Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: Let World Cup TV battle commence

By Billy Weir

Forget Messi vs Ronaldo, Brazil vs Argentina, Netherlands vs Holland, England vs The World – there is one battle that is sure to have the pulses racing quicker than a Fifa delegate in a lie detector test – yes, the battle for your eyes.

Now I'm not talking Pamela Ballantine or Gerry Armstrong (and two digits to those of you who thought that a mention of the latter when talking of all things World Cup would be impossible), I am, of course, referring to the clash between BBC and ITV, in all its various guises and formats.

However, a word of warning for those of you wanting to find out more to steer clear of typing the words 'Brazil' and 'TV' into Google as you may find links to pages of quite tall women in strangely colourful outfits, with all sorts of fruit dangling from their heads and hands like a navvy.

Lily Savage will be not be in Rio, but her wee lad, Robbie, will be and so will some football experts, including Rio Ferdinand, which is going to get confusing, and especially so if we cut to Copacabana Beach and he's dancing on the sand. No sign of Sao Paolo Di Canio or Big Samba Allardyce.

So, here is a brief guide to the men (and the odd woman because the BBC is very much an equal opportunities employer with unblemished morals – a bit like FIFA in slingbacks) who will be our guides to the festival of football fun over the next few weeks.

PRESENTERS: The main men are Gary Lineker and Adrian Chiles, both blessed with a childish exuberance and xenophobic zeal, although one of them has scored 48 goals for England and is to be viewed with slightly more kudos as a result. Also, he only says things once, although if the heavens open above the Amazon as happened in Florida on Saturday night when England were drenched in Miami, then the ability to talk drivel for hours could be a godsend. Oh, and Gabby Logan will be there too. Hooray!

COMMENTATORS: Hands up who knows the commentators nowadays? Nope, didn't think so. Okay, we sort of know Clive Tyldesley because you can be sure of two things: (a) England and a certain game in 1966 will be mentioned two minutes into the start of the Brazil vs Croatia clash and (b) somehow he will mention Man Utd winning in Barcelona at some stage. As for the Beeb, they all sound the same and I think we can safely guarantee that in 25 years there will not be an hour devoted to the memory of Guy Mowbray.

CO-COMMENTATORS: Rather scarily the Beeb's World Cup blurb has Lily's wee lad included in this along with the usual monotone musings of Mark Lawrenson and Martin Keown. Danny Murphy and Phil Neville (more of them later) will also be on duty, while on ITV, Andy O'Townsend and, be afraid, be very afraid, Clarke Carlisle and his high IQ will be the main men,

OLD GUARD: Alan Hansen will take his bow at the end of the tournament so expect him to be de-mob happy, while the ever-improving Lee Dixon is now the senior pro who has to sit and look interested as Chiles stumbles his way around like a navvy in slingbacks.

BOSSMEN: Martin O'Neill, always guaranteed to say something completely off the wall, will do his best to fill the void left by assistant Roy Keane's last minute pulling out of the tournament – who says history doesn't repeat itself? But at least ITV replaced like with like by bringing in Andros Townsend. A bit like replacing Paul Scholes with Tom Cleverley. The Beeb, bizarrely, have plumped for Tony Pulis, having had wide experience of world football while managing at Stoke and Crystal Palace and being Welsh. Wears a baseball cap with panache though. Glenn Hoddle and Gordon Strachan will also be there for ITV, but there's nothing we can do about that now.

HONEST PROS: Danny Murphy is quickly becoming a good addition to the Beeb panel, who doesn't love a cheeky Scouser, eh? The best ITV can offer is someone called Fabio Cannavaro. Never heard of him.

ON THE SPOT: Gabby Logan will be in the England camp and Jason Mohammad will be everywhere else for the Beeb while Gabriel Clarke will be ITV's reporter and be, by a country mile, the best person there.

FRENCH FANCY: France better do well or wheeling in Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira is going to look fanciful. ITV will be gutted that Keane's decision to stay at home robbed them of easy TV with a spat with Vieira while the Beeb will be relieved that Henry turned down RTE's offer. What exactly is a guillotine?

UNKNOWN QUANTITY: If you can't get Gary, then get Phil Neville was clearly BBC's mantra, and while ITV pondered whether to approach Tracey or even Aaron, they decided to give Gus Poyet a chance. Both have potential to shine while Brad Friedel also on the Beeb is one to keep an eye on, but Neil Lennon, judging by his appearances on MOTD2, could be a real star.

MOST ANNOYING: A tough, tough category this one. So many to choose from – Savage, Lawrenson, Rio Ferdinand and Alan Shearer on the Beeb, Ian Wright Wright Wright on ITV.

Of course there is a third way, the Nigel Farage of World Cup viewing, in the shape of RTE and there's little chance of you kipping when Eamon Dunphy's on screen because you're wide awake, swearing and throwing things at the telly.

The state forces in Dublin have pulled out all the stops too in an effort to prise us away from our traditional routes – expect Jim Allister and Willie Frazer to picket Johnny Giles any day now – and the signing up of an Armagh orange man is inspired.

Neil Lennon, when he's not needed on the Beeb, will be joining the likes of Liam Brady, Ronnie Whelan and Kenny Cunningham as a pundit, while for a bit of foreign flair they have opted for Didi Hamann. Oh, and Ossie Ardiles too, who is sure to be a star, just as soon as we work out what the hell he is saying.

It is also the final gig for presenter Bill O'Herlihy, who, I think I'm right in saying, was there for the first finals in 1930, so it would be fitting for him if Uruguay could complete the circle by winning.

So there you have it, the men (and woman) who will be our guides to the greatest show on earth. Well, now that Britain's Got Talent is over.

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