Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Spain v Tunisia, BBC1

Spain, eh? A full gamut of penalty misses and general early exit sorrow-ridden faces to, oh lord, Toploader's Achilles Heel makes way as Gary points out they'd hardly been mentioned before the tournament, at which we get the full Arcade Fire over multi-angled shots of their first game. They've only played one, get a grip. With Tunisia given only as much build-up as the BBC team (Alan Hansen, Ian and Martin) can muster Alan wants to talk up the new Spanish threat, reminding us "the last few times we've said this'll be their time" before Gary jumps in with "and you've backed them every time!" Martin is more cautious, claiming they still have "one or two players who wouldn't be in everyone's starting eleven" and exercises worry over Luis Garcia, as he can do things "just when you feel like strangling him", Alan claiming that while he's got better since in his first year at Liverpool "he broke the world record for jumping out of the way". The review of the Saudi-Ukraine game is worth mentioning for the 'hilarious' montage of great passing ending in the shot of the ball coming off Graham Poll, introduced by Gary's usual giveaway "and you spotted something in the earlier game..." As the previous day there's a lookalike, and this time it's one for which "you need a little bit of imagination", as apparently a Ukraine defender resembles a young Hansen, or as Ian puts it "he looks like you, baby!" We know what's next all along, although Hansen nearly escapes it by telling a story about colliding with Willie Miller at a golf day twenty years later. Gary chips in with a story you can tell he's thinking twice about the more he's nudged into going into detail about Aragones having a nervous breakdown during a team meeting. "Bloody hell" Ian is head to mutter, while Alan sportingly offers "was it because you played badly again?"

With the thoughts of Ian that Spain "can have a crumble up" ringing in their ears we welcome Jonathan and Mark on "a sultry night...the evening skies just darkening", thus setting the scene for much of the evening's preoccupation. "Gone are the days of bickering...I think" Pearce cautiously advises before noting "one of the assistants is a military policeman - not too much dissent this afternoon, then" before ruining the line, such as it was one, by mentioning the intentional dissent crackdown. He then says of Torres "the press build-up focused on his goal celebrations", almost in wonder at the foreign press. Peter Crouch must have sucked a thoughtful tooth at that one. Spain are on top very early on, a David Villa shot getting "ah, what a stinging effort!" in a way nobody surely really says, but suddenly "and Tunisia have the lead!...How about this for an upset?" Oddly the prospect of such an upset, and at such a time, doesn't seem to appeal to either Pearce or Lawrenson, who seem to spend much of the first half in private conversation about Spanishness as Pearce recalls meeting a man in a flamenco dress at Euro 2000 and Lawrenson gives climate updates every couple of minutes until it finally starts raining visibly.

"Just when you think it's all different..." Gary ponders. Martin's off on vintage form, firstly admitting "I don't want to be too technical" only after having identified that the three in the midfield for Spain were a nearly accurate "eight or nine yards" apart, then having an old fashioned argument with Alan about a defensive technicality. Wright meanwhile is fulfilling his own part of the agenda, spotting a fly on the lens of a shot down pitch and declaring "it's a Spanish fly!" before leading the laughter more in hope than anything.

"It's certainly not scorchio" is Lawrenson's latest weather update, as he and Pearce spend much of the early stages of the second half in a positive torpor. That's before the move from which, at Pearce's ever speeding rate, I can just about make out 'Torres' and 'Raul' before "over the years, they say he is Mr Spain". Raul has scored, just as Pearce seems to think he would, marvelling that he was "brought on to save the game, he could have done just that". Lawro is surprised as "he was hopeless with three H's" against Ireland, whatever that means. Four minutes later "the goalkeeper's coming a long, long way... and Spain have the lead!" Torres has "turned the game upside down", while Mark level headedly decides "the goalkeeper wants locking up, Jonathan". A goal later and Pearce is counting his chickens merrily, stating Torres could be the star of tournament at the final whistle.

Back in the studio Martin seems excited by the prospect of Spain, claiming "I don't think you needed a genius to work out" Spain would work a way out of their trouble eventually. Really. Raul, apparently "an experienced cookie", made the difference and while Spain aren't exactly Argentina yet the view is they're going to be something this time around. Again, we've heard that before. "This guy didn't have a great day" we're told of Tunisian Ayari over a shot of him having a paddy going off and failing to take his shirt off properly. "I don't think he's enamoured" Alan adjudicates, while Gary pleads leniency: "It's not fair! It's not an easy thing, taking your shirt off, for a footballer." While he's in the mood Alan slips a jibe in at Togo - "It was great that they turned up in the first place, but..." As we're half way through we get an inevitable super slo-mo compilation, Gary somewhat destroying the intention immediately afterwards by claiming "the really good news is, it all starts now" before Alan can call the tournament the "best of all time". Hopefully he meant potentially. "Can you hear the drums, Fernando?" is a particularly weak effort from Gary before he - couldn't resist, could he? - bidding us "buenos nochas".

What we've learned: the Spanish are tenacious if nothing else, and could well provide the Golden Boot winner if Klose (what odds was he?) doesn't; Tunisia are much the same promise not matched by ability side they always are; Dan Corbett's job is safe.

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