TV View: Suits, goals and pundits on loan as a delayed Euros kick-off

Liam Brady had forecast a draw with ‘not many goals’ so Italy went and won 3-0

It could be argued that football fans have found the last 15 months or so more manageable than most because they’ve long since mastered the art of social distancing, for years now remaining in their own bubbles for weeks on end to watch wall-to-wall games in major tournaments.

But this one, of course, is a bit different, having been delayed for a whole 364 days, still being called Euro 2020 when – checks calendar – it's not 2020, and is hosted by Amsterdam, Baku, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome, Seville and St Petersburg. "A pan-European event in the middle of a pandemic," as Gary Lineker noted with a hint of an eye-roll. So, it's not your run-of-the-mill European Championships.

To add to the confusion, the BBC have Rio Ferdinand on loan from BT, while Micah Richards has burst on to the scene for them from Sky. And ITV have borrowed Ian Wright from the BBC and Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Graeme Souness from Sky. This would be a bit like Dot Cotton turning up on Emmerdale and Ken Barlow moving in to Albert Square.

It’s all a little discombobulating, then, but no more than the players, us lot on the couch just have to hastily acclimatise and be ready for action.

"Are you ready for Croatia," Gary asked Gareth Southgate.

“We should be,” he replied, “we’ve been preparing for this game for 18 months.”

Over on RTÉ, who was on punditry duty only Liam Brady, a fella we hadn't seen in almost as long since we'd spotted the inside of a pub. Looking tanned and thriving he is too, and he was polite enough not to ask Darragh why they were sitting on garden chairs on a small roundy stage in a sparsely decorated studio, the bulk of RTÉ's budget having evidently gone on that Prime Time set.

Liamo took no time in reminding us that Harry Kane, Declan Rice and Jack Grealish could all have played for Ireland – "Move on," Richie Sadlier hollered – so we should support England for the sake of their families. Darragh, though, didn't ask him at what precise point during lockdown he took up comedy, so we'll never know.

Back at the Beeb, the panel based in the exotic location of Salford, Alan Shearer was insisting that England's campaign could unite a divided nation, Gary possibly tempted to point out that such unity would only last as long as they were winning, the first defeat no doubt heralding copious articles about how much money Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Kieran Trippier, Kalvin Phillips, Tyrone Mings, Jadon Sancho, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Reece James, Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham earn, how big their houses are, how many cars they own and how they were spotted smiling four days after England's exit. Accompanied by a piece on have-a-go-hero Harry Kane looking crestfallen while hugging his granny after saving a cat from a tree.

Opening ceremony time. We know how much George Hamilton loves these. "The Italian state police band playing Rossini's William Tell Overture! Excited Stephen?"

“Extremely excited George,” said the Kelly man, his focus, as George had hoped, not remotely on Rossini.

The ceremony was a sparse enough affair, what with the pandemic, but featured flying drummers, people with knapsacks, fireworks, more fireworks, Andrea Bocelli singing Nessun Dorma while a lady was rendered airborne by enormous inflated footballs over his shoulder, the show concluding with Bono, the Edge and some other fella singing about Dublin, Notre Dame and people being lovely.

Match time, the ball brought to the centre spot by a Volkswagen remote control car, the most Uefa thing ever, and did you see the Italian staff's suits? Liamo's old Sampdoria mucker Roberto Mancini belonged on a catwalk, not in a dug-out.

Liamo, incidentally, had forecast a draw with “not many goals”, so Italy won 3-0, prompting us to add them to our list of dark horses that also includes Belgium, Denmark, Russia, Netherlands, Croatia, England, Sweden, Spain, Germany and Portugal, but not France because they should win.

The highlight? Giorgio Chiellini’s celebration when he prevented Turkey from scoring a consolation goal in the 93rd minute. Italians love clean sheets almost as much as they love snazzy suits.

Just the 50 games to go. Social distancing heaven.

READ MORE