World Cup TV: Duff laments Wales lack of famed 'fighting spirit'

Anyone hear what that England v Wales half-time show was like, by the way?
World Cup TV: Duff laments Wales lack of famed 'fighting spirit'

ON THE BOX: RTE's World Cup coverage.

Another quartet of fixtures today but, these being the first of the final round of group games, no more pesky 10am or lunchtime kickoffs. Life has become sane again. Now the problem involves how to punch in the hours before 3pm.

In due course we’re over to John Kenny and Stephen Kelly in the Khalifa Stadium for Senegal versus Ecuador. Qatar are simultaneously taking on the Netherlands down the road in the Al Bayt - 51.5 kilometres down the road, to be precise, if Google is to be believed - but that’s a dead rubber.

Good job it’s not Qatar v Liverpool. In that case RTÉ would definitely be showcasing it, dead rubber or not.

John is a likeable commentator. Punchy, energetic, good voice. Stephen is inoffensive. It’s not the worst thing one can say about a co-commentator. It’s not the best.

Senegal need to win and start like it. Ecuador only need to draw and start like it. The African champions lead 1-0 at half-time and deserve to. The verve and energy that Ecuador showed against the Dutch last Friday is completely missing.

Midway through the second half they try to rectify the situation by bringing on Djorkaeff Reasco. John informs us, possibly unnecessarily, that he was named after the French player Youri Djorkaeff and another quick google shows that, sure enough, he was born in January 1999. We can reasonably infer how Papa Reasco spent the summer of 1998, then.

But what about Djorkaeff’s more talented twin brother Zidane? Where does he fit in? And is there perhaps another sibling, Guivarc’h, who’s incapable of hitting a cow’s posterior with a dozen banjos? And what about Platini Reasco, who when his playing days ended got involved in football politics, with ignominious results? We need to know.

Senegal win 2-1 and advance. Ecuador “never really seemed to have a go”, Kevin Doyle laments.

Over to BBC for the 7pm kickoff. England are already through and Harry Kane has taken knocks to both an ankle and a foot, so naturally Gareth Southgate starts him.

Phil Foden, who played brilliantly against the US by virtue of not playing at all, is also in. England’s jewel. England’s saviour. The Stockport Socrates. The one and only.

The group leaders, with 75 percent possession, dominate the first half. Predictable. But they don’t create a lot in the way of clear cut chances and one of the less likely opportunities falls to Harry Maguire, who contrives to put his effort a mile wide (itals) on the far touchline. (close itals) Equally predictable.

“I don’t mind him coming forward with the ball,” Jermaine Jenas giggles. “But he needed to take a bit off that one, I think.” As the teams trot off Guy Mowbray announces that the half-time show will be by Wojciech Szczesny. Er what? This sounds… improbable.

Turns out I misheard. Apparently the half-time show will be by Chesney Hawkes. Er what? This, let’s face it, sounds only slightly less improbable.

Yet another dip into Google reveals that it will be Chesney’s first stadium appearance in 30 years, almost as long as Wales’s World Cup hiatus. What a trouper. You can’t take that away from him.

Rob Page’s side had been just about hanging in there as the half wore on and the roof falls in on them shortly after the resumption. Marcus Rashford on 50 minutes, Foden (aha!) on 52, Rashford again on 67.

It might be 4-0 in injury time except John Stones makes Maguire look good by skying the ball over the bar from six yards. No matter. England versus Senegal in the round of 16 it will be.

By way of a bonus we’re whisked over to Cathal Mullaney and Pat Fenlon in the Al Thumama Stadium where things are running late. The US, 1-0 up on Iran, are living dangerously but maintain their lead to accompany England through.

Back in the studio Liam Brady observes that after England’s two quick goals it almost became a practice match. “They really have been fortunate to be in the group they were in.” 

Damien Duff reckons that Wales lacked belief throughout the tournament. “No fighting spirit, no togetherness. All the things you associate with them. Tonight they’ve just rolled over.” 

As for Gareth Bale, Damien is intrigued to see “if he goes back to Los Angeles or the first hole”. As for England: “Am I still convinced by them? Absolutely no. But they put them to the sword. Good night.” 

Anyone hear what that half-time show was like, by the way?

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