Belfast Telegraph

Billy Weir Euro vision: Iain Dowie bounces back with a Brazilian beat

By Billy Weir

I don't know this for a fact but the words 'Iain', 'Dowie' and 'Samba' probably haven't been used in the same sentence since he was being picked up from school in his dad's Talbot back in 1981.

But there was a touch of the Brazilian about him as Northern Ireland showed great bouncebackability, as they say in Rio, to defeat Ukraine on Thursday night and sent Dowie past Tim Peake on the way down.

Of course that was after ITV had allowed us to discuss the match, coming on air moments after England had won the Battle of Britain against Wales. It was all of 33 minutes before we got what we had all tuned in for.

It was a strange assemblage in the studio. Lee Dixon steady at the back, Christian Karembeu providing smoothness in the middle, albeit that you can't understand a word he says, and up front and ready to rumble was storming Norman Whiteside.

"They'll have a good party whatever happens," he explained, before he was rudely interrupted by Mark Pougatch, introducing 'our man in Lyon, Leon Mann'. Do you get the feeling they hired the lad purely to make that joke?

What next, over to a good man in Lens, it's Len S Goodman (the S is for Strictly).

But in Lyon, Dowie, like an excited labradoodle, was discussing commentator Joe Speight's point that there were 20,000 Northern Ireland fans in the city.

"I think there are 20,001 because I heard you singing Sweet Caroline at the top of your voice," he said.

An early warning of what was to come arrived when Craig Cathcart headed just wide, bringing the sort of disappointed whimper from Dowie normally reserved for a terrier whose amorous attentions had been spurned by a vicar's leg.

No such problems when Gareth McAuley scored the opener, a gargantuan 'yessssss, come on' emanating from Dowie as the Green and White Army went barmy.

"What a noise inside the Stade des Lumieres and that's just Iain Dowie," snorted Speight, before we were all rudely interrupted by a biblical hailstorm, the players running for cover and the fans not really noticing.

"There will be a few sore heads in Lyon tomorrow and you and me may be one of them," added Dowie but, before we could work out if one hungover head is better than two, he was off again as Niall McGinn scored to make it 2-0.

"Yessssssssssssss," in a style that was Brazilian, not Northern Ireland (albeit via Hertfordshire) and back to the studio, it was left for a calm and collected Whiteside to put things in perspective.

"Bring on the Germans, that's what I say," to snorts of derision from his colleagues, but just in case they were in any doubt, "we have beaten them in the past."

England have too, by all accounts, but for 1966 substitute 2016 and you'd think they'd won the thing after that victory over Wales, where the Beeb sent a British force not matched in size since, well, the Battle of Britain.

Four pundits in the studio - Alan Shearer and Rio Ferdinand in the white corner, Dean Saunders and John Hartson in the red - with Gary Lineker, looking more like Dartagnan by the day (well he has the ears for it) trying to remain neutral.

Throw Gabby Logan into the mix with Ian Rush and Danny Murphy on the sidelines, and in the commentary box Guy Mowbray must have been really bad in a previous life to find himself flanked by Robbie Savage and Martin Keown.

Joe Hart let slip with a very naughty word before kick-off although not as many as were directed at him when Gareth Bale scored, but Roy Hodgson's managerial masterstroke of bringing on better players than were already on saw matters levelled.

"I can't breathe up here," gasped Savage, as several viewers wrote for an ambulance, and his condition worsened when Daniel Sturridge scored the winner, leaving the Welsh words wizard to sum things up. "Wales will fight to live another day."

The name's Savage, Robbie Savage.

Belfast Telegraph