TV View: Spirits high in ITV studio as England’s defeat proves popular

Combined value of the benches in or around €8.7 billion as teams eye bigger picture

Ryan Giggs: shocked the ITV World Cup panel into silence by suggesting: “You can go out against  Columbia.”  Photograph:  Martin Rickett/PA

Ryan Giggs: shocked the ITV World Cup panel into silence by suggesting: “You can go out against Columbia.” Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

 

Day 15. The Big One. Panama v Tunisia. But RTÉ and ITV opted for England v Belgium instead, the game nobody wanted to win. Or did they? It was all very confusing. If you were up for England should you shout for Belgium, and vice versa? Nobody seemed entirely sure.

Martin Keown earlier on the BBC: “England just can’t lose in this situation.”

Lee Dixon later on ITV: “England just can’t win in this situation.”

Us lot at home? None the wiser.

The uncertainty was all down to the results in Group H earlier in the day when Colombia came top and Japan snuck in on the fair play rule, eliminating Senegal, despite demonstrating no semblance of fair play at all by tippy-tappying the ball around the back for the last 15 minutes or so while Poland said ‘no probs lads, it’s all yours’.

If Egypt had tuned in they would have been scratching their collective chins and saying, ‘hmmm, reminds us of something’ (Irish/Dutch Italia ‘90 veterans: ‘Dunno what you’re talking about’).

The Colombia v Senegal game only proved marginally more interesting, despite Danny Murphy, possibly while being poked by a cattle prod, whipping us in to a frenzy pre-match by declaring: “ I. Am. Really. Excited. I. Have. To. Say.”

Over on RTÉ, meanwhile, Richard Dunne had promised a goal-fest – “I’ll go 4-2 to Colombia” – but in the end we were blessed just to get the one. The upshot was that if England won their group they’d play Japan and if they finished second they’d play Colombia. But if they played and beat Japan they’d then face the winners of Brazil and Mexico whereas if they played and beat Colombia they’d next take on the victors from Sweden v Switzerland.

Gary Lineker tried to explain this to Phil Neville, leaving him looking like he’d just had the theory of relativity outlined for him, but in the end Phil was happier with the Colombia/Sweden/Switzerland route.

“There’s nothing to worry about in that side of the draw at all.”

Team News. If Gareth Southgate and Roberto Martinez wanted not to win the game, then Pickford, Jones, Cahill, Stones, Alexander-Arnold, Dier, Delph, Loftus-Cheek, Rose, Vardy, Rashford, Courtois, Vermaelen, Boyata, Dendoncker, Chadli, Dembele, Tielemans, Januzaj, Fellaini, Hazard (not the great one – Thorgan) and Batshuayi must have been chuffed to be selected. (‘Go out there and lose lads, do it for your country!).

Nine changes for Belgium, then, just the eight for England, the combined value of the benches in or around €8.7 billion.

One name stood out for Eamon Dunphy, giving him an inkling that England were going all out for defeat. “Phil Jones? Wow.”

Defensive partners

If that was harsh, he wasn’t much kinder to poor Phil’s defensive partners. “Stones ….. Cahill ….. that’s the back three from hell.”

He did, though, pay tribute to Marouane Fellaini - “he’s….. different” – which quite literally left Liam and Richie Sadlier lost for words. Liam generously broke the moment’s silence with, “he’s, eh, a good sub”.

Back on ITV they made us turn back to RTÉ by putting Piers Morgan’s face on the screen, him inexplicably sitting alongside Pamela Anderson while promo-ing his Good Morning Britain programme which would be on right after the game. The theory of relativity is less confusing.

“I see you have two legends there,” he said, “as well as Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. ” Ian Wrightie Wright and Lee Dixie Dixon were left in convulsions.

Any way, everyone excited? “It could be a fight where no one throws a punch.” Liamo was tingling, then.

First half. Glenn Hoddle began musing out loud about the fair play rule used to separate sides with identical group records, a la Japan and Senegal. “I fink Fifa are missing a trick ‘ere,” he said, “why not use the margin of victories in games?”

By not saying ‘that’s goal difference, you pillock’, Clive Tyldesley showed a level of compassion rarely displayed by mankind.

Belgium shaded the first half chance-wise, coming dangerously close to scoring on one particular occasion, which presumably left Martinez incandescent with rage. Southgate would have been the happier, Courtois largely left to file his nails.

Liamo: “It’s a proper match.”

Eamon: “Poor, poor stuff.”

Richie: [These gus].

Back on ITV, Gary Nev was in the Eamo camp: “The first team is rested, which is the best thing you can say about the first half so far.”

Second half. Ooooh, a very lovely goal, Januzaj putting Belgium one up. And presumably England erupted in celebration? Or not? At this point we’d given up trying to work it out.

Danny Welbeck coming on for England.

“That tells you that getting some fitness in to the legs is more important than goals,” said Clive, in what wasn’t the warmest ever tribute paid to Danny’s goal-snatching abilities.

On the half rumbled, until the final whistle tooted. England lost. Mission accomplished?

Eamo thought so.

“I wonder how Martinez will feel about making a date on Tinder with Brazil? You wouldn’t swipe right for that one.”

England, then, had swiped left on that potential tryst, opting instead for a rendezvous with Colombia.

The spirits were high in the ITV studio. “It starts now, innit,” said Wrightie, Gary Nev and Dixie nodding. But then Giggsie spoke. You know the music from the shower scene in Psycho? His was kind of the punditry version of that when he reduced the panel to a stunned silence by saying:

“You can go out against Colombia.”

To a man, they swiped left. By their stony silence, Giggsie, like tinder, was reduced to unfancied flames.

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