Outside the Box – Football on TV: Euro Vision begins as ITV and the BBC vie for Championship glory
Ok, so it might not feel too much like summer right now. It’s about 10°C outside, caravan parks are under water and the only suntans in sight are painted on the vacuous plebs of Geordie Shore. But I promise you, we are there and that of course means only one thing: the European Championships have begun.
Euro 2012, as the cool kids call it, sprang into life last Friday with the incident-strewn opener between co-hosts Poland and crisis country Greece – admit it, you thought the Greeks were going to turn up on the morning of the game in an old tramp-steamer with only eight players and bin bags for kit didn’t you?
Still, as the Finals kicked off, I’m sure I speak for most football fans when I say the most pressing item on the agenda was not Roy’s first team selection, nor how many people John Terry had upset by the end of the first day. No I cared about one matter only: whom the BBC and ITV had up their sleeves for their respective tournament coverage. Would the MOTD team pull out an ace like O’Neill again? Could Roy Keane stomach anymore of Adrian Chiles after such a long season? Would the BBC persist with no-hopers like Lee Dixon?
Well, let’s begin with the Lineker-fronted BBC crew. Alongside regulars Hansen, Shearer and Dixon (bugger) come 2010 World Cup stalwart Clarence Seedorf, England manager Harry Redknapp and the bloke who does the Formula 1. Pros all, it’s a sturdy vessel that Lineker commands and despite the odd tosh that spews from the likes of Dixon and commentator Mark Bright, the BBC coverage retains it’s knowing wisdom of old.
The ITV bunch on the other hand brings all you would expect from an Adrian Chiles-fronted monstrosity. Lightweight, cheesy and incredibly banal, there is more charisma in those weird wooden puppets in the opening titles of their broadcasts. There are exceptions of course. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez is always watchable, and Keano’s inclusion inherently carries the possibility of an impromptu scrap – particularly with his old sparring partner Patrick Vieira among their ranks too. But Southgate is dull and Strachan is not nearly as witty, charming or insightful as he thinks he is.
So with the line-ups in place, the football began. Russia, Denmark and Croatia have impressed so far, whereas a strikerless Spain, misfiring Dutch and under-par Germany have failed to live up to their pre-tournament billing. Early days of course, and the bigger teams tend to start slowly and build up a head of steam. Speaking of the bigger teams, England had to wait what seemed an absolute age to get started in the tournament; it was getting fairly stale having to sit through the same discussions at both the BBC and ITV each day about whether Roy Hodgson should have picked Rio, whether expectations were at an all-time low, or whether Jordan Henderson can be legitimately described as a “footballer”.
Finally though, Hodgson’s men got their chance to join in the Euro party last evening as the ITV team brought us Euro 2012 Live: France v England. And unless you live in a Euro 2012 proof bubble, or are Scottish, you will probably know that the score was 1-1. Of course, despite the collective might of the British media telling us for weeks that this tournament didn’t really matter; the opening game against the French was never going to pass by without a hefty slice of intrigue. Chiles and his mob were ramping the tension up from the four o’clock start; accompanying the standard orchestral score were grainy images of a pensive looking Hodgson pointing, a pensive looking Hodgson sitting, a pensive looking Hodgson waving and a pensive looking Hodgson squatting. Presumably this was an attempt to illustrate the high-stakes match the England boss was about to face; in truth I think those shots were actually taken just before Hodgson’s pre-match chat with Chiles.
I’m sure Hodgson thought he’d left Chiles’ inane rhetoric behind after leaving his beloved West Brom, but alas he’s got to deal with him all over again. To be fair, Roy’s interview before the game left me even more encouraged by his appointment, his management and England’s chances in the tournament. Indeed he’s far more level-headed, analytical and measured then the half-heads adorning the ITV studio.
However, he real story breaking out of last night’s ITV coverage was Jamie Carragher, who if anything, seems to be becoming even more Scouse. Patrick Vieira spoke clearer English than the Liverpool defender and there were times I almost had to put the subtitles on, just to get some semblance of what he was banging on about. For those of you that did struggle, here is a substantive summary of Carragher’s points: Steven Gerrard is glad to be captain, and… erm… something about badgers I think.
Elsewhere, Vieira came out of the coverage with some credit for remaining resolutely impartial despite Chiles’ repeated attempts to paint him as the traitor in the midst. At one point Chiles even appeared to morph into a Daily Mail columnist and reproached Vieira: “we’ve given you gainful employment” he stressed, “you live in our country, and now you’re going to spoil it”. Blimey Adrian, you’ll be calling him Frenchie and calling for his benefits to be stopped before the tournament is through.
The game itself was, as expected, a cagey affair. Under Hodgson’s short tenure, we have looked obdurate and resilient and that held us in good stead as we came up against a talented French side. Impressive outings for Welbeck, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Young give optimism that we have an attacking threat to add to the sturdy foundations when it comes to the tricky ties against Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine.
So a decent game, awful pundits but a good performance from our boys. More than enough evidence on show to make us hopeful for the next game, especially as it’s going to be on the BBC.