TV View: Paul Pogba makes the RTÉ lads eat their words

French midfielder’s play described as ‘Croke Park stuff’ before impressive performance

Paul Pogba of France celebrates victory following their 2018 World Cup semi-final clash with Belgium in St Petersburg. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Paul Pogba of France celebrates victory following their 2018 World Cup semi-final clash with Belgium in St Petersburg. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

 

The day took way, way too long to amble towards 7pm. And when the teams finally took to the field the St Petersburg DJ missed a trick by not serenading them with The Stone Roses’ This Is The One, such was the hunch that France v Belgium could be a World Cup one for the ages.

The team sheets were just an opportunity for both nations to show off about the footballing riches they possess, their line-ups kind of reading like a Premier League Team of the Year, all they were really missing was a Mo Salah and a Harry Kane to complete the XI, the occasion having a ‘Sky Super Duper Sunday!’ feel about it.

Gary Lineker asked Alan ‘rightly so’ Shearer if he was up for it.

He was, very much so, but he saved himself just in the nick time.

“The people at home don’t really care who England play in the final,” he declared, “...if they get there.”

Jeez, close one, Al.

Eat his words

Over on RTÉ, Eamon waited a whole 14-ish seconds before laying in to Paul Pogba, pledging to eat his words if he made a significant contribution to the game.

“If you were to be kind,” he said, “he’s enigmatic.” Reviewing one of his over-the-bar efforts on goal he suggested it was “Croke Park stuff.” Somewhere in the punditry ether, Graeme Souness, who loves Pogba almost as much as potatoes love droughts, was nodding like a bobblehead.

Enigmatic, of course, is code for generally rubbish, a tribute oft used to describe Marouane Fellaini’s contribution to Association Football, and here the two highly maligned lads were on the cusp of a World Cup final. Not since Djimi Traore won a Champions League medal with Liverpool have football pundits been so discombobulated.

Eamo had backed Belgium to prevail but when he saw the Fifa graphic showing their formational allocation of manpower - De Bruyne on the left of midfield in a wingy-backy position!?! - he changed his mind. Allez the Bleu lads. “Martinez is no tactical genius,” he said, suggesting he was just lucky his tactics survived the Brazilian test.

Over to Ronnie Whelan at the stadium.

“I thought Martinez was magnificent the way he went about it against Brazil!”

See? Pundits differ, viewers die (chuckling).

Darragh cut away from the chat to bring us news that Ronaldo had moved to Juventus and would be earning €500,000-a-week. (“He’s taken a wage cut,” said Eamo, worrying how the lad would pay his grocery bills), there being all-round surprise that CR7 would want to upstage a World Cup semi-final. The old ones? Never bested.

Back on the Beeb Jurgen Klinsmann was describing Pogba as “a huge weapon”, most probably unaware that in young person’s speak this is not generally a good thing. Rio the Ferdinand and Rightly So Shearer said nothing, possibly still hypnotised by Jurgen’s other-worldly Californian/ Goppingen accent.

Anthems. France 1 Belgium 0. First half. You’d barely have noticed the football, so intrigued might you have been by George Hamilton’s French accent, most notably when Matuidi was on the ball, the fella’s name awarded dozens of syllables, ending with an eeeeeEEEEeeeee flourish.

Another bunch

Half-time. The Beeb had a very quick chat about the scoreless game and then turned their focus on the fixture involving Croatia and another bunch. The highlight of this interlude was Gabby Logan’s chat with Harry Maguire.

Gabby: “The size of your head has been mentioned, is this a family trait?”

This seemed quite insensitive, but Harry took it in his stride.

“Yeah, blame my Dad,” he said. “Vards calls me slab-head.”

“So slab-head, how many kittens have you rescued from trees,” Gabby stopped just short of asking, but it’s probably only a matter of time, if they overcome Croatia the BBC’s soft-focus-lens in these interviews will be overworked to the point of burning out.

Pogba is still lit, though. He’s found himself in a World Cup final after Samuel Umtiti England-ised Belgium with a header from a corner.

It wasn’t quite one for the ages in the end, but France are through to the final, so they won’t quibble.

“Can they do better than Napoleon did all those years ago,” asked George. Who’s to say, but you’d like to think the previously much-derided Didier Deschamps has now avoided the fate of being exiled to Saint Helena to die a lonely death.

Similarly, the Pogba man.

“I have to take my hat off to Pogba, he was very, very good tonight,” said Liamo.

Eamo shuffled in his seat. “He was very, very good tonight,” he said, reluctant to non-echo Liamo’s assessment of the fella’s efforts.

Words? Eaten.

If Pogba ends up with a World Cup winner’s medal Eamo (and Graeme) will require smelling salts.

Meantime, we brace ourselves for all those ‘Up EUers Pogba’ headlines.

It’ll be a très long 24 heures.

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