World Cup TV View: Shearer, Shearer should have kept it shut

Andrea Pirlo’s beard alone was enough to strike terror into English hearts

Mario Balotelli celebrates scoring the  second goal against England. Photograph:Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Mario Balotelli celebrates scoring the second goal against England. Photograph:Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Mon, Jun 16, 2014, 11:05

This World Cup is a bit good. To the point where you can’t even resist sharing the company of the Ivory Coast and Japan at 2am and beyond, Tony O’Donoghue particularly heroic having hosted that game before exiting his Montrose sleeping bag not a whole lot later to bring us Switzerland v Ecuador – while probably keeping an eye on Cork v Clare at the same time.

“It’s looking like another afternoon ahead of him with the Mariettas and MiWadi,” said Ger Canning of Davy Fitz over on RTÉ 1, but it’s the staple diet for World Cup addicts too, give or take a nacho and a banana.

It’s been a learning experience as well, which is always good.

Bill O’Herlihy: “We know Honduras for drugs and for crime and the highest murder rate in the world – what about their football, what can we expect of them tonight?”

Ossie Ardiles: “Eeeeeeeeh.”

The Big One over the weekend, though, was, of course, Eng-er-land v Italy, and while hopeful that this time would be better for our neighbours, you sensed they were entirely banjaxed the moment Alan Shearer uttered the immortal words: “I don’t think anyone should fear the Italians.”

You should, needless to say, always fear the Italians, Andrea Pirlo’s beard alone enough to strike terror into the heart of any Jordan Henderson, never mind his 24 Carat Gold feet – “He’s a runner, he’s not really a footballer,” as Eamon Dunphy put it (about Jordan, that is, not Andrea) – and Gianluca Vialli had warned the Beeb boys not to be too upbeat, suggesting England have the habit of wilting under any level of expectation, even low ones, while “in Italy we grow up eating pressure for breakfast”.

Magic mushrooms

Then Rio Ferdinand mentioned Emile Heskey in the same sentence as Mario Balotelli and we saw Mary Berry (a not young cooking person) somersault on a lawn while celebrating an imaginary England goal and you could only conclude the British Broadcasting Corporation had consumed magic mushrooms for tea.

Over on RTÉ, meanwhile, there was a heated debate about Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes’ suggestion that he was past his best, Liam Brady noting that fellas like Scholes never used to say much, so “you kind of think they’re intelligent until they start to speak”. Dunphy purred in admiration, it was a miaow moment of the very highest order.

Balotelli?

Giles: “I don’t trust him at all, Bill.” Liam agreed, dusting down Gilesie’s 2012 observation that “if you’ve got to rely on Balotelli, you’re in trouble”.

(Interlude. Apres Match. Gaybo and Dunphy and The Meaning of Life. And the memory of Henry Kelly’s Going for Gold reducing Dunphy to tears and Gaybo’s multiple faces and . . . ah look: pure gold).

Back to the football and the panel wondered about England’s prospects and the risk of Dunphy having to wear that dress. “I was measured today, not bad, 36 hips,” he said, which reduced the entire nation to tears.

State funerals

Match time. Phil Neville? You know, if the BBC is looking for a commentator for state funerals, Phil might be their man. While brother Gary tends to proclaim “whoooOOOooOOOOooooah” if, say, Dagenham and Redbridge win a corner, Phil has the habit whispering “ah” if, say, Pirlo almost scores with the greatest free-kick in footballing history. “If he reads his twitter feed he may not come out for the second half,” as Didi Hamann noted.

Never mind. The game? Very, very lovely. Two exquisite goals, and should Italy have had a penalty for an alleged handball by Glenn Johnson?

Thierry Henry: “No.”

Gary Lineker: “Have you ever got away with a handball, Thierry?”

Ireland: “Jaysus, love ya, Gaz.”

Both sets of pundits doffed their international caps to England’s efforts, the Welbeck/Sturridge/Sterling triumvirate earning special praise, Rio particularly impressed by Welbeck “opening his legs down the sides”.

Second half and Balotelli sent a message to Gilesie and Liam: “Who’s your Daddy?”

Bill: “I have to say, I’m sorry for England, I thought they deserved a draw there.”

Gilesie: “Na.”

And then there was another heated debate about the heat – “I think this tournament should always be played in Europe,” said Dunphy of the, well, World Cup – before he fixed his love on John Terry.

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