“Who knows if we will have good World Cup,” mused Roy Hodgson last week, in his final rousing call to arms. We might never know for sure judging by the resounding TV acclaim for England’s defeat on Saturday night, as Roy enjoyed the fruits of his own long campaign to dampen expectation as well as FA chief Greg Dyke’s insistence that the 2022 World Cup is the one they are really after.
Gary Lineker’s conclusion that it was “not the most depressing England defeat” summed up the cheerful mood on BBC. Unusually, the positivity was largely shared on RTÉ, at least until Steven Gerrard, in his post-match debrief with Gabby Logan, argued that “you couldn’t point a finger at anyone”. That was when Gilesy had enough. “You could point a finger at him.” Eamon Dunphy concurred: “Gerrard was non-existent.”
Inevitably, Eamo also identified a cause célèbre — an Andy Reid, if you like. “You can’t go to a World Cup without John Terry.”
At least the horror prospect of Eamo in a dress has receded a little. Preparing for his forfeit if England make the quarter-finals, Dunphy told us he’d already been measured and had “size 36 hips.”
Perhaps some of the feel-good vibe around England was down to the absence of one draining, morale-sapping factor — there was no welcome to the jungle for the England band. No great escape either mind you, but surely a small price to pay. Alas, on BBC anyway, one dispiriting, droning annoyance was replaced by another; Phil Neville, who has already been billed as this World Cup’s vuvuzela. If English players tired late on in Manaus, fans at home, struggling with the late hour, were also severely tested by the soporific co-commentary. Even South Warwickshire Police had their say, tweeting: “We will be playing recordings of Phil Neville tonight to keep the streets calm and sleepy.”
If you enjoy an in-play flutter during the tournament, RTÉ looks your best bet for coverage. Certainly early in games, when the station’s ongoing inability to match pictures and sound means you will hear about a goal long before it is scored
During Spain-Netherlands, RTÉ awarded Spain a penalty while Diego Costa was still five yards outside the box. They usually sort things out eventually. As Paul Doran (@DorancoPaul) put it on Twitter: “I saw a Brush Shields gig once. Sound check was during the first two songs. RTÉ adopt same approach.”
Adrian Chiles: “When England lose, the Scots always turn up, like Gordon Strachan and Neil Lennon.”
Andy Townsend, after Chile beat Australia 3-1: “If Australia had scored a couple more, it would have been a very different result.”
Trevor Steven worried about the Netherlands’ “inexperienced back-three pairing”.
ITV’s Clarke Carlisle was “amazed Jackson Martinez can’t get in Ecuador’s team”. Being in Columbia’s team probably played a part.
If Roy Hodgson worried, before the tournament, about putting too much pressure on the psychologist, he should have been more concerned about his physio’s fitness. Rio Ferdinand, however, had little sympathy for Gary Lewin’s dislocated ankle:
@rioferdy5: “BTW what the hell was the physio Gary Lewin up to? Strap ya ankle up & stay out there. This is England, you wimp!!!!
“Only having a bit of banter,” he later assured us.
There was some consolation for one Spaniard after the Dutch disaster. Jacobo Ríos-Capapé, an architect and ex-referee from Valencia, was the only person among 70,000 entrants to predict the correct 5-1 score in a prediction competition run by Spanish fuel company, Cespa. His reward; €100,000 worth of petrol.