Saturday, June 17, 2006

Mexico v Angola, ITV1

Jim Rosenthal is in charge and starts with the suggestion we're going to get a look back at this extraordinary day so far in his opening. So we're going to get cogent analysis after the montage, yes? No, instead Andy and Stuart talk at length about England. Shouldn't they have covered this by now, especially in this detail? Jim finds particular amusement in how "the security person was brave enough to take away Pearce's deoderant", and while he wants to work the Hard Pearcey angle Stuart's going to run the comedy route of having his deoderant taken away, claiming "they ground me down!" and later "I'm chucking up!" before Jim closes the debate with a deeply disturbing assurance that "you're looking good and very fragrant tonight". "We will be in Hanover in plenty of time" he assures us, curiously, as we get to see a man with comedy eyes on his knuckles. Oddly, the Argentina-Serbia & Montenegro highlights were assigned to Peter Brackley, a man who seems to get one ITV job a year. Jim is approving of Ivory Coast, claiming "there is a way to go home and that's the way to do it" in a manner that almost makes sense before Andy tells us "you did a bit of detective work, James". Apparently Kone's goal is "near enough identical" to Michael Owen's against Argentina, in that he cut across the box and fired in. The night's real obsession is Mexican coach Ricardo La Volpe and his lighting up on the touchline, Pearce, by now well into comedy mode, ruling out following suit as "it'd be up my nose and everything" before, as the 'debate' dragged on, forcibly climaxing it with "I'm feeling drawn towards Woodbines as we speak".

Having called Angola "World Cup newcomers" twice in his opening link, just in case we'd forgotten, Jim's Madonna-esque mike stops working during the link into the game itself, coming back just in time for his breezy if not formal "let's say welcome to Jon!" Jon himself continues the commentators' point of mentioning before every game that no African country has yet won a game but claims Angola have more reason to succeed than most as "during the last World Cup they were busy celebrating the ceasefire". "A competition was held in Mexico in the 1940s to create a new national anthem and here's the winning entry" he patiently notes before it's played. Cheers. "On the coolest evening of the World Cup so far there are plenty of sombreros around the stadium" he pointlessly adds before starting on his merry way with the perceived idiosyncracies of La Volpe, noting with appropriate pauses and timing that "he looks, and acts, and sounds... like a pirate". Regular partner Jim Beglin is almost begrudging, pointing out "the smaller nations have been put in their place" and Mexico are merely "a nice outfit". The whole half seems to be made up of stoppages and inaccurate free kicks, which gives Champion time to consider a South African nicknamed "Old John" and get back to the crux of La Volpe's appeal - "What do you make of his tie, Jim?" "I couldn't quite get a good enough look at it, Jon..." Champion's other favourite is the character of Angolan striker Fabrice Akwa, as after a shot from halfway he notes "his ego is such that he'd quite like to be compared to Pele", and somehow proof of this is that he "drives a canary yellow Hummer".

"We saw the coach writing in his diary, and here's something to put in yours if it's not there already..." might be the most shameless piece of England trailing you'll ever see but at least it briefly stops Champion from going on about La Volpe ("maybe we'll see an explosion from their coach before too long" - nope) or the two "unemployed" Angolans. We go straight to Gabriel and Gerrard at half time, inevitably, before Rosenthal takes one look at the shot of two women and mentions there's "plenty of distractions - we'll hope for some tasty action on the pitch". Back at the game Jon takes delight in Beglin's room having "Mexicans on one side, cardboard walls and Angolans on the other side", but he can't keep his mind off the side of the pitch for too long - "there he is, Captain Blackbeard. If it carries on like this he'll be more like Captain Pugwash." Jon is rightly impressed with Angola's effort, although perhaps in a live commentary context "(Mexican keeper) Sanchez is 36, but average life expectancy in Angola is 38" is not the right way to express it, no more than "anguish for Mexico - if you've recovered from the anguish of England yesterday..." is an acceptable way to link to a trail. Angola's "fairly Herculean defensive effort" proves to Jim that "there are no more Zaires or El Salvadors or Honduras in World Cups these days", on the very day a team lost 6-0. Apparently the key to hanging on is "they have to treat the ball as a friend" - shades of Goleo there - while Jon notes how "the John Cleese of the touchline takes a deep breath and tries to rein in more emotion". Eh? Angola creep closer - "imagine that, Angola versus the might of Argentina!" - while Jon panics at everything - "here comes the keeper, what's he doing? That looked like handball as well". But it's good enough...

Rather unsportingly, Jim declares "it's not quite the shock we thought we might have got tonight", as if a point is no reason for anyone to look up, despite the fact his colleague then comments "Mexico are being booed off, Angola are being cheered to the very rafters". Back in the studio Stuart is impressed, if not syntax friendly, enough to comment "if you wrote a book that said there was a goalkeeper going to the biggest competition in the world who hadn't played a game this season you'd say it was too far-fetched". No, imagine if England had etc. So, how will Rosenthal finish a day that featured one of the great World Cup attacking performances and a surprise result? "Whatever you do, don't write off the Dutch". I mean, really.

What we've learned: this day will take a lot of topping; Angola aren't proving any pushovers and at least nobody's referred to them "making friends" yet; Mexico are blowing horribly hot and cold; La Volpe, with lots of actions and attention drawn to himself but not much else, is nobody so much as the Mexican Barry Fry


Blogger SwissToni said...

What infuriated me the most about the ITV coverage is not just the fact that they have to head out to interminable adverts at every possible moment and have the crappest pundits in the world (Jay Jay Okacha anyone?).... it's the fact that when they do have a moment to analyse or reflect on the game in hand, it's off to the England camp for some non-news story or other.


It's not that the BBC are brilliant (I'll take Adrian Chiles and Gordon Strachan over Gary Lineker and Ian Wright any time), but they are a whole lot better.


4:20 pm, June 17, 2006


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