Switzerland v Ukraine, BBC1
From the outset, it is clear that the BBC producers and pundits have as little interest in this game as their public. As Gary Lineker puts it, “The two least fancied teams in this round, compete to be the least fancied teams in the quarter-final.” There’s some Roger Federer stuff and some shots of Schevchenko (natch) while Lawro (given a night off from laughing off-mic in the stadiums), Leonardo (strapped to his seat in front of a telly showing a game with no South American involvement) and Alan Shearer try to find things to talk about. Gary tries a few early gags “Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Switzerland won the group that contained France. The average age of their side is just under 23, the average age of the French? About 56.” Lawro laughs off camera. You can take the man from the commentary box…
Lineker, buoyed by his pinch-hitting laugh-a-minute performance for the Germany game is on a roll. “Bit strange Senderos has been sent home for a dislocated shoulder,” he says to Alan. “In our day we’d have popped it back in and got on with it. Well you would.” To cover their lack of options, the Italy v Australia highlights are fairly extensive.
Soon they are relieved, and we enter the ground, where we see Swiss fans pogo-ing together like they’re amassed for the Strokes at a festival. During the anthems, they show a close up of two Swiss players holding hands. Good job we’re not on ITV, Tyldsley would have been in full “eh, eh, backs against the wall, lads” mode. Especially when he realised they were all doing it. That reaction may not be an exclusive ITV trait though, as you’ll discover later.
Eventually we hear from Mick McCarthy who sounds as though he’s trying to mask his voice through a hankie. Guy uses the lack of much happening to fit in a sly plug for the Autumn, “Shevchenko…who’ll you see a lot of on your Match of the Day screens next season”.
A few things occur in the first half. Raphel Wicky has a decent run and long range shot bringing a save from Olexandr Shovkovsky. Mick McCarthy makes sure to reiterate his point from a previous broadcast that Koebi Kuhn is “a lovely guy”,although I’m sure Mick would say that about anybody, once he’d checked that they weren’t Roy Keane. A Mexican wave starts after 20 minutes, “bit worrying” says a now mopey Mick. Then we have a burst of activity. Shevchenko gets his head down amongst Johan Djourou’s boots to nod into the ground, the ball dollying up up on the crossbar and away. Two minutes later Switzerland gets amongst the woodwork crashing action, Alexander Frei bending a free-kick against the outside of the upright. “Both sides have hit the woodwork,” says Guy. “One all” says Mick, demonstrating how that might be represented in numerical form. That’s pretty much yer first period.
“No wonder Hansen’s gone home for 2 days” says Shearer, revealing the secrets of the rota. “You have to think we’re going to get a better second half…as one of these teams is going to have to win it” Lawro reveals. “We’ve been hunting for a few other chances [to show you], we think we’ve found three,” says Gary, tempted to jump up and ask “anyone fancy a pint.”
To keep themselves entertained, they get a little cheeky. “After last nights bad tempered affair, they’re trying a little tenderness” he says as they show the captains share a cheek–kiss before kick-off, as well as a couple in the crowd getting down to some serious tonsil action. “Lets hope his wife’s not watching,” sniggers Gary. With more time to fill, they shoe-horn in a romantically soundtracked VT showing the Portuguese defender and keeper bundling on the line during their game in Mexico, finishing with a hug and a kiss to the forehead for the prostrate gloveman. “I retired at the right time” says Shearer, nose deep in a copy of Nuts.
To even up on the homoerotica, they show two yellow and blue bikini-topped ladies going in for a lip-lock. “I believe they’re Swedish” dribbles Lineker, rubbing the thighs of his trouser legs so aggressively he catches fire. “Better pairing than Larsson and Ibrahimovic” is Shearer’s pitch. “Good pair up front” continues host Letch Luthor, the Brandenburg gate behind him in immediate danger of being lost behind sweaty condensation. However a by now rather excited Leonardo trumps them all with “All they need now is a Brazilian.” Scarcely able to believe they’ve allowed this locker-room hidden camera footage make the air, they link us back to the stadium, probably to allow them to quickly nip back to the hotel for a circle jerk, as much as anything else.
The second half goes on and on and on much like the first with the occasional flash. In the 67th minute, Shevchenko suddenly rips one just wide in the blink of an eye, and 8 minutes later, Andriy Gusin’s header, from a delicious, penetrating corner, flies as close to the post as is possible without hitting it. “Oooh” is the intake from the crowd as they are shown the replay, keen to give the pretence they are enjoying themselves.
As they wind down to end of normal time, Guy advertises the extra half hour’s football, “Its at this point we usually say strap yourself in, but today its more about stopping yourself from getting up.” The heavy eyelids are also present in a studio now conspicuously free of biscuits. “There’s been some great games at this World Cup, and this is not one of them…it’s been like watching creosote dry” says Gary Lineker, sounding like his Great Aunt’s just pulled out her 8th slide carousel documenting her trip to Chipping Campden. “Been no offsides in 90 minutes, which tells its own story” adds flag enthusiast Shearer. Gary points out that Guy Mowbray has commentated on four of the five nil-nils, which comes fairly close to tipping our commentator over that teary edge.
Usually I type notes and put them together after the game. Extra time allows me to get ahead of myself, you’re missing nothing in my highlighting two quotes from Mick McCarthy from near the end of each half. After the first 15, he says “I’ve gone numb” with a genuine fright in his voice that suggests a sudden awareness of his aging. A further quarter hour later, he says “I hope no one scores now, no-one deserves to win” adding “we’ll need a stiff drink after this.” In the studio, Alan Shearer is getting grizzly “Thank god it’s finished, I feel like I’ve aged ten years.” “For a game played in Cologne, it stunk” says Lawro, throwing in a Swiss neutrality comment for good measure.
So, some excitement of sorts, although Shearer suggests these two teams may not even be able to conjour any thrills from the traditionally stimulating penalty shoot-out. Here is said shoot out in quotes, from Guy Mowbray unless stated.
U: Andriy Shevchenko. 0-0. “Still Zuberbuhler will not let one in”
S: Marco Streller. 0-0. “A poor penalty, is anyone going to score in Cologne?” (GM) “We’ll have to toss a coin for this match” (McCarthy)
U: Artem Milevskiy loops one softly in over committed keeper. 1-0. “how cool is that.”
S: Tranquillo Barnetta. 1-0. “And Barnetta hits the bar”.
U: Sergei Rebrov. 2-0. “Where’s your money Spurs and West Hams fans...Rebrov...scores...well struck.”
S: Ricardo Cabanas. 2-0. “Switzerland surely have to score at some point...Cabanas to get Switzerland back in the game...he hasn’t”
U: Oleg Gusev: 3-0. “Gusev deservedly scores...it is the men from Eastern Europe who go to the last 8”.
“I thought it was going to be nil-nil” on penalties sighs Mick, no doubt jumping out of seat merely to stretch his legs. “Switzerland go out of the competition without conceding a goal” is the comment back in the studio, “Not surprised when they put 11 behind the ball” says Alan ‘Total Football’ Shearer. Signing quickly off so the News can finally get going, Lineker looks genuinely pissed off that (a) he’s had to sit through it and; (b) that he hasn’t had much time to drum up a closing pun. “For the Ukraine there’s another game, for Switzerland there’s...the plane” he says with stumbling, weary embarrassment.
Referee (Benito Archundia, Mexico): Dunno, the fixed cheshire cat grin of the 4th official (Jerome Damon, South Africa) as they were stood in the tunnel, when they were walking out, while they were respecting the anthems and during the coin-toss pretty much dazzled me for the rest of the game, with regards the officials.
Pee Wee’s Playhouse secret word: zzzzzzzzzzzz
These things I believe: 7 clean sheets out of 8 before this for Ukraine, and not a single goal conceded by Switzerland in the tournament prior to, if ever a game lived up to its billing -- The BBC team clearly need Craig Charles’ driver to sort them out from at the nearest petrol station’s top shelf -- 58 minutes before a yellow card? Mr Archundia has clearly missed a meeting. -- This match would have synched up perfectly with loop playings of Leon Redbone’s music for the 1980’s ‘Relax’ Inter City ad.
Graham Poll joke d’jour: “I never could count. I believe there’s somebody else like that at this World Cup” – Guy Mowbray.
Revealing stat of the day: 125 minutes (approx.) of football: 1 offside given.
What a difference a day makes: Portugal v Holland: 25 fouls, 16 yellows, 4 red. Ukraine v Switzerland: 44 fouls, 1 yellow, 0 red.