Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ecuador v Costa Rica, ITV1

It's a triple-header of live and exclusive games on ITV1 today! But before you run for the hills, stick around awhile to see the live football presenting debut of Steve Rider, who greets us at pitchside in the Frankenstadion. That's the venue of England-Trinidad, of course, so let's not expect much build-up for the first of today's games, eh?

Sure enough, after a quick recap of England and Trinidad's first games, Steve has popped up to a studio overlooking the left-side goal, and admits that "we don't want to appear too eager, but Terry Venables, Stuart Pearce, Sam Allardyce and myself were just about the first into the stadium at Nuremberg!" Gabriel Clarke is quickly on hand to report from the team hotel, with footage from celebrating Germans partying into the wee small hours. However, unlike World Cups of old, the noise doesn't seem to have disturbed the players' sleep patterns too badly. Steve can bring us the first confirmed details of the sainted Rooney - "in the last few minutes, the FA have formally confirmed that Rooney is fit and available." Cue further debate on whether he should play or not.

After our first break we're back to extracts from Robbie Earle's trip to Trinidad and vox pops with plucky Trinidadians. Steve reckons their fans are being a little too optimistic for his liking, so links us the Nuremberg fan park to see what the England fans are up to. Ned Boulting is on hand to tell us there are an estimated 70,000 England fans in the area - 20,000 with match tickets, 20,000 due at the fan park, leaving 30,000 "who somehow have got to get themselves in front of a telly!" He then introduces a chap called Graham, who for no apparent reason is holding a framed portrait of Wayne Rooney. "How's your foot?" is Ned's best line before moving swiftly onto Chris Birchall's scouse parents. Ned firstly goes for a Cilla-esque heartstring-tugging moment by showing a clip of Chris saying "hello Mum and Dad", before trying to stir up some family rivalries by asking Mr Birchall (English) whether he has mixed loyalties. The fact that both parents are wearing Trinidad shirts should give some clue on that front, but there you go.

Back to the studio for a brief word on plucky little Trinidad, where Stuart Pearce takes a moment to controversially suggest they will actually be going out to win rather than just being here for a good time. Rider sounds stunned by this development and asks Sam Allardyce whether this can possibly be true - and if the plucky underdogs should somehow win, what will Dwight Yorke be like to be around? Sam suggests that Yorke is under special instruction from Alex Ferguson to beat the English, as if Dwight somehow needed telling by his old boss what he's there for.

Another 1966 flashback feature, this time looking at Brazil's elimination by Portugal, references to the tournament in contemporary Coronation Street, and the glamorous side of swinging 60s London. Venables is asked who impressed him most at the time, "Pele, Eusebio, Brigitte Bardot?" "Yeah, you've got it in the wrong order! There was no doubt they were two of the greatest ever...strikers I've seen." "I wondered what you were going to say there for a moment!" "I changed my mind at the last minute!"
In the meantime, the big screen seen over Venables' shoulder shows the Ecuador players lined up for their national anthem, so it's good to see ITV have their priorities right.

Just time to reiterate that Rooney is officially fit to play before we eventually join Jon Champion in Hamburg moments before kick-off (too late to actually see the Ecuador team caption), and the first trivial point of note is that ITV's score display incorrectly has Costa Rica wearing red today. Place your bets on how long it takes them to change the colour indicator thingy below the team name to the correct white.

Jim Beglin's opening thought is that "Costa Rica and clean sheets don't easily go together". "Do they ever happen?" asks Jon. "They are susceptible in the air, they usually concede, they are generally defensively suspect - and because of that, they are excellent to watch!" Looks like Plucky Trinidad aren't the only side being patronised today then. Mind you, Ecuador aren't exactly being given much respect either, as Champion tells us with tongue firmly in cheek that they have a team witch doctor, who has been out on the pitch earlier today "to purge any evil spirits".

Onto more general stats, and Champion is keen to tell us that the two players called Tenorio in Ecuador's squad are not related, and furthermore there are seven players named Tenorio in that country's league. Costa Rica's coach was a player in the 1990 World Cup ("when they beat Sweden and Scotland"), and that Ecuador didn't play an away game until the mid 1970s (because of the altitude, don't you know), and that this is only their fourth game in Europe.

"I wonder, is this to be the greatest day in Ecuador's sporting history?" enquires Jon as Carlos Tenorio puts his side into a 7th minute lead. For those of us OCD sufferers who care about these things, it should be noted that ITV sneakily update Costa Rica's caption colour as the goal goes in. "Tenorio plays for a club with the unfortunate name of 'Al Saad'".

A few moments later Tenorio is fouled and spasms round on the floor, causing the Costa Rican number 3 Luis Marin to pick up a booking. A caption erroneously tells us that the Ecuadorian number 3 Ivan Hurtado has received the card and will miss the next match, although Champion is quick to berate the host broadcaster: "Ignore that caption, by the way - I think you've been misled by our German director."

We're returning to Friday night's altitude discussions, as Champion informs us that, whilst the Ecuadorian national stadium in Quito is 2 miles above sea level, the AOL Arena (FIFA World Cup Stadion Hamburg, surely?) is a mere 6 metres up. I expect some kind of visual representation of this fact at half time, presuming the panel can drag themselves away from England build-up for a few seconds.

A brief shot of a Mexican wave with 18 minutes gone, allowing Champion to wistfully point out that the two sets of supporters are happily intermingled around the stadium. "It's a very colourful stadium today, includes flags from places as outlandish as Shrewsbury, Brighton, Crewe, Leyton Orient, and Crystal Palace I can see are represented here too."

The game begins to falter a little late in the first half, allowing time for Jon to point out to us that "Costa Rica tend to play their football as they live their lives - a fairly carefree and relaxed way. Surprised therefore to read about one notorious incident in the domestic Costa Rican league this season where the president of one of the leading clubs ran onto the pitch during a game and thumped the referee! Knocked him out!"

Half time, and straight back to Gabriel Clarke - now sat in the Frankenstadion dugout - for an England update. Rider then repeats his pre-match question of Venables about whether it's worth risking Rooney today, only for Terry to inadvertently mention Costa Rica in his answer instead of Plucky Trinidad - shame on you Tel! This is no time to mention the two teams we've just been watching!

"I don't know whether that was - discreet judgement to lose the sound there - it's often a wise thing!" quips Steve as Ned Boulting's OB with England fans at the fan park is rudely interrupted almost immediately, so instead we're handed back to Jon and Jim for the second half without so much as a moment's analysis of the match in progress.

Former Crystal Palace striker Ivan Kaviedies comes on at half time, leading Jon to point out an Ecuadorian strikeforce of ex-Premiership misfits.

"Playing number 10 for a country like Costa Rica carries an awful lot of responsibility with it," observes Jon. "It's not just a number, it's a comment on the player that wears it." Quite how this only applies to 'countries like Costa Rica' is never explained.

Ulises de la Cruz is booked for timewasting as he pontificates on a throw in. Villa fans would probably say in his defence that he's naturally that slow. Jon Champion takes the opportunity to apologise to the Villa faithful: "I somehow feel personally responsible for De La Cruz's arrival in English football, having spent the last World Cup with Graham Taylor as my co-commentator, who spent more time waiting in hotel lobbies to meet De La Cruz's agent than watching matches - still remain to be convinced that it was worth it!"

Speaking of English failures, Ecuador go 2-0 up: "Oh I say! Agustin Delgado with the sort of finish that Southampton thought they were going to see but never got a glimpse of!"

Champion and Beglin aren't impressed as the referee - a "38 year old Maritime inspector from Benin" - fails to spot Centeno's stamp on Kaviedies.

"If it is England next for Ecuador, I think Valencia is the player to watch," is Beglin's assessment, conveniently forgetting that it's actually Germany next for Ecuador. Luis Valencia has been impressive down the right wing however, and is given a rousing send-off as he's subbed with quarter of an hour to go. Confusingly, Valencia plays for Villarreal, although he's on loan at Recreativo. Sounds like a trivia question right up there with the old 'Sunderland did it in 1979, Villa in 1981...'

We're back to altitude trivia from Champion, who tells us that they went 35 years without winning an away game up until the year 2000. How does that add up with the earlier fact of them not playing away until the mid-seventies?

Costa Rica break down the left wing: "Gomez...held off by Guagua who nearly decapitates a steward with that clearance! Not very nice is it, you volunteer to come from any area of the world to help out as an unpaid volunteer at the World Cup and you're decapitated by an Ecuadorean defender!"

We see Delgado signal to the Ecuador bench that he wants to be subbed off, although Beglin is quick to spot a flaw in that plan: "I think there's a problem, they've made three [substitutions], haven't they?" Champion agrees, and points out that the coaching staff are passing that message on. A few minutes on and Delgado has barely made any effort. "Gordon Strachan could probably relate to that!" notes Champion wryly.

"Hernandez - 'Bazooka' they call him because of his shot!"

In stoppage time, Mendes swings a cross over for Kaviedies to volley it home, who produces some kind of yellow mask from his shorts and promptly wears it for a few moments. It seems to be a full head mask, putting Facundo Sava's old Lone Ranger effort to shame.

Jon Champion is suddenly aware of the fact that Ecuador's superior goal difference means that a draw against Germany will see them top the group. He's slightly premature in stating that this would result in England playing Germany in the second round, before clarifying that England have yet to actually qualify, let along top their group.

Just time to see the England players arrive at the ground, including the "officially available" Wayne Rooney. Terry doesn't want to meet Germany in the second round, Stuart believes Ecuador have been impressive so far, and Sam wants a convincing England performance today. "The big match is almost upon us," declares Steve, as we all go for a quick drinks break.

What we've learned: Valencia looks a bit useful, Rooney is *officially* fit, ITV aren't even prepared to pay lip service to a live game when there's an England game coming up later. And Steve Rider made it through his first match unscathed.


Blogger Ben said...

That bit about the referee in the Costa Rican league being knocked out - the sheer relish with which he announced that was slightly worrying...

Fair play about Guagua - as was said on the Cheer Up Alan Shearer blog after Ecuador's first game, I wouldn't want to encounter him, Hurtado or Espinosa in a dark alley...

"Hernandez - 'Bazooka' they call him because of his shot!" - in the first half he also said they call Gomez 'Bullet' because of his shot. Gun crime must be rife in Costa Rica.

Ryder was pretty decent, I thought - never sounded uncomfortable or hurried, unlike the likes of Jim Rosenthal, Gabby Logan and Ray Stubbs.

12:13 am, June 16, 2006


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