Belfast Telegraph

Never mind the Bilic or it will all kick off on ITV... eventually

And so it has begun, wee countdown blocks in newspapers across the globe have been put back in cold storage and every conceivable piece of French cliché and joie de vivre has been turned up to onze as Euro 2016 kicked off.

The big battle is off the pitch, and I don't mean the England fans, as the TV war slips into top gear, which maybe isn't a good analogy at the moment, but you get my drift.

FRIDAY: Ahh, what could be better than an opening ceremony? Absolutely everything, suffice to say it was drivel, but ITV had won the rights to show it and they did, before France and Romania kicked the can-can girls and David Guetta out of the way to take over.

And who knew that two East End boys would be the stars of the show, Dimitri Payet scoring a wonder goal, while back in the studio his West Ham boss, Slaven Bilic, took an early lead in the best pundit competition, despite being half-Croatian, half-Meccano.

On closer inspection it wasn't his legs but the base of the table cunningly fashioned like the Eiffel Tower, which has two Fs in it, just one less than the bad word that Bilic used at half-time, but then again, would you scold him?

But that was far from the most heinous thing on our screens, some halfwit deciding that hiring Marion Bartoli, former Wimbledon champion and Louis Saha, formerly injured, to stand high up above the fan zone and speak in excited tones in a Gallic fashion was somehow a great idea.

They both appeared to be holding hair-straighteners, in some sort of homage to Whigfield, but she was Danish and this was a night early.

SATURDAY: The Beeb kicked off their tournament with the one the good people of Tirana and Geneva had all been waiting for, abandoning re-runs of Norman Wisdom and Heidi to tune in for Albania vs Switzerland.

Not everyone was watching to be honest, but this charge could not be levelled at presenter Dan Walker, who with 69 minutes gone, suddenly appeared in a dimly-lit studio where the only thing we could see was Walker, a cup of coffee and a big bag of Maltesers. A shame it wasn't a Toblerone.

Things improved as the day went on, Gary Lineker chucking out Walker and his malty chocolate balls, as Bales, sorry, Wales, took on Slovakia.

This, tragically, meant Robbie Savage, no stranger to talking a lot of Maltesers, and losing the run of himself as the game heated up, blurting out that 'it's getting tasty, fliers tackling in.'

I think I know what he meant but Hal Robson-Kanu scored to calm things down, a man named after three of everyone's favourites - favourite computer, favourite half of Robson and Jerome and favourite former Arsenal forward with size 13 feet.

And talking of putting feet in it, ITV made a horlicks, another malty-based treat, of their second coup of the weekend, as England's fans took a break from what they do best as a game of footy threatened to break out in Marseille.

That lasted just over 90 minutes, a draw surely meaning both sets of fans would go home happy, and they did, if ITV were to be believed for while all hell was breaking loose in Marseille, back in Paris the worst thing we had to deal was a sockless Lee Dixon and a witless Ian Wright.

Eventually, Mark Pougatch admitted that things weren't ticketyboo with Jacqui Oatley and Glenn Hoddle not exactly excelling as Kate Adie and Rageh Omaar, but Pougatch did tell us there would be 'more information on ITV News bulletins' just after they revealed that man had landed on the moon.

SUNDAY: No offence to Turkey, Croatia, Germany or Ukraine, there was only one show in town on the Sabbath, and for those never on a Sunday unbelievers, Northern Ireland was here and open for business, although park swings had been tied up just in case.

Lineker was in charge, with Neil Lennon wheeled in and Stephen Watson-Live reporting from the sidelines along with Chris Brunt whose delivery was much better than those of his colleagues who couldn't cross the Seine if driven by Joe Le Taxi.

Lineker tried to explain our presence by mentioning UEFA's decision to expand the competition so smaller teams could get through. This did not go down well.

"We finished top of our group," growled Lennon, as Alan Shearer breathed a sigh of relief that he hadn't been picked for this one, Rio Ferdinand filling the thick former footballer role perfectly.

Lineker informed us that the stadium in Nice, and it is nice there, was eco-friendly, and on Sunday was being powered on a combination of Buckfast and Tayto cheese and onion fumes.

The match didn't start well, Poland coming flying out of the blocks, panicking co-commentator Gerry Armstrong so much that he was reduced to mentioning random entertainment shows, with Kyle Lafferty the lone ranger, Shane Ferguson in the Little and Large Show and a Polish midfielder an 'angry anchorman'. Get him a Burgundy.

But it was Milik that soured the day for the Green and White Army, scoring the only goal of the game as like a fat garcon scoffing a garlic éclair we choked on our big day.

MONDAY: The Republic, after a weekend of putting the fear of God into Parisians by breaking into impromptu Riverdance displays and hollering Galway Girl at the top of their lungs, finally got down to business on the pitch.

The Beeb had their game against the Swedes, and made a solid selection, picking Kevin Kilbane, with 110 caps, Shearer and Danny Murphy, who, as Lineker explained 'must have some Irish in you with that name'.

"You're right, my dad and his family came from Cork when he was a young boy so I now have a soft spot for the boys in green and a love of music," said Murphy, which actually makes him more eligible than Kilbane.

Not to be outdone, Shearer interjected: "I love a pint of Guinness if that helps," which shouldn't be a surprise as, a bit like Newcastle, it goes down well.

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