“What? From who exactly?” I hear you ask. Certainly not from our opening victors, the Czech Republic and Portugal, who recorded victories that looked impressively routine and untroubled, without suggesting that they have any credentials on the title. No, the beligerent start was made my our old friends at ShITV, who ensured that any lingering doubts that they would be unable to reach deep down to match the depths of past embarrassments were swiftly and ruthlessly extinguished.
As the opening titles faded out, the very brief wide angle shot of the studio before cutting to presenter Matt Smith was more than enough for any of us inititated to make out the figure of Gary Neville on the sofa alongside Andy Townsend. It is worth taking a moment to remind oneself that this was ITV’s opening match of the tournament; are we to assume that this is their punditry first team? If so, fair play to ITV, this is the equivalent of gallows humour from supporters of a hopeless team who know they have know chance of escaping relegation. This is ITV singing to their audience “we’re shit, and we know we are”, loud and proud, and every football fan can appreciate that.
The full hand was yet to be exposed though, having sat through a turgid build up to Portugal v Turkey, in which messrs Neville and Townsed imparted upon us as much wisdom as we might have expected, we were soon to learn that, incredibly, the lowest point of the evening was not to arise from the studio. When we were taken to the match itself, we were left in the hands of Clive Tyldesley and David Pleat. These are two men who display very different kinds of incompetence; Pleat is really just a lovable old fumbling Grandad who gets his cliches mixed up and can’t pronounce names correctly, which is highly embarrassing for his broadcaster, but fairly tolerable for any viewer with a sense of humour.
Tyldesley is a different animal altogether. He doesn’t make mistakes, in fact he is articulate and assured at the microphone, and he sets about his job with supreme confidence. The problem is that his job, it would appear, is to sell as many shares in Manchester United as possible. Never have I heard such a nauseating amount of grovelling in a commentary in my life, if ITV haven’t received a million complaints demanding this man’s immedate sacking then the viewing public’s apathy has reached a terrifying level.
I would have expected, and accepted, that Cristiano Ronaldo would receive more attention than anyone else during this match; he’s a superstar, he’s the subject of a transfer saga, and he’s just had an incredible season for his club. He is not, however, playing for United in this tournament, this is an international fixture between two teams playing for a rather important trophy, more important in fact than either of the two that United won last season, which Tyldesley obviously saw as a vital piece of information for the viewers, as he deemed it appropriate to remind them of it on at least three occasions. This was bad enough, but to give similarly disproportionate amounts of attention to Nani, an insignificant part of both United’s and Portugal’s squad, was unforgivable.
“Let’s not forget, Portugal can still call on the services of RONALDO’s UNITED team-mate NANI”. “Oh, and UNITED fans will be interested to know that NANI is warming up, are we about to see a UNITED combination for Portugal?”. “Will Portugal now benefit from the fact that they have two UNITED players on the park? RONALDO and NANI must have developed an understanding together at UNITED”. And so on, and so on..
Tyldesley’s crawling is one of the worst examples of a huge misjudgement made by both broadcasters, that of believing that nobody in England can possibly be interested in the tournament without English reference points, and without an England team to provide it the result is that every last effort is being made to sell the fact that Premier League players are in the tournament. A piece of advice for the broadcasters: Anyone not interested in watching the tournament without England is not going to watch. They are watching something else, they are down the pub, they are visiting their Gran, but THEY ARE NOT WATCHING!! Please get this into your head. The people that are watching however, are football fans, of which there are a great many, and WE ALL KNOW WHO THE NAFFING PREMIERSHIP PLAYERS ARE AND WHO THEY PLAY FOR!!! Please understand that your audience for this tournament are the initiated and knowledgable when it comes to football and stop insulting our intelligence. Please also fire any commentator who cannot deliver a commentary without constantly talking about the club he supports, especially during an INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT! Thank you.
The football? Well it was largely uneventful, which is why the dreadful broadcasting was a more interesting topic for discussion. The Czechs nicked a 1-0 against the co-hosts in a poor quality opening match. The Swiss, presumably over excited after an abundance of cows and milking maids during the opening ceremony, forgot that they were supposed to play with ten at the back and actually showed some attacking intent, but that only served to expose the fact that they don’t have a single player who looks like he’s been near an opposition goal for several years. The nearest thing they have to it, Alexander Frei of Borussia Dortmund, limped off just before half-time, making a Swiss goal even less likely. They should have secured a 0-0, as the Czechs looked devoid of ideas without the retired genius Nedved and the injured Rosicky, but they were caught by a ball down the middle which Sverkos got on the end of and fluked a mis-hit finish past the wrong-footed Swiss keeper.
Portugal were more impressive against a Turkish side that fielded surely one of the least threatening forward lines ever seen at this level in Tuncay and Colin Kazim-Richards, both of whom have failed to trouble the not altogether impressive defenders in the Premier League, so seem even less likely to succeed here. Portugal scored two nice looking goals, thanks to an enterprising centre-back and a team caught with too many bodies forward in injury-time. The Portuguese however, failed to convince anyone that they can get around the gaping hole in their centre-forward position. Nuno Gomes was predictable in every sense bar five minutes of looking threatening. Bizarrely this period was restricted to just five minutes by his manager Scolari, who chose to take him off immediately after he had hit the bar.
Overall, everyone in this group needs to improve in order to achieve their respective realistic goals. Unlike reliable old ITV, who have set an example to all in this tournament by finding their desired level immediately.