Day: June 22, 2010

Colin Murray’s Match Of The Day

“It might also have something to do with BBC’s highlights presenter Colin Murray being such a turn-off,” suggested Charles Sale in his Daily Mail newspaper diary column last week – “it” being ITV’s daily World Cup highlights programme averaging a million viewers compared to the BBC’s 846,000. It is rare for ITV to outperform the BBC in this way, for the widely-acknowledged reason that ITV’s football coverage generally isn’t as good. Adrian Chiles may have closed the gap – he seems to be “such a turn-off” to some but if he’s popular with anyone at all it has to be an improvement on predecessors such as Bob Wilson. There may be a simple reason for the ratings. The BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’ (MOTD) is scheduled for 10pm, straight after that night’s live game programme (and opposite both main channels main news bulletins). So the match highlights around which MOTD is based are transmitted twice in quick succession. And anyone near a telly who is among MOTD’s target audience will have already seen them. ITV’s highlights package starts up to an hour later – and will be a slick, well-structured football show compared to the monstrosity that is “James Cordern’s World Cup Live.” Cordern is far from my least favourite TV “personality.” But the show is an unwatchable mix of football programme and televised lads mag – exactly like...

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France Fall At The First

In England, it isn’t difficult to run into Francophobia. Sometimes it feels as if a range of feelings from mild dislike to irrational, rabid hatred are hard-wired into our DNA. As such, those of us that like (or even love) the country that lies just the other side of the English Channel can find ourselves fighting the corner for what became and remains this country’s biggest rivals. This summer, it has been the French football team which has made some laugh and others cry, becoming the laughing stock of world football – for twenty-four hours, at least. For those of us that were born in the late 1960s or early 1970s, one likely outlet for Francophilia was the national football team. The French national team of the early 1980s, the team of Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Dominique Rocheteau and Jean Tigana, was almost impossibly romantic. At the 1982 World Cup finals, they were, according to received wisdom, robbed of a place in the final by the antics of the West German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher, whose attempt to decapitate Patrick Battiston went unpunished in a match which ended in a penalty shoot-out which Schumacher won for the West Germans.  Two years later, however, France won the European Championships on home soil. It was a victory of brilliance and almost unbearable tension. The brilliance come from Michel Platini, who scored nine...

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World Cup 2010: Nigeria 2-2 South Korea

It’s the fault of Germany, Austria, Argentina and Peru, although it was bound to happen one day, although as Mexico and Uruguay proved earlier, some teams can enter a game knowing that a specific result benefits both sides, and still treat the game as any other. But, just in case the last two games kick off simultaneously, which is a shame for the viewer. The first game, especially this time round, is cagey, not losing is more important than winning. The second game is about putting a marker down, showing everyone else what you have as your Plan A. And the third game is usually the one where you have to go hell for leather. A ninety minute version of injury time when you’re one-nil down. ITV went for the ratings and going for the likely “dead rubber” featuring France and the hosts, while BBC take a similar tack by showing the Argentina (or “we’ll assume Argentina will top the group” to give them their new full name according to most of the media) game on BBC1. Yet, that is a game where one team only needs to avoid defeat. This one is the “sleeper” game, yet both sides know that a win sees them through. For Nigeria, only a win will do. The night starts with the group set up like this: 1. Argentina 2. South Korea 3....

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World Cup 2010: South Africa 2-1 France

Twelve years ago, at their own World Cup finals, France comfortably beat South Africa in their opening group game, going on to become the sixth nation to win the tournament at home. Today South Africa became the first hosts in the 80-year history of the competition to fall at the first hurdle, but their blushes were somewhat spared with this spirited display against an abject French side in their last game under Raymond Domenech. Twelve years is a long time in football.

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World Cup 2010: Mexico 0-1 Uruguay

My first memories of Uruguay as football team – and quite possibly of their existence as a country at all – came from the World Cup in 1986. They were in Scotland’s group then, and were portrayed as thugs, a bunch of big cheating, spoiling, fouling, cynical bruisers who would – if the ref let them – hack Scotland’s magnificent collection of creative wizards out of the tournament. In the event, of course, Scotland did get some help from the ref; Uruguay played the last 89 minutes with ten men, but a Scotland side who had in any case already lost to Denmark and Germany weren’t good enough to break them down.

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