TV View: Russia 2018 simply magnifique as final blends brilliant with the bonkers

Roy Keane was one of many pundits fuming about France’s penalty as Pogba boogies away

French president Emmanuel Macron reacts during the victory over Croatia in the World Cup Final in Moscow.  Photograph: Alexei Nikolsky/Reuters

French president Emmanuel Macron reacts during the victory over Croatia in the World Cup Final in Moscow. Photograph: Alexei Nikolsky/Reuters

 

After the five-ish very lovely weeks that had gone before, there was almost an inevitability about the final being a letdown, a monumental snooze-fest that would obliterate all those marvellous Russia 2018 memories.

And so it proved.

Well, for the first five minutes. After that we had a game that blissfully blended the brilliant with the bonkers, the Bleus allez-ing to victory and all you could do come the final whistle was doff your chapeaux to them.

(While also sparing a thought for Graeme Souness for whom the sight of Paul Pogba kissing that shiny golden trophy must have had him reaching for the Gaviscon).

The only glitch in the whole occasion, as it proved, was the sight of Hugo Lloris raising the trophy being blocked by Vladimir Putin’s minders as they departed the podium, France just seeing rather menacing and drenched-looking lads you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley instead of a moment they had waited for for 20 years.

Hopefully the display of gender égalité on that podium just moments before might have made up for it, when Vlad was shielded by an umbrella when the heavens opened, while presidents Emmanuel Macron and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic were left to drown in equal measure.

They didn’t seem to mind, though, Emmanuel kissing the bejaysus out of every member of the French squad, while Kolinda gave them all a gracious hug. Although she might have whispered in their collective ears “if that was a penalty then I’m Champion the Wonder Horse”.

Severe controversy

And it was that first-half penalty that was the final’s moment of severe controversy, the pundits across the three channels giving the Nos a 7-3 majority.

Shearer: “Ridiculous decision!” Rio: “Terrible decision!” Jurgen: “Wrong decision!” Liamo: “No, I don’t think it was a penalty.” Dixon: “In a thousand million years that is not a penalty!” Neville: “Definitely not a penalty!”

And. Didi: “For me it’s a penalty.” Eamo: “Yes, it was a penalty.” Wrightie: “A penalty for me.”

Roy? He sat on the fence. Ho, ho, kiddin’.

“That decision absolutely disgusts me, I’m fuming, a disgraceful decision. That referee has never played football, I can guarantee it . . . . we’re supposed to be talking about the quality, the players – instead we’re talking about this idiot.”

Mind you, Roy’s mood had already been darkened by having to watch some of the opening ceremony (Mark Pougatch: “Did you enjoy that?” Roy: “Not really, no . . . nonsense”), a ceremony RTÉ abandoned just as bagpipes appeared. That decision alone was worth the licence fee.

Game time.

“It could so easily have been England, ” Clive Tyldesley sighed, so it was time to switch back to RTÉ.

(Saturday’s third place playoff, incidentally, had only been made tolerable by the Après Match lads running the RTÉ show, Liamo Brady/Barry Murphy’s observation about England – “They’re like Tottenham without Eriksen, which makes them Wigan” – the finest appraisal of any team we’ve heard these past five weeks. As was his description of the playoff as “like doing the mocks after the Leaving – utterly pointless.”)

Dodgy pen

And in a 20-minute spell the roof came off the game, an own goal, a gem and a dodgy pen injecting more than a little life in to the proceedings.

Second half. When Pogba made it 3-1 Martin Keown swooned. “I bet Mourinho would like to buy him now – even though he’s got him already,” he said.

Guy Mowbray remained silent. And then Mbappé made it 4-1, which will probably prompt Paris Saint-Germain to put in a bid.

“There’s no way Croatia are getting back into this, France are too professional,” said Martin, moments before Loris unprofessionally allowed Croatia back into the game.

Not since 1966 had we this many goals in a final, as Clive told us, before dissolving into tears.

All over. “France are going to party like it’s 1998,” said Guy, which wasn’t a bad effort at all.

The BBC and ITV greeted the French triumph in a wistful kind of way, like there was some history between the nations, but Roy saluted Pogba as he boogied on our screens. “I don’t mind him dancing now, he’s entitled to – he can do whatever he wants,” he said.

Over on RTÉ, meanwhile, Eamo “Paul Pogba will never win the World Cup” Dunphy was paying tribute to the man as he talked us through his highlights from the game. “Quality, quality, quality . . . inch-perfect pass, about 40, 50 yards, reminded me of John Giles at his best, or Liam Brady. ”

“Do you notice something about Pogba this tournament?” asked Liamo. “There’s no fancy haircut. It’s a normal haircut.”

Eamo: “Yeah!”

It’s the hairdo

And there were we thinking the problem was that he plays for a club manager who sucks the life out of him. But no, it’s the hairdo.

Back on ITV Gary Neville was moved to pay a warm tribute to the chief host of the World Cup and his country.

“There was such scaremongering before this tournament,” he said, “but I think it’s been the greatest I’ve ever seen, it’s been unbelievable. There’s Putin there, he’s obviously got a horrible reputation – he might not be a saint, the guy, but we’ve got a couple of muppets back home, when you think of Boris Johnson and David Davis who have just resigned, absolute muppets these guys.”

If Gary has any Irish blood, Michael D is in for the mother of all battles for the Áras.

Speaking of muppets. We only have four years and four months to wait for Qatar, the 2022 World Cup final taking place a week before we open our pressies and sit down for our Christmas dinner. Fifa, the gift that keeps on giving.

But here’s hoping Qatar 2022 is even one hundredth as fabulous as Russia 2018. Magnifique.

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