scoreboard, instead using the more familiar approach from previous tournaments of flashing up the clock and score at intervals. Above left; this would sometimes lead to slight conflictions between the exact seconds of the timer, with this example showing the BBC clock two seconds ahead of the official one. The graphics on the blue panel with the white dots would appear all around the world at the same time. Above right; for substitutions the host broadcaster graphics would appear on screen and indicate the player coming on and off with a little “In” or “Out” signal on the left accompanied by an animated arrow.

BBC Aston BBC Standings

The BBC did use their own graphics for coverage outside of the Live match. Above left; BBC aston captioning Ireland’s goalscorer over Italy, Ray Houghton’s. The blue background and italic white text fitted with the World Cup branding, whilst the trophy was added to the left and further text written in light blue. The graphics faded in and out. Above right; full screen graphics with very much a blue theme. This was after that Irish win opened their campaign. The BBC Sport globe and corporation logo adorned the bottom corner of the screen.

BBC Score astonBBC Coming Up

Further examples of the BBC’s own graphics are shown here, again using that blue panel background. Above left; during the highlights of the Nigeria v Italy match, a caption appeared signifying the progression into the Extra Time period. Above right; at the conclusion of the Live match programme, the coverage would usually end with a graphic detailing the next World Cup programming on the BBC. In this case, highlights show World Cup Report would be on air from 11.25pm.

BBC Rule Changes BBC Rules 2

Ahead of the tournament, there were genuine fears that it being held in America would change the game for the worse; with reports of the game being split into quarters rather than halves for advertising purposes, lots of gimmicks and would the supporters even know what was going on. It’s fair to say those never materialised and the tournament was the best attended to date. However, some big rule changed did come into effect. The most positive, as outlined during the BBC’s build up to the opener (above left), saw three points awarded for a win rather than two. The complaint about Italia ’90 was too many dull, defensive matches and not enough attacking prowess. The group stage alone saw ten one-nil victories and eight draws. The additional point for a win was a bid to encourage more teams to go for victory. Elsewhere we saw the introduction of names on the back of shirts, and additional substitution allowed and the possibility of video evidence determining if a suspension should stand or not. The referees were also encouraged to look out for certain things to punish as well as yet another interpretation of the offside law; above right. Other directives were to give the attack the benefit of the doubt over tight offsides, timewasting reduced to a minimum and the introduction of an electric cart! Technology was there and they were going to use it. All whilst refereeing in something other than the traditional black uniforms.

BBC Studio 3

Whilst the previously mentioned sofa area was the main set used by the BBC for coverage of this tournament, there was also a large desk area too, as shown above. In this example, host Bob Wilson is joined by pundit Steve Coppell and comedic guests Frank Skinner and David Baddiel. The pair were dressed in the unique style of USA defender Alexi Lalas. The desk would often feature on highlights programming, Grandstand and more formal broadcasts, whilst the sofa was more utilised on Live matches. During the regular season, Match of the Day’s set was like the above, featuring pundits either side of the large table. The three-coloured BBC logo was unmistakable at the front.


FEATURES & SUPPORT PROGRAMMING

Diana Ross Opening Ceremony 1 Opening Ceremony 2

The BBC showed Live coverage of the tournament’s opening ceremony in Chicago, during their build-up to Germany versus Bolivia. If people had their doubts about the Americanisation of soccer, there could surely be no doubts that they knew how to put on a show. You knew it was going to be good when someone had the bright idea of inviting comedian Robin Williams on with FIFA general secretary Sepp Blatter to conduct the group draw. The ceremony was the usual mix of colour and noise, compered by television superstar Oprah Winfrey. The show introduced each country in their individual traditional dances, such as samba for Brazil and Irish dancing for the Republic (above, bottom left), there was a performance of the official tournament song – also ITV’s theme tune – by Darry Hall and The Sounds of Blackness; above, bottom right. But the standout moment came right at the start when legendary Motown singer Diana Ross kicked it all off. Wearing oversized red jacket and trousers, she ran the length of the pitch, through a parade of dancers and performers, whilst singing her classic hit “I’m Coming Out”. The intended culmination was for her to score a penalty kick which would catapult the goal frame to split in half and launch the ceremony. What actually happened was one of the most memorable moments of any opening ceremony anywhere, but for the wrong reasons. After playing to the crowds, Ross stuttered her run up, toying with the goalkeeper before slicing her shot horribly wide (above, top)! As the old adage states; the show must go on. The nets collapsed as if it was all still going to plan and Diana Ross ran through onto the stage for the next part of her performance. Seamless. She did not reign Supreme on this occasion.

Baddiel and Skinner 1 Baddiel and Skinner 2

BBC Studio 4

Comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner came to prominence during 1994 for their hit late-night BBC 2 television programme Fantasy Football League. The programme ran weekly on Friday nights from January and was a mix of comedy, sketches and discussion around the Premiership centred around Fantasy Football; the idea of choosing a team of players from the League, earning points for goals, assists and clean sheets amongst other things and competing against others in a League table, first popularised in the mainstream in the 1990s in England. Celebrity guests would come on to the show during the series and discuss their team of players, but it was also an excuse to show some funny clips from football and take the mickey out of it. As a result of the immediate popularity of the show, Baddiel and Skinner were invited onto the final day edition of Match of the Day as pundits alongside Des Lynam in May and did a good enough job to be asked back for appearances during the World Cup. They made a handful of cameos during the post-match coverage of some of the late-night Live group matches, sitting alongside the regular pundits. Their remit was to provide a lighter look at the tournament as they did on Fantasy Football League, using funny clips and making jokes. Quite brilliantly, during the closing credits after the World Cup Final, their names appeared in the list of pundits alongside the likes of Hansen, Hill and Lineker!

BBC Goal of the Tournament BBC Maradona report

A tradition of previous Cups was the Goal of the Tournament vote. BBC viewers were asked to call in to vote for their favourite from the shortlist of ten provided, which included new Tottenham signing Jurgen Klinsmann’s effort against the Koreans; above left. Following the huge news that Argentinian star Diego Maradona had failed a drugs test at the tournament and would be banned, BBC One broadcast a special twenty-five-minute programme before their coverage of Argentina’s final group match, against Bulgaria, documenting his story. Above right; Bob Wilson voiced ‘Maradona – A Special Report’ which featured archive footage, news reports and interviews. This was eight years on from his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal in the 1986 World Cup against England, so the development sparked little sympathy from the British broadcasters and provided Baddiel and Skinner with further comedy ammo.


THE FINAL

Coverage of the last match on BBC One was hosted Live from the stadium as Des Lynam attended his first World Cup Final in person. Des’s previous tournament finales had been hosted from the BBC Studio in London. He was accompanied by Jimmy Hill and Alan Hansen in a cramped box which was presumably too small to also include Terry Venables. He instead found himself sat away from his fellow pundits and up on the gantry providing his thoughts when asked by Lynam during the pre- and post-match broadcast.

BRAZIL 0-0 ITALY (AET, BRA win 3-2 on pens) World Cup 1994 Final, Los Angeles
Sunday 17th July 1994, 8.30pm Kick Off BBC One Logo

BBC Final Studio BBC Final CreditsBBC Final Credits 2

PRESENTER Des Lynam GUESTS Jimmy Hill, Alan Hansen & Terry Venables
COMMENTATORS Barry Davies & Trevor Brooking
Hosted from the Rose Bowl, California     8.15-11pm Live on BBC One (Extended to approx 11.35pm)

Trophy Lift

For details on ITV’s World Cup 1994 coverage click HERE.

World Cup 2018: #4 England Review

“To take the second youngest team in the tournament and the least experienced team in the tournament and break through so many historical barriers has to be a brilliant achievement for the team.” [Gareth Southgate on ITV’s ‘World Cup: Summer of Love’, December 2018]

The year of 2018 will be remembered in England as one of the worst, most chaotic and confusing years the country had seen in a long, long time. Government ministers provided shambles after shambles with the ongoing Brexit saga. The nation was divided and at each other’s throats. Debate was disappearing, with people refusing to engage with anybody who disagreed with their opinion online. The football World Cup in the summer was being treated with fear, trepidation and a lack of enthusiasm the likes our team hasn’t seen for at least a decade.

Six months on from Russia 2018, it was that tournament which provided an all-too-brief respite from the horror back home. That team, led by that manager, were the beacons of light in a dark, dark time. Gareth Southgate, BBC Sports Personality Coach of the Year, had achieved the most difficult of tasks; getting the country to unite behind a common cause. Not only that but he also inspired people to believe in the England team again. To get behind them. To will them on. It was a wonderful time to be a football fan again. And this resulted in a semi final place and fourth overall at the World Cup; our best achievement since 1990. Imagine if we’d have won the bloody thing!

Southgate's World CupBBC Sports reporter Gabby Logan interviewed boss Gareth Southgate in December to reflect on the World Cup summer

 

Monday 18th June, 7pm. Volgograd. Group G; ENGLAND 2-1 Tunisia

The draw for the group stages had been kind to England; the beatable Tunisia and Panama in with tricky Belgium. The aim was always to get out of the group and realistically in 2nd place behind Belgium, who were many people’s tip for the whole thing. We wouldn’t play Belgium until last so it was quite conceivable that we’d qualify for the knockouts before that match, all we had to do was win the opening two games. This Monday night in Volgograd saw England face Tunisia for the first time since a 2-0 win in France 1998, coincidentally that was also the opening group match. England had an inexperienced squad led by an inexperienced international manager but expectations before the tournament were low. This was only going to be a benefit to them. The way they were open with the media in the build up to the tournament was impressive. It allowed the characters in the squad to shine through without a filter or another agenda. It was a masterstroke from the FA. By the time the opener kicked off England seemed ready and raring to go, demonstrated by the fantastic start made. Inside the opening eleven minutes England took the lead. An Ashley Young corner was thumped goalwards by the head of Harry Maguire. It crashed off the goalkeeper’s claw to land at the feet of poacher Harry Kane just three yards out to tap home. However the lead only lasted twenty minutes. Kyle Walker used his arm to shepherd an attacker out of the way from an in-swinging cross, which the referee decided was a foul. Sassi converted the penalty right into the corner despite Pickford’s best efforts and the game was level. England pushed and harried for a winner but it was just not there. We had to wait until stoppage time at the end of the match for the decisive action. Another corner, this time from Kieran Trippier, was floated in to Maguire. His knockdown fell at the back post to an unmarked Kane who expertly guided his header into the goal from five yards to snatch it. England had done it! “There’s no doubt scoring that late goal and being patient enough to do it I think was a big moment in the tournament for us,” Gareth Southgate told Gabby Logan during her retrospective review “Southgate’s World Cup” in December.

 

Sunday 24th June, 1pm. Nizhny Novgorod. Group G; ENGLAND 6-1 Panama

Again speaking to Gabby Logan for her review, Southgate explained the opening win “definitely meant that the atmosphere around the whole training camp and for our fans and everything else was more relaxed. You buy yourself another five days before the next game.” That next game being England’s biggest ever tournament victory. Set pieces continued to be a major part in England’s success. Another Ashley Young corner found an English head unmarked in the centre of the area, this time John Stones, to take an 8th minute lead. The lead was doubled through Harry Kane’s penalty after Jesse Lingard was shoved over. Kane’s kick absolutely flying into the top left corner, unstoppable. It was Lingard’s turn next after he played a neat one-two and unleashed a fabulous curling effort into the corner from outside the box. It was four in the 40th minute through a cleverly worked free-kick routine. Henderson flicked the ball up, it was headed across goal by Kane where Raheem Sterling was waiting. His header was saved by the goalkeeper but Stones was waiting to pounce on the rebound from less than two yards. And the scoring continued just before the half time whistle when another penalty was given, this time for practically an assault on Kane right in front of the referee whilst waiting for a cross to be delivered. Tunisia had got away with a few rough holds in the first match but Panama certainly would not here. Up stepped Kane to blast it the exact same way as his first to make it five-nil England. What an incredible first half of football. He got his hat-trick in the second half via a fortunate flick off his heel from a Ruben Loftus-Cheek effort, and in doing so became only the third ever Englishman to score three in a World Cup match – joining Sir Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker. Panama did pull a consolation goal back with around twelve minutes remaining from Beloy, which gave their fans something to cheer about for the first time in tournament history, but the day was all about England and their march through the group. Suddenly the fans started to believe this year would be different. The squad was playing with freedom, scoring goals and creating chances. Banana skins were avoided, six points from six achieved and the top scorer in the Cup was one of our own. Gareth’s waistcoat attire quickly became elevated to iconic status levels, fans were singing his name, cheering his players and witnessing great things on and off the pitch. Yes it was “only” Tunisia and Panama. But in 2010 it was “only” Algeria, in 2014 “only” Uruguay and Costa Rica and 2016 “only” Iceland. And we didn’t win any of those matches. Whatever happened afterwards, this would always be a match and a performance to savour for the fans.

 

Saturday 7th July, 7pm. Kaliningrad. Group G; ENGLAND 0-1 Belgium

With objective one achieved, qualification to the knockout stages, the final group match against Belgium was a bit of a dead rubber as they’d also made it through. The only thing left to decide was which of the two would top the group. Usually that would mean a more favourable path in the next round however this tournament was all over the place in terms of upsets and the reality was that second place in this group would probably be a better route to take. Neither team would ever throw the match of course, but it was used as an opportunity to give game time to some of the personnel who so far had not featured and those players could look back and say they had played in a World Cup; all invaluable experience for next time. “We knew that actually one half of the draw looked stronger than the other. We knew that the most important game was the knockout game and we had the chance to keep the basis of what we saw as our first team, at that moment, fresh,” the boss outlined to Logan in December. The match itself was largely forgettable, with the pace being slightly slower than in the opening games, and neither team wanting to put too much at risk as they looked ahead to bigger things. Former Manchester United striker Adnan Januzaj got the only goal of the game six minutes into the second half. Consequently Belgium won the group whilst England were runners-up and not many people back home were too disappointed with that outcome. Belgium’s potential route to the Final would feature the possibilities of Japan next, then Mexico or Brazil in the quarter finals with France, Argentina, Portugal or Uruguay in the semis. By contrast, England’s 2nd place spot meant it would be Colombia next then either Switzerland or Sweden with potential semi final opponents being Spain, Croatia, Denmark or Russia. On paper you would definitely select the half of the draw England were now in, but it’s never as simple as that as Southgate pointed out once again to Gabby. “Whoever we played in the second round, frankly if we had an easier semi final, we hadn’t won a knockout game since 2006 so let’s not worry that far ahead. How do we give ourselves the best chance of winning the knockout game?” He wasn’t allowing himself to get too carried away, but for us fans we really believed now we could go far here.

 

Tuesday 3rd July, 7pm. Moscow. Last 16; ENGLAND 1-1 Colombia (AET, 4-3 on penalties)

With second place secured, the first knockout hurdle England had to face was in the shape of South American tricksters Colombia. We had previous with them. France 1998, group stages; England won 2-0 then thanks to Darren Anderton and David Beckham’s goals up against the likes of Carlos Valderrama. But they were a far better team now with household names all over Europe. It proved a tough match, both mentally and physically. Following on from the pushing and shoving against Panama and Tunisia, this too was a bruiser. It boiled over in the 57th minute when England were awarded a penalty after Harry Kane was bundled to the ground by Carlos Sanchez from a corner. It took around two minutes between the kick being awarded and Kane converting it due to various protestations from the Colombians, including scuffing up the penalty spot with their studs. But this was 2018 England, not 1998. We wouldn’t let that distract us. Harry Kane certainly wouldn’t and calmly slotted the ball home straight down the middle as the keeper dived to his right. The lead would last all the way until the third minute of stoppage time when a corner was swung in, with every other Colombian in the box including the goalkeeper, and Yerry Mina’s header bounced up and over Kieran Trippier on the goalline. Equaliser. And you just knew it would be the inevitable penalty shoot-out that would follow. It just had to be; for Gareth Southgate, for England, for the World Cup. The preparation had been done months in advance, players knew who would be taking the kicks and Jordan Pickford in goal knew where he needed to be diving to save them. The first five taken were all scored; Kane and Rashford for England, Falcao, Cuadrado and Muriel for Colombia. But up stepped Jordan Henderson who saw his shot saved, with England 3-2 down. We needed a hero. Pickford became that hero. Uribe hit the bar and the balance shifted back our way. Kieran Trippier scored in the top-left corner and we were all square again. Back came Jordan Pickford, who saved magnificently with a solid left-hand to deny Bacca and put England in the driving seat. Amazing! Eric Dier was next up and he made no mistake; low, hard and towards the left corner of the goal. England had won their first ever World Cup penalty shoot-out at the fourth attempt, managed by a man whose most infamous moment in international football thus far was missing a penalty in a shoot-out twenty-two years prior. Redemption. The tables had turned, the belief grew further. Whatever happened after this, that moment on that night had given us England fans so much joy, so much relief and so much belief.

 

Southgate conductingGareth Southgate emerged after concluding his various media duties to conduct the jubilant England fans in celebration following the Quarter Final win

 

Saturday 7th July, 3pm. Samara. Quarter Final; ENGLAND 2-0 Sweden

England had reached their first quarter final since 2006 and the Germany World Cup. That summer we played, and drew with, Sweden in the group stage. This summer we played them in the knockouts. The belief back home was definitely this would be ours to lose today, Sweden were OK but no more. Even Gareth Southgate was confident; “I knew if we played the way that we were capable then our system in particular would cause Sweden problems. So the 3-5-2 against their 4-4-2 gets us in pockets of space that really is a problem for them,” he later told Logan. The truth turned out to be exactly that. Nerves were settled after half an hour when our set piece dominance showed once more. Ashley Young’s corner was angled towards the big, powerful head of Harry Maguire (Slabhead to his mates) arriving on the penalty spot and flew into the net. Maguire was in the stands as an England fan with his mates just two years earlier at the Euros in France, now he was scoring in the World Cup quarter final, his first England goal. Raheem Sterling would go close and Jordan Pickford would have to produce some fantastic stops during the match but it was all settled just before the hour mark. Trippier pulled the ball back for Sterling to loop up into the area. Waiting at the back post unmarked was Dele Alli. He had beaten the offside trap enabling him to head straight through the Swedish goalie and double England’s advantage. Pickford again had to make some further outstanding stops but by this point there was never any doubt. The belief that was so lacking in previous years was there for all to see. There was only ever going to be an English win from that point onwards and so it proved. After the stress, the emotions, the exhaustion of the penalty shoot-out last midweek, this match was relatively plain sailing. England marched on to the World Cup semi finals four days later and the entire country was talking about it. Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat look had become iconic; he had a lookalike in the crowd, a song of his own sung by the fans and a National Waistcoat Day established to support the team. Every interview he gave, every match we played, we impressed so much, he impressed so much. The clichéd ‘zero to hero’ tagline was spot on for this case. He inspired his players, the fans, the nation, with his calm demeanour and classy attitude. The whole of England would be watching on Wednesday.

 

Wednesday 11th July, 7pm. Moscow. Semi Final; ENGLAND 1-1 Croatia (1-2 AET)

The big match was here. This was the side of the draw we wanted. The big teams were all falling by the wayside; Italy and Netherlands didn’t even make it, holders Germany eliminated in the groups, Spain and Argentina out in the next round, Euro champs Portugal too, Brazil, Belgium and France were on the other side of the draw meaning we were left with just Croatia to beat to reach our first World Cup Final since the boys of ’66. And it began oh so well. In the fifth minute, Kieran Trippier secured his place in the Team of the Tournament by scoring his first international goal with a wonderful free-kick from just outside the box which flew into the back of the net. Cue delirium both at home and in Moscow! His deliveries, his work rate, were all so impressive this summer. England were dominating the match and a golden chance fell to Harry Kane who was miraculously thwarted by the goalkeeper Subasic (and a combination with the post) not once but twice in the same move when it looked certain he would score. As the game went on, the pressure grew. The enormity of the situation perhaps began to dawn. Fans were nervous, players were anxious and, most importantly of all, Croatia began to get better. In the 68th minute they equalised. Vrsaljko’s cross from the far touchline was met by the outstretched boot of Ivan Perisic who nipped in ahead of the defence to stab home. He went on to hit the post as Croatia really pushed for the winner but it wasn’t to be and extra time would again be necessary. The experience showed, they got stronger as we got weaker. Modric, Perisic, Rakitic and Mandzukic showed off their ability. In the 109th minute of the match the fatal blow came. Kyle Walker’s half clearance only put the ball onto a Croatian head. That header went over the right back and suddenly Mario Mandzukic was in the clear out of nowhere, sharper than John Stones to the danger and able to fire towards goal past Pickford from just a few yards out. We couldn’t say it wasn’t coming, but when it did come it was so, so heartbreaking. For the first time in that tournament it looked like we didn’t believe any more. It wouldn’t be coming home. The players had given everything and more, they made us so proud. It was a joy to watch the England team at that tournament but it would be the semi final stage and no further.

 

Saturday 14th July, 3pm. Saint Petersburg. 3rd Place Play Off; ENGLAND 0-2 Belgium

The emotions were still very raw just three days on when England had to complete their tournament in the Third Place match. The country was of course disappointed not to be playing in that Final on Sunday, some genuinely believed “It’s coming home!” and all that. It was hard not to be upset by the semi final, going so, so close. There was a connection between the fans and players for the first time for years, even decades. We bought into this group, led by an impressively calm and sensible leader who said all the right things at the right times. So that bond amplified the feeling of disappointment not just for us but for them too. We were so proud of them, indeed are so proud of them, for their achievements and that will always stay with so many. Just like when we played Belgium three weeks earlier, this match had the strange feel of a friendly. Unlike that match though, where only five players across both teams had played their previous match, today the line ups were pretty much full strength. When England were last this far into a World Cup in 1990 we lost the Third Place Play Off to Italy in Bari. And it would be a similar outcome in 2018 against the Belgians, losing two-nil in Saint Petersburg. They took a fourth minute lead with a goal assisted by the Premier League; with Manchester United’s Lukaku passing for West Brom’s Chadli to provide the crucial cross into the penalty area. It was finished by Thomas Meunier who wasn’t picked up quick enough in front of goal by England’s Danny Rose. England came closest in the second half when Eric Dier was put through by Marcus Rashford but his chip over the onrushing ‘keeper didn’t quite have the legs to make it over the line and a covering defender cleared off the line. The bronze medal was sealed with eight minutes remaining Chelsea’s Eden Hazard was found by Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne to run in behind the England back line and sidefoot past Pickford for two-nil in typical fashion his fans are used to seeing. And that was that. Belgium recorded their best ever finish at a tournament whilst England had their best for 28 years. The impact on English football domestically that Italia ’90 had was enormous, the aim after this summer would now be to maintain the connection, the passion, the performance levels and everything that was so great about this England squad as we look ahead to future tournaments.

 

The feel good factor of the World Cup certainly continued in the months afterwards for England. The newly established UEFA Nations League, replacing international friendlies and providing competitive football to international matches outside of Qualifiers, helped the momentum. England were drawn in a tough group with Spain and Croatia but came out on top, advancing to the inaugural tournament finals to be played in June 2019. And the terrific atmosphere from the World Cup was present in those matches. Wembley was absolutely bouncing for the final Nations League group stage match against Croatia. The new version of the stadium had never heard anything like it at the highest level. England did the business again in the most incredible year for a long time. Gareth Southgate was universally praised and, more importantly, respected. Harry Kane was the World Cup golden boot winner, our first since Gary Lineker in 1986. The players enjoyed playing for their country. They bonded with their teammates, had the press and fans on their side and this youthful, exciting and engaging team were only just getting started.

I never quite thought I would see England in a semi final of a World Cup, certainly not so soon and absolutely not at this tournament. Everything done in the previous two years was with the mindset of doing well in the 2022 World Cup. Gareth’s reflections with Gabby were “of course an opportunity missed which would always be there. But also a large feeling of that’s maybe an experience we had to go through because normally teams that win – France lost a European Final at home, Germany had semi finals before they won their tournaments – it’s very unusual to come from 15th in the world where we were a few months before, to being a team that are ready for semi final, Final and winning a tournament.” Yet here we were in the semis four years ahead of schedule. After the disappointment of Brazil 2014, crashing out after just two group games, and the embarrassment two years later against Iceland, international football was so low down the English pecking order. It was seen as a nuisance when the international breaks came. A team full of overpaid underperformers in a soulless ground with no pride or passion. A lot of that thinking was eradicated in one glorious summer in Russia.

“Whether it’s the opportunity of a lifetime is up to this group of players and this group of staff,” Gareth Southgate told ITV’s ‘World Cup: Summer of Love’ documentary which aired in December 2018. He continued “To take the second youngest team in the tournament and the least experienced team in the tournament and break through so many historical barriers has to be a brilliant achievement for the team. What’s hit me since we’ve been back is that that’s probably been the most rewarding part. People felt they enjoyed the summer and there a reconnection with the team. For me that is a massive step for us moving forward.” And that sums it all up. It’s easy to overplay and overstate the importance of football to its community but when they get it right and it goes your way the effect is enormous. Gareth Southgate was rewarded for his efforts with an OBE in the New Year’s honours list. This summer changed perceptions of so many; the sceptical media, the club loyalists, the casual fan and even the anti-football brigade. They all saw something during the tournament in the summer from that young, united England team which will stay with so many people for a long, long time to come.

FansFans erupting in celebration in a show of unity behind this exciting England team

World Cup 2018: #2 TV Preview BBC

This event deserves expert comment, analysis and insight and our unrivalled line up of presenters, pundits and commentators are sure to engage viewers and listeners as excitement builds throughout the tournament [Barbara Slater, Director of BBC Sport]

2014 may just go down as a landmark year for BBC football. The World Cup in Brazil was a clear change of approach from the Beeb, full of new faces and a far better editorial attitude. Compare that to their 2010 output, with Alan Hansen in semi-retirement mode, Lee Dixon openly mocked by his fellow pundit for bothering to do research, and Colin Murray spinning 360° in his chair purely to win a bet. The whole thing was lazy, outdated and very much the old boys club. Since 2014 it’s a whole new ball game, to borrow a famous football television slogan.

The 2018 World Cup team the BBC has assembled shows no sign of halting this great improvement. Lead as ever by Gary Lineker, now anchoring his 10th major football championships for the channel, he is better than ever. He has a real comfortable presence in front of the camera and gets so much more out of his guests by asking more pertinent questions because he played at the highest level. His increased workload thanks to fronting the Champions League on BT Sport has only made him stronger. It’s no wonder he gets the vast majority of the live games at tournaments.

Lineker is ably backed up by a raft of decent presenters to pick up the remaining live games, highlights shows and preview programmes. Dan Walker and Mark Chapman will be the more prominent but I’d expect Manish Bhasin and Jason Mohammad to also crop up here and there. Gabby Logan reprises her usual role in the England camp, where she does a good job. It’s a slight shame she’s only in that role, on most other channels she’d be higher up the pecking order but she is the face of athletics and major events so she does get a decent profile the rest of the time.

The biggest improvement eight years on is alongside Gary in the studio. Alan Shearer has grown into a good lead pundit, capable of insightful analysis and strong opinions. When paired with another stand-out analyst it’s great viewing. An example would be Frank Lampard, who has been outstanding on BT and Match of the Day this season. Other regulars Jermaine Jenas, Kevin Kilbane, Phil Neville and Rio Ferdinand all shine in the studio and form a very strong core. Ferdinand is particularly enjoyable and has been part of an excellent trio with Lampard and Steven Gerrard on BT. Sadly Gerrard’s services weren’t secured to replicate that in the summer.

As is now customary, there is much anticipation about which international stars will be loaned in. Jurgen Klinsmann leads the way here as the most experienced non-staffer. He’s usually strong and brings a sense of fun to proceedings, though not always available due to managing at the tournament. Whilst he isn’t doing that this time, star of BBC 2014 Thierry Henry will be; as assistant to occasional pundit Roberto Martinez with Belgium. Though with them in England’s group I’m sure there’ll be plenty of opportunity for interviews and maybe an occasional appearance if they get knocked out early doors. Elsewhere Didier Drogba and ex-West Ham and Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta will make their punditry debuts and they are total wildcards, I honestly have no idea how they will do but I’m sure they’ll do an ok job, if unspectacular. Like Larsson and Evra on ITV this time, or Fabio Cannavaro and Edgar Davids of World Cup TV past.

Newly-retired Arsenal ladies captain Alex Scott will play a fairly prominent part it seems. She’s appeared on all sorts in the last season, from hosting MOTD Kickabout on CBBC, punditing on Final Score and Football Focus, through to live match reporting on Sky’s Premier League coverage. She’s keen, she’s versatile and most importantly she’s very good. In 2016 on ITV Eni Aluko was kept on highlights, I would expect her and Scott to be on the odd live game this time round. And it’s not just the studio where there are female breakthroughs, the BBC will have a commentator for the first time at a tournament. Vicki Sparks has been semi-regular on MOTD this season, particularly on the FA Cup, and she gets her chance here behind the more established voices.

bbc-world-cup-2018.jpg

Since 2010 Guy Mowbray has been the undisputed BBC number one post-John Motson however this summer it isn’t quite as clear. Steve Wilson just called the FA Cup Final for the first time so is he in for a run as the lead? Probably not. More likely is we have the situation like in the early 90’s when Motson was their long-time top dog but the excellent Barry Davies was occasionally given a Cup final to keep him sweet and the pair of them on their toes. That situation now would probably be the best for all; share out the big games a bit more among their fantastic crop of regulars, including Jonathan Pearce, Steve Bower and Simon Brotherton, all of whom will be in Russia for them. My money would still be on Mowbray to call the final but it’s certainly made it more interesting.

The last area to comment on is, like ITV’s, most definitely their weakest. That is the co-commentator. Danny Murphy, the stand out from four years ago, has done FA Cup Finals and the Euro 2016 culmination but Martin Keown did this year’s Cup. It doesn’t seem as clear cut in this area than others as to who their main man is but those two definitely lead the way. Mark Lawrenson unfortunately will also be there still despite having his workload significantly reduced in recent years. And elsewhere some of the studio pundits will probably lend their voice to live comms too, namely Jenas and Kilbane. And why not. The interesting choice will be who gets the Beeb’s two live England games. Keown is probably favourite after he did this two years ago but quite frankly he’s horrendously negative and just plain wrong and bizarre with his analysis so I’m hoping Murphy gets them. He’s inconsistent but more hit than miss. Let’s hope assignments are made on form.

The depth of the squad this year makes this the BBC’s strongest line up on paper for any tournament. But football broadcasting isn’t done on paper. We’re definitely in for a treat though and I can’t wait to get it all started. There’s a bonus preview show on World Cup eve. The countdown is on.

WATCH The BBC World Cup 2018 promo

READ The BBC Press Pack here

World Cup 2018: #1 TV Preview ITV

Even in an era of super clubs and global interest in the Champions League and Premier League, the World Cup remains simply the biggest show in football.” [ITV Commentator Clive Tyldesley]

We live in a golden age of football broadcasting. Punditry has never been as engaging, detailed or enjoyable. The depth of commentary is huge. Presenting and reporting is of such a good standard that it’s rare to see a bad job done. Seemingly gone are the days of ex-pros turning up having proudly done no research and phoning it in. Just in time to perform at the highest level; the FIFA World Cup.

Both broadcasters – BBC and ITV – announced their summer line ups, a real sign that the domestic season is pretty much done and all eyes turn towards Russia. The best thing about recent tournaments from a viewers perspective has been the dedicated sports channels loaning out some of their top talent. This year is no exception.

ITV went public with their squad first. The current regulars are all in there; Lee Dixon, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs and Ian Wright. Joining them is ITV’s stellar signing, widely renowned as the best pundit in the business, Sky Sports’ Gary Neville. GNev has worked for ITV before, whilst still as a player at World Cup 2002 and again briefly during Euro 2008. But since joining Sky straight after retirement he has transformed the art of analysis tremendously. He’ll hopefully be heavily involved this time around.

One of the stars of the 2014 World Cup studio was Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill, a man never short of an entertaining opinion. As ROI didn’t qualify this year he’ll link up with his assistant Keane to deliver the goods once again. The surprise star guest of Euro 2016 was the former West Ham and Croatia manager Slaven Bilic. His casual blend of engaging, intelligent and insightful analysis delivered in an entertainingly unpredictable way was must see TV. I’m delighted he’s been snapped up again.

There are always a couple of international wildcards on these panels. In 2014 ITV had Fabio Cannavaro. This year it’s Patrice Evra. The ex-Man Utd full back is lively and fun on social media, always positive and known for his catchphrase “I love this game!” If that can translate to the studio then he could be a great guest. He won’t be there to give forensic analysis but no doubting he’s got good tactical knowledge. The same goes for their other surprise; Henrik Larsson. He was a phenomenal player for Celtic and won the lot at Barcelona so his CV is impressive but his limited media appearances are slightly dull so I’m not expecting much. It’s a shame Lothar Matthaus isn’t returning.

Someone who is returning from the Euros is Chelsea ladies striker Eni Aluko. She became the first female pundit at a men’s major tournament with her appearances on the highlights shows two years ago. This time round you’d expect a couple of live games too. She did a solid job and is more comfortable in front of the camera now so could be one to watch. Completing the main studio line up will be former referee Mark Clattenburg. This could be the trump card with the introduction of VAR, Video Assistant Referees, at this Cup. The trials conducted in the FA Cup this season have been nothing short of disastrous and I’m expecting similar here. Confusion, indecision, inconsistency, we’ve seen it all. It makes total sense to be able to call upon a referee to help interpret the decisions in play and in Clattenburg they have a man who has already performed this role on BT Sport before. The Beeb don’t seem to have this option.

Anchoring proceedings from the studio in Moscow will be Mark Pougatch, as in 2016. We know exactly what we’re gonna get with him, a strong, safe pair of hands. But unspectacular. And that’s where the forgotten man Adrian Chiles really excelled. Personally he’ll be a great miss as the World Cup affords longer studio time and indulges personality-based hosts more than the regular season highlights shows can. Another huge loss from four years ago is Matt Smith. Jacqui Oatley is the current understudy and again she too lacks a lot of the charm, warmth and wit of her predecessor. The pundits are going to have to do a little heavy lifting during ITV’s pre and post match coverage it would seem.

ITV World Cup 18

The commentary is largely unchanged from the last few years with Clive Tyldesley leading the line for the tenth major tournament in succession. He’s backed up by Sam Matterface and Joe Speight, both decent reserves. The good news is the excellent Jon Champion returns after working elsewhere in recent years. He adds a certain level of gravitas, authority, broadcasting ability and knowledge that’s been missing. Even if he will only be used sparingly on live matches.

Accompanying them in the box will be Glenn Hoddle on the main games and England matches. Iain Dowie is set to partner Matterface after a successful Euros following Northern Ireland around. And a warm welcome back to former ITV stalwart Ally McCoist. He was their joint lead pundit at the turn of the century, alongside the now departed Andy Townsend, before going into management. He’ll be alongside Champion predominantly, the duo I’m most looking forward to hearing. There’s not much excitement here compared to a promising studio line up but there are still some gems amongst them.

Completing the team travelling around the vast expanse of Russia will be the outstanding, and currently underused, reporter Gabriel Clarke, and relative newcomer Seema Jaswal. She’s better known to the rest of the world for her work on Premier League TV but has cropped up on just about all the terrestrial channels in recent months. They can capture what I’m hoping will still be a fun and enjoyable tournament from the fans perspective. It better be seeing as it’s my first World Cup! Forget what’s gone on before, it’s about the now and it all starts soon.

WATCH The ITV World Cup 2018 promo

READ The ITV Press Pack here

World Cup 2014 : #5 A-Z Review

“It’s a team game but an entire nation wins!” [Official Adidas twitter account, 2014]

It’s a horrible shame when things don’t live up to their expectations. ‘University will be the best three years of your life’, they said. It wasn’t. ‘Breaking Bad is the best television series ever’, they bragged. It isn’t. ‘Freddy Adu is the new Pele’, they thought. Still waiting on that one. After the horrible bore of the South Africa 2010 World Cup, where Spain won with seven goals in seven games and the most drab final in living memory, the pressure was on for this tournament to deliver. Hosted in Brazil, the samba beat of the footballing heart, people said this would be the best Coupe du Monde ever. Ever? Some billing.

I am delighted to say it did live up to the hype. This has been the best one by a long way. Entertaining games, wonderful goals, top defending, brilliant coverage and beautiful scenery. It’s hard to imagine how Russia will follow this in four years time. Here is my review of the tournament in A-Z format. I’ll admit now that Z was a cop-out but you try suggesting a better one! Zebras, Zulus or Zooey Deschanel all weren’t present and Zambia didn’t qualify.

Amazing

AMAZING
From start to finish the World Cup hasn’t disappointed. On the pitch and around the country, the view was amazing

Brazil

BRAZIL
The hosts provided breathtaking scenery, terrific fans, beautiful stadiums and the most memorable semi final of all time.

Colombia & Costa Rica

COLOMBIA & COSTA RICA
The surprise packages of the tournament were these two; exciting football, great results and terrific style

Deutschland

DEUTSCHLAND
The Germans were the best team. The Bundesliga has got it so right in so many ways and the national team have taken this on

Enjoyment

ENJOYMENT
From the fans through the media all the way to the players, it seemed everyone really enjoyed this. Great to see

Finally

FINALLY
After a 24 year wait finally the Germans win it again. The golden generation emerges victorious

Goalkeepers

GOALKEEPERS
The goalkeeping at this tournament has been top notch. In particular, Howard of USA, Ochoa of Mexico, Neuer of Germany & Navas of Costa Rica

Hammerings

HAMMERINGS
Three games stand out for particular humiliations; Germany 4-0 Portugal, Spain 1-5 Netherlands & Brazil 1-7 Germany

ITV

ITV
Much maligned but always deliver on the big occasion, ITV made the most of the Copacabana as they hosted & analysed from there. Their theme tune was also superb

James Rodriguez

JAMES RODRIGUEZ
The Colombian striker scored the best goal & was many people’s player of the tournament. He turned 23 the day before the final & is one to watch at Monaco this season

 

Klose

KLOSE
Miroslav Klose became the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer overtaking Ronaldo with 16 goals

Late Drama

LATE DRAMA
Never switch off early! This Cup was full of last minute goals & extra time heartache. The extra 30 minutes in Belgium v USA was enthralling

MURPHY Danny Murphy was the surprise star of the punditry. He was excellent in studio & outstanding in the commentary box, the Beeb have found their new number 1 now surely. He sounds eerily like Ron Atkinson too, which helps

MURPHY
Danny Murphy was the surprise star of the punditry. He was excellent in studio & outstanding in the commentary box, the Beeb have found their new number 1 now surely. He sounds eerily like Ron Atkinson too, which helps

Neymar

NEYMAR
The man single-handedly dragged Brazil through the tournament with his goals which were sorely missed when he was injured in the quarter final. The rest of the team reacted as if he’d died before the semi

Oranje

ORANJE
The Dutch delighted this time round & were unlucky not to make the final. Great players, manager & fans who surely will win overall one day?!

Penalties

PENALTIES
There were loads of shoot-outs but the one that stands out is the Dutch win over Costa Rica. Van Gaal brought on sub keeper Krul with 2 minutes of extra time remaining as a ‘specialist’ & he worked his minds games to save the tie

Qatar

QATAR
Unfortunately during the tournament it was revealed the Qatar 2022 bid may have had bribes and backhanders. FIFA corrupt? Surely not

RIO Rio was the base for much of the media & what a beautiful city. Fan parks packed, beaches swarming. Special mention to Rio Ferdinand who was a surprise hit for the BBC in the Rio studio

RIO
Rio was the base for much of the media & what a beautiful city. Fan parks packed, beaches swarming. Special mention to Rio Ferdinand who was a surprise hit for the BBC in the Rio studio

Spray

SPRAY
The referee’s vanishing spray was great, if not strange. It’s already used in Brazil & the MLS amongst others & will feature in this seasons Champions League

image

TWITTER The first social media World Cup provided hours of fun. Twitter showcased the internet's beat photoshoppers & quick wits. So much so that one picture is not enough!

TWITTER
The first social media World Cup provided hours of fun. Twitter showcased the internet’s best photoshoppers & quick wits. So much so that one picture is not enough! @FootballCliches set out to add Italia 90 graphics onto great moments from this Cup

Usa

USA
The United States caught World Cup fever at last. Even president Obama got in on the act & with coach Klinsmann in charge they were great viewing. Tim Howard was unbeatable, leading to several great photoshop moments

Video technology

VIDEO TECHNOLOGY
The goal decision system was used in the World Cup for the first time. For the first few days they showed it for EVERY goal but a few times it was needed & clearly worked well

 

Worldwide

WORLDWIDE
Everyone wanted a piece of the tournament. Viewing figures were up across the world. In Germany they opened up stadiums to fans to watch the big screen with their sofa

X rated

X-RATED
The cameramen spent much of the time focussing in on the beautiful women in the stands. Which twitter loved. As well as that there was of course the Suarez bite on Chiellini

Youth

YOUTH
The young players were the stars this time round. German Muller is only 24! Depay of Netherlands, Rodriguez of Colombia & Neymar of Brazil are younger still. Raheem Sterling of England (mentioned at last!) is still a teenager

ZZZ'S MISSED With the late kick off times sleep was sorely missed. The late games finished at 1am our time but that didn't mean I missed any of it

ZZZ’S MISSED
With the late kick off times sleep was sorely missed. The late games finished at 1am our time but that didn’t mean I missed any of it

So there we have it; 64 games over 32 days condensed into 26 letters to reflect on 1 fantastic tournament. This has been my fifth World Cup (he says, as if a player or pundit) and I’ve not enjoyed any as much as this. It’s hard to think there won’t be live, top quality football on a daily basis from a beautiful location for, well, a few weeks at least. Roll on Saturday 9th August at the American Express Community Stadium in Falmer. Channel that Samba beat, follow the Germans lead and we’ll be in for another fantastic season of football!

World Cup 2014 : #4 England exit the greatest World Cup

“It’s not the despair. I can stand the despair. It’s the hope!” [John Cleese in Clockwise, 1986]

Is there anything worse than leaving the party before it really gets going then watching everyone else have a great time? You know the scene; you turn up not really sure what to expect, slightly nervous about the night ahead because your best days are probably behind you. People that arrived before you seem to be sinking the pints quickly and effortlessly, now it’s your turn to go to the bar. You stutter over the order but not to worry, you still get the drinks you wanted. With the confidence of alcohol and belief that it might be your night, despite it being a long time since the last good one, you go over to the dance-floor to get your groove on. It doesn’t go well. Every girl has brought their boyfriend. Limited scoring opportunities here.

Hold on though, you can hear high-pitched screeches and see the inflatable fallace which means one thing; a hen party has arrived. A glimmer of hope. Immediate disappointment shows on your face as it’s a 45 year-old hen who’s brought the rest of the Bowls club with her. It’s only been an hour but you just know it’s not been a good night. To cap it all off you misjudge your drinking and end up throwing up all over the place. A more experienced drinker wouldn’t have done that. As a result the bouncer kicks you out. You retreat from the club and head home the earliest you have done in a long, long time. The rest of that club gets stuck in as the hen party also contained some aspiring page 3 models who turned up as you left. But it’s too late, you can’t go back in now. Poor decision making was costly. So much hope but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Christ the Redeemer

Christ the England fan

Enough claptrap, England have crashed out of the World Cup on day nine having played just two matches. Day nine? It’s the earliest exit in over 50 years. The shame has been enhanced by some of the lesser teams doing so well. Chile, Costa Rica and Colombia have been exciting and should all go through to the knock out rounds. It is the most open and attacking World Cup in decades. To the point of writing this 77 goals have been scored in 26 games. Contrast that with this point four years previous in South Africa when only 49 net-ripples were recorded. It’s been a trend of recent tournaments for England to turn up and stink it out with awful performances. This year it didn’t start like that, which lead to optimism in defeat. How rare is that?

England 1-2 Italy

England team v Italy

The Italy game on day three had so much promise. An 11pm kick off our time on a Saturday night against an ageing team who we went toe-to-toe with all the way to penalties just two years prior. Our younger, fearless team would go out and show the Italians that they’re out of touch, we thought. We weren’t expecting as much as before but maybe, just maybe, we could get a result here. Wahoo on West Street was my chosen venue. Jugs of beer ready. Three Lions and World In Motion blaring out and the big screen erected. Here we go!

Italia 90 vs Brasil 14

Sturridge goal captioned in the Italia 90 graphics

The match itself followed how the rest of tournament had started, with good attacking football and a lively, open game. The day before, world champions Spain were humiliated 5-1 by the Netherlands. They looked rocked, old and slow. We couldn’t do the same to the 2006 champions. Roy Hodgson’s selection was very encouraging. Sterling, outstanding for Liverpool the past season, started in an attacking force alongside Rooney and Welbeck, behind Sturridge. It looked fresh, it looked lively and, most importantly, they all caused problems for Italy. Sterling hit a fantastic strike from way outside the box which hit the side-netting but left us all thinking it was a wonder-goal. The BBC scoreboard flashed up ‘GOAL’ and we were all jumping around throwing alcohol about like we were Formula 1 drivers. No goal but plenty of positives. So it was inevitable that Italy then took the lead. It was a very good low drive from Marchisio 20-odd yards out to go one up.

However bad a hangover may be the next day after a football match I guarantee it won’t be as bad as the pain England Physio Gary Lewin had after this match. In a bizarre incident involving water bottles, he managed to break his ankle celebrating Daniel Sturridge’s equaliser. This led to him being stretchered off down the tunnel to provide another iconic World Cup image. Sturridge managed to keep his cool to slot home a great sidefoot finish from Rooney’s perfect cross. Cue a repeat of the jubilant beer-throwing we practised earlier, this time momentarily blinding me. When I was able to see again I did fear that Lewin had maybe suffered a more serious fate, perhaps a heart attack. Fears were put to rest when he appeared on the screen. So it was safe to laugh at him. Smiles weren’t as broad when comic-book villain Mario Balotelli cropped up to head the winner in the second half. “Why always him?” a lazier writer would put. I am lazy, clearly as I was supposed to be writing a separate blog for each match!

Gary Lewin

England physio requires physio

At full-time we found ourselves in the unprecedented position of feeling alright and actually quite positive about England after a defeat. Weird to say, particularly after what happened next, but there was a great deal to take from that match. Roy Hodgson said so himself in the post match interview. Sterling was a phenomenon. We knew he was good but here he came to life bossing the game through the middle. This was at the expense of Wayne Rooney who was forced wide. The pundits post-match called for Rooney to be moved more centrally. Whilst some of the fans agreed, others (including me) thought he should be moved to the bench. It just wasn’t working for him. Elsewhere Sturridge looked good and got the all important goal in his World Cup debut. Even Danny Welbeck looked decent too. The midfield was strong, the attack was lively. The defence had its problems, particularly the full backs, but because we had something going forward we tended to overlook that aspect. Bring on a deflated Uruguay we cried, after their surprise 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica.

England shots

England had more shots than me on a Saturday night in Oxygen

In truth I was never really too concerned about taking on Uruguay. Yes they have great strikers in Cavani and Suarez but I didn’t think they had enough to dominate. That, coupled with the display against Italy, meant my pre-match mood was quietly confident. Boy, how wrong was I?! The line-up was unchanged but the positioning was slightly different; Rooney was pushed into the middle and Sterling moved wider. The pundits got their wish. At the time I couldn’t fathom why the best player in the previous match, the unpredictable threat, was moved to accommodate a man out of sorts and out of luck. I trust in Roy and Gary Neville, I just think this was a mistake. The pressure was now on Rooney to repay them. He had no excuses and had to have a good match.

England v Uruguay

England unchanged for Uruguay

We label Rooney as our only world-class player but time after time he struggles to fulfil that billing for England. Uruguay do have a true world-class player in Luis Suarez. As remarkable as his recovery is having only had an operation a month ago, his threat was constant and he always had the upper hand over our defence. He linked up with his strike partner to open the scoring in the first half with a very nice headed goal. Phil Jagielka seemingly tried to play the offside trap which was a crazy decision given he was only about ten yards out. It was a bad time for Jagielka to have his worst performance for his country. The same goes for Glen Johnson and Leighton Baines. Only Gary Cahill, with his John Terry-like commitment, came out of the game with any sort of praise. The Sturridge of the Italy game was unfortunately replaced by the hesitant, wasteful Sturridge that left Chelsea. It looked so flat and so very hard to score.

Wayne Rooney

Rooney hits the back of the net

Things didn’t change too drastically in the second half. We weren’t creating the chances like we did in the first game. Sterling wasn’t allowed the space and time to run at lightning speed to frighten another ageing defence. Our only serious chances came through, or rather fell to, Wayne Rooney. His free-kick in the first half whistled agonisingly close to the top corner. The TV next door annoyingly is about 3 seconds ahead of the one I was watching on at home so I could hear their cheers turn to “ooooh” before I could see the bloody thing. HD – not quite the wonder of modern broadcasting it thinks it is. I didn’t care about the delay when the chance was finally taken by Wayne with a tap in even that granny prostitute would have scored. (Several years on that reference is still funny.) For those seven or eight minutes after the goal we looked back to our best. The pressure mounted. The bus from Uruguay was well and truly parked. It worked though, they soaked up the brief spell of pressure better than Juan Sheet’s paper towels.

And then came the heartbreaker. The moment which, whilst absolutely gutting, was far from unthinkable. The moment that triggered England to be placed onto a life-support machine. A simple goal kick was flicked on unwittingly by Steven Gerrard to Suarez, who out-thought Jagielka (him again, unfortunately), to smash home with less than ten minutes to go. He latched onto the pass because he gambled that the ball would travel as far as it did. Jagielka again was relying on offside being given and didn’t drop back goal side when the ball was played. A very basic goal to give away. A bit like against Germany in the last World Cup. It’s as if we learned nothing from that great Deutschland dissection.

Would you smash it?

Only the England fans seemed fully fit

The social media crew were quick to point out the horrid stat that never before had we lost our opening two matches. It’s also the first time England have exited in the World Cup group stage since 1958. Finally we have a reference which pre-dates the year we won the thing, whenever that was. I’m starting to doubt we ever did win it. Maybe it was a myth like the moon landing or white dog shit. We’ve tried going into tournaments with massive expectation, we’ve tried with no expectation – whatever happens it is still the worst possible feeling to be knocked out of an international tournament. Never have I experienced the pain so early on. At least in Euro 2000 it was late on in the third match that we blew it. This just feels like it’s over before we even started. I should point out the life support plug was only officially pulled out when Costa Rica beat Italy 1-0 the following day but many had already given up by then, despite Gary Lineker’s best efforts to cheer on the Italians. As the quote at the top suggests, it’s the hope that kills you.

Lineker tries to inspire Italy before their Costa Rica meeting

Lineker tries to inspire Italy before their Costa Rica meeting

There is another match to be played. Costa Rica v England is a poor man’s third place play-off. At least with that match it means you’ve done well and reached the semi finals. This is so far away from the semis it’s like a different competition altogether. It could get the lowest television ratings for an England match ever. I’ll still be watching but part of me is more interested in the Italy v Uruguay game being played simultaneously. Particularly because Andy Hinchcliffe will be co-commentator and he is excellent.

The pundits have come out in force to criticise England, as have the fans. Rightly so. But I have been disappointed to see none of them mention the switch between Stirling and Rooney. So many of them were calling for that change but it hampered us rather than improved us. Chris Waddle was spot on when he said that we aren’t learning from previous mistakes. Thierry Henry and Clarence Seedorf on the BBC explained that it’s not enough to just have decent players, they have to work as a team. Which brings me back to the Rooney argument; he seems to be automatically picked on name alone and the system accommodates him rather than he accommodating the system. There are positives of course; young players will gain experience from this and will hopefully merge a good team with Barkley, Lallana, Luke Shaw and Sturridge at the core. Argentina’s former Real Madrid star Santiago Solari seems to think so. At the Euros two years ago we were saying it was all building towards this World Cup. Now we’re all building towards the 2016 Euros. Sooner or later we are going to have to pause the building work, step up and win games ugly as well as through brilliant football. We need our big players to perform in every big game. No time to hide. If they ain’t doing it they’ve gotta go. I’d like to see Roy remain at the helm. Let’s face it, the European qualifying group is very easy. So make the most of it and forge a great team rather than a few good individuals.

PaddyPower

PaddyPower’s list of media exit cliches

In the meantime the tournament continues with three games a day for the next few days then the knockout stages bring it up a notch. The World Cup has been so great so far. There have been only a couple of poor games. The coverage has been superb, particularly in the studio, from the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Danny Murphy, Martin O’Neill, Patrick Vieira and the aforementioned Henry and Seedorf. The game goes on without England. Not too many outside these shores will give a hoot. We just aren’t very good. I’m off to support Germany now so let’s hope we can end that awful 24 year wait for a trophy!

HIGHLIGHTS England 1-2 Italy with Joe Speight
HIGHLIGHTS England 1-2 Uruguay with Guy Mowbray & Phil Neville

WATCH BBC pundits analyse Rooney’s performance after the Italy game
WATCH BBC pundits react to England’s sad exit
WATCH Roy Hodgson’s interview with Gabby Logan after the Uruguay match
WATCH Glenn Hoddle’s view on Wayne Rooney’s future
WATCH Argentinian Santiago Solari chatting with Lynsey Hipgrave about a brighter future for England

World Cup 2014 : #3 England Preview

“There are two quality players in every position and the manager has gone on record saying there are places available” [Steven Gerrard, England captain, May 2014]

The ’23 enigma’ is the belief that most incidents and events are directly connected to the number twenty-three. This has come about due to the ‘Law of Fives’ which states all things happen in fives, or are divisible by or are multiples of five. Or are somehow directly or indirectly appropriate to 5. The ’23 Enigma’ is regarded as a corollary of this law, since 2 + 3 = 5. And you can directly thank Wikipedia for that pearl. The number is also synonymous with the World Cup as it is the magical number of players you can select in your official squad. So every four years players desperately clamber to be selected in the England twenty-three. Roy Hodgson, affectionately referred to as Roy the Redeemer two years ago, has chosen his and they are shown below.

The England 23

Roy Hodgson’s England XXIII

I am very happy with Roy’s choices. There isn’t one player missing from the squad that I would have selected. The only big name player omitted is Ashley Cole and rightly so. He hasn’t been playing regularly and he isn’t first choice for England as Leighton Baines is better so why waste a reserve place on him when you can bring Luke Shaw (a man who had a great season) to gain vital tournament experience? Cole promptly retired from international football upon finding out the news. It’s the sort of positive decision that’s been missing in previous squad selections. Players were getting in because of their name rather than their form. Remember the Sven days?

This selection seems different. It has an exciting edge. Either end of the pitch is pretty much sorted; Hart in goal and Rooney up top. The midfield is bursting with attacking options to make an impact at their first tournament; the likes of Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling have the chance to make worldwide names of themselves. As do Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert. There’s also a steady core with Gerrard and Henderson, linking up brilliantly at Liverpool, ahead of solid defenders Leighton Baines and Gary Cahill. There are a few positions up for grabs as ever and one or two positions that look a little bare. The right back and centre back options are limited but with a bit of luck the first choice XI won’t be forced into changing much, if at all. If we can get a settled side we can build momentum and form good link ups.

With the squad in place, the next part of any preparation is the friendly matches. The opposition were carefully chosen. Peru at Wembley to provide the South American flavour akin to two of the Group D opponents first. Then Honduras and Ecuador in Miami to rehearse the sweltering conditions of Manaus in the Brazilian jungle for the tournament opener. I went along to the Peru match to say farewell and good luck before Roy’s boys depart for their adventures. It’s always great going to the national stadium and even better when your side win.

England versus Peru

England versus Peru

The Peru game wasn’t a great spectacle, it was extremely comfortable right from the kick off. That’s never a bad thing of course. A win is a win and helps build the confidence and the all important momentum. The starting XI was pretty close to what I’d opt for at the World Cup; with Hart in goal, Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka and Baines at the back, Lallana, Gerrard and Henderson in the middle and Rooney with Sturridge up front. The only difference would be Sterling starting for me instead of Welbeck.

ENGLAND Wembley Stadium 30

Daniel Sturridge has had an incredible year and will surely relish going up against his strike partner Suarez in the Uruguay game. He scored an absolute belter against Peru, curling it into the top corner from outside the area. The defence also got on the scoresheet with Jagielka and Cahill netting. They didn’t really have much else to do. The impressive crowd of over 80,000 found it so relaxed that paper aeroplanes were launched from all sides of the ground. Huge cheers went up every time one made it onto the pitch but the real highlight of the night was when one hit a Peruvian defender on the head. Quite a feat.

Job done at Wembley. All the best to the boys heading to Brazil

Job done at Wembley. All the best to the boys heading to Brazil

Having tackled the first obstacle well the players flew to Miami for the warm weather training. This being the England squad, they were met with torrential rain on the first day although this did soon clear and the match against Ecuador was played in the conditions intended. It was largely forgettable like most friendlies but certainly had its moments for a second string England. Ecuador took the lead with their first attack early on, then Rooney got the scrappiest of equalisers after good work on the wing from Oxlade-Chamberlain. He really impressed me in the Euros two years ago and hopefully can provide a decent impact sub option this time round. Not looking too likely though as he went off injured and is expected to be out for a couple of weeks. Not good.

England v Ecuador

Another lowlight was Raheem Sterling being harshly sent off following a mistimed challenge and subsequent square up with Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia. Hopefully not a sign of things to come from the officials this summer as it was a rash decision. Other disappointments were Ben Foster’s poor kicking and positioning, a makeshift, nervous defence and James Milner just isn’t up to scratch. He’s not bad but he’s not great either; mediocre. Ecuador also scored a cracking equaliser through Arroyo, past some half-arsed attempts to close down and block from Wilshere and Milner.

On the plus side we saw a lovely strike from Rickie Lambert akin to Carlos Alberto’s classic 44 years previous. The midfield going forward looked decent, particularly the aforementioned ‘Ox’. Two games, two different sides. Roy reverted back to the same starting line up in the thunderstorm-delayed final warm up against Honduras, which indicated maybe what his preferred first choice is.

England v Honduras

Previous pre-tournament games have taught us that they don’t really give any indication as to how the team is going to fare. Remember before the World Cup in Germany eight years ago? Peter Crouch scored a hat-trick in a famous 6-0 win over Jamaica which convinced us we were gonna go all the way this time with that poorly-labelled ‘golden generation’. The reality was a quarter final exit. Or what about the 3-1 against Mexico four years ago? Again another quarter final exit. Before Italia ’90 there was one win, one draw and one defeat. Again not really a sign of things to come as we were one successful penalty kick away from the final that time. So the results don’t seem to give much away. Italy would hope so! They only managed a 1-1 draw with Luxembourg a few days ago. The formations and line ups don’t always follow suit either. Before the 2002 Cup Sven changed from his familiar 4-4-2 to a more attacking 4-3-3 against Cameroon in order to incorporate world beaters Darius Vassell and Emile Heskey, and looked what happened to them.

The conclusion really is to use these friendlies for what they are; as practices. The main thing is for players to not get injured. Marco Reus of Germany and Frank Ribery of France have both had to pull out just before this World Cup due to injury. These games are more to give a chance for players to get used to each other’s company, locked together for weeks on end with little else to do or see. As cricket has shown with Kevin Pietersen’s exit from the England squad, it is vital to keep a happy dressing room. The manager, ably assisted by GNev, has made his decisions. It’s up to the players to take it to Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica. The Italians knocked us out two years ago in a dire match. A draw seems likely again this time, maybe England to sneak it. Uruguay are great up front with Cavani and Suarez but the latter has been injured and may not be 100% fit. Costa Rica are the team many people think will be the easiest of the three. If we stay unbeaten we should progress to the knockout stage. The last 16 team is looking to be perhaps Colombia or Greece, which wouldn’t be bad at all. I’m getting ahead of myself but it is all very promising. The World Cup is only a few days away and I just want it all to live up to the hype. Prove that it really is the greatest show on turf.

WATCH the team from BT Sport’s ‘Life’s a Pitch’ discuss England’s chances a week before the tournament starts

READ my starting XI World Cup iconic moments

CLICK for the full World Cup match & TV schedule

World Cup 2014 : #2 Starting XI – Iconic Moments

“Some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now! [Kenneth Wolstenholme, BBC World Cup final commentator, 1966]

Since its inception in 1930, the FIFA World Cup has given us hundreds of talking points; from hours of joy to years of despair. From Bobby lifting the Jules Rimet in ’66, to Zizou bowing out in disgrace forty years later and everything in between. It is the pinnacle of world football. Billions around the globe tune in; making ordinary people heroes and heroes turning to villains. Here are eleven of the most iconic World Cup images to get you in the mood for the big one in Brazil now just moments away.

2006 Zinedine Zidane’s last ever match ended in disgrace with the red card for a headbutt in the 2006 final
1970 So good he had a move named after him – the Cruyff turn in 1970
1986 Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal in 1986 against England
1970 Carlos Alberto’s wonder strike for the great Brazil team of 1970
1998 David Beckham’s petulance cost England this tie in 1998
1974 Zaire’s Mwepo Ilunga misunderstood the free kick rules in 1974
1982 Italy’s Marco Tardelli celebrated his famous Cup final goal in 1982
1994 Diego Maradona overdid this celebration due to illegal substances in USA ’94
1990 Paul Gascoigne’s tears captured the nation in Italia ’90, as Lineker mouthed for the bench to ‘have a word with him’
2010 Frank Lampard’s goal that wasn’t given against Germany in 2010
1966 The best of them all – Bobby Moore lifted the 1966 World Cup in England

These are just some of the most memorable World Cup stills. Hopefully many more will be created this summer across Brazil to add to the above. Can Steven Gerrard replicate Bobby Moore’s success and guide the Three Lions to a second World trophy? Will Lionel Messi prove himself on the international stage as the greatest player? Whose celebration will live long in the memory? This tournament will be covered by the highest number of cameras, reaching the widest audience possible using the most up-to-date technology available. Everything will be captured and stored for many years to come. Don’t forget to smile.

Watch the BBC’s video reviews of every World Cup tournament

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