Image BBC Sport
By Sam Shedden
The first week of the greatest spectacle in world sport (sit down, Olympics!) has thrilled millions of viewers across the globe.
We’ve seen world champions Spain demolished by the Dutch, minnows Costa Rica upset Uruguay and – perhaps the strangest of all – England losing their opening game and be praised for their performance rather than savaged by the English press.
On the pitch the 20th FIFA World Cup has provided plenty of talking points. Goals galore and dodgy refereeing have filled many a column inch on the back pages.
However, in the UK, there’s been another talking point (not just Rooney’s form) that has got us all chattering. The pundits of the BBC and ITV. We have a look now at some of the winners and losers among the World Cup “experts” so far.
Poor Phil. Following in his brother’s footsteps into punditry probably seemed like a good idea. Older brother Gary Neville was popular with fans at Sky before moving into the England coaching set up. Alas, it has been a much trickier road for the ex-Manchester and Everton defender Phil Neville. In his defence he was thrown in at the deep end by the beeb, his first game co-commentating was England vs Italy, a massive game for any English commentator and surely deserving of someone with a bit more television experience.
Neville failed to impress the Three Lions faithful watching at home and the BBC received 445 complaints from viewers who clearly had nothing better to do. “Too boring” was the resounding cry from viewers.
Phil has taken the criticism in his stride and vowed to get better. Give him a chance people!
French World Cup winner and Arsenal hero Thierry Henry knows a thing or two about winning. As a player he was renowned for his cool finishes in front of goal and has brought a touch of va va voom to the BBC’s punditry team.
He is seemingly unflappable and gives great analysis of goal scoring opportunities. Not to mention he knows how to cut down loud-mouthed Robbie Savage, which is another big plus.
Not a pundit in the strictest sense. Veteran commentator Pearce had a complete meltdown during the France vs Honduras game.
French striker Karim Benzema hit the post with a shot, however the ball bounced off the Honduras goalkeeper and crossed the line. The referee decided to utilise FIFA’s new goal-line technology to judge if the ball went over the line. It had. Justice prevails.
But no, Pearce lost the plot and struggled to comprehend the simple system and his commentary descended to farce as he complained bitterly that the technology had got it wrong. There is something poetic about the former Robot Wars presenter becoming undone by machines. Pearce’s stupidity was the butt of many jokes on Twitter.
Another big name signing for the BBC, Dutch great, Seedorf, brings some genuine insight to the BBC’s post match analysis. A superb player and his knowledge and experience are making him a great pundit. He works well with the other experts and his laid back style means he is more likely to bring a bit of civility to the studio.
[Left to right: Savage, Seedorf and Henry and the trophies they have won]
Savage barely even made it to Brazil after the dozy Welshman took his wife’s passport with him to the airport instead of his own. Much like his playing career he has no fear about being around those with more experience and isn’t afraid to dive in and tackle the likes of Henry over key issues.
His lack of football success is all too apparent when compared to masters like Seedorf and Henry. He is far better in the studio than co-commentating, where he has a tendency to resolutely declare his opinion on a challenge only to be proved wrong immediatly by the replay.
A bit of a wild card for the BBC, Ferdinand only left Manchester United at the end of the season and is currently a free agent so has played against many of the players in this World Cup. His defensive insight and strong opinion have made him a decent pundit so far. Thankfully we’ve not seen any “merking” as yet.
An extremely accomplished player and one of the best defenders in the world when he played. It seemed a certainty that ITV’s high profile signing would be a great addition to their team as a replacement to Roy Keane.
Unfortunately the Italian World Cup winner hasn’t shone. It is clear that perhaps his grasp of English isn’t quite there yet as he often doesn’t answer Adrian Chiles’ questions (we can forgive him for that!) and comes out with baffling comments. As a pundit, he is yet too prove he is more than just a pretty face.
Another French pundit and another success. Patrick Vieira is not new to ITV so is able to nonchalantly deal with Adrian Chiles’ ramblings. Vieira was a dominating force in midfield as a player and also commands attention and respect from fellow pundits with his quality analysis.
A painfully annoying pundit. The former England striker shows a complete lack of understanding and care for any team that is not his own.
Would be more at home chanting “ENG-ER-LAND” in the fan park with supporters. The embodiment of the stereotypical English pundit that so enrages the other countries of the UK. Oh yeah and if that wasn’t enough he is responsible for a truly awful nineties song.
Punditry stalwart Dixon is the TV equivalent of Germany at international level. Solid and dependable (yes I know Germany thumped Protugal 4-0) and is always present for the big occasions. More than holds his owns against Vieira and Cannavaro.
ITV’s Uruguay representative. The Uruguayan manager seems to be enjoying his role in the World Cup and his well deserved break after saving Sunderland from relegation last season. He contributes sound tactical knowledge to proceedings.
Rarely in the studio, Scotland manager Strachan always seems to be on Copacabana beach. Clearly he is enjoying this cushy gig. He is still yet to really add anything of great note. Perhaps he could spend less time sunbathing and more time figuring out how to get Scotland to the 2018 World Cup!
Follow Sam on Twitter: @SamShedden