The moments that define a World Cup are not always entirely dictated by what happens on the pitch. The words used to describe the great goals can often stick with fans and enhance the memory further. Think Siphiwe Tshabalala’s iconic strike for hosts South Africa against Mexico in 2010. “Goal Bafana Bafana, goal for South Africa, goal for all Africa,” screamed Peter Drury.
Not only the immediate words or silence surrounding the goals, but the familiarity with those in the booth. The chemistry, anecdotes and jokes at the right time, all of which can be crucial to the enjoyment of a game, or get it wrong, run the risk of spoiling it. Rarely has this been as perfectly delivered by the endearing combination of Jon Champion and Ally Mccoist.
Another veteran of the mic is ITV’s Clive Tyldesley, whose wealth of knowledge stretches back to the 1994 World Cup. Steve Wilson and Guy Mowbray remain part of the BBC’s commentary team too. The co-commentator can often define the experience for the fan at home too, playing a pivotal role. Martin Keown, Danny Murphy, Robbie Savage and Peter Schmeichel all feature for the BBC this time around, while Lee Dixon, McCoist, John Hartson and Andros Townsend will make up ITV’s commentary team.
The build-up and post-match discussion can be equally important to an escape throughout a World Cup, validating views or provoking fresh interpretations of what has just passed. Both glorious skill and asinine decisions, the narrative that follows can be defined by a legendary player eulogising about a breakout star’s display or prompt discussion after a scathing rant.
Qatar 2022 will of course have added incentive for those providing coverage to address human rights issues, with numerous controversies that have beset this tournament from the outset over 12 years since being awarded it. There will be an appetite for those brave enough to articulate their grievances.
The battle between the BBC and ITV, sharing coverage in the UK, therefore makes for a fascinating subplot, dressing up the action on the pitch.
Both networks are at the mercy of the schedule, to some extent, with the moments sometimes falling into their lap. England’s last two tournaments illustrate that as much, with the way the draws unfolded. While each channel will hope Wales’ defining moments fall their way; Hal Robson-Kanu (ITV) and Ashley Williams (BBC) will bring invaluable insight should Gareth Bale and co. squeeze through Group B as runners-up for an enticing last 16 clash, where they will likely play with house money if matched with the Netherlands.
Familiarity is welcome, while flashy names and fresh insight from a player who is new to the punditry game.
Fans have become accustomed to the Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Jermaine Jenas and Micah Richards, all of whom will work for the BBC as pundits, but more intrigue may come from Didier Drogba or Gilberto Silva, whose Brazil side include several Arsenal stars fresh from guiding the Gunners to the top of the Premier League.
ITV has assembled a cast of characters with existing chemistry: Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Graham Souness have compiled hundreds of reps together with their work on Sky Sports and will undoubtedly please fans tuning in. Ian Wright’s unapologetic passion for the Three Lions is always welcome, while Danish legend Nadia Nadim is back, with the Danes a dark horse to contend for the trophy.
Previous relationships from their playing days may also spark fresh insight and entertainment, notably Micah Richards, who brings added humour, alongside former Manchester City teammate Vincent Kompany, whose Belgium side appear to be fading and reliant on Kevin de Bruyne.
Gary Lineker will welcome the audience for the first match of the tournament between Qatar and Ecuador, as well as England’s opener against Iran. And the BBC have doubled up on Gareth Southgate’s side during the group stage with the rights to England vs Wales, which could prove to be crucial for both sides’ hopes. ITV’s payoff may come in the knockout stages.
The battle is on to see who can compliment best what transpires on the pitch out in Qatar, with each channel’s all-star cast primed to add plenty to the spectacle.
Commentators: Sam Matterface, Clive Tyldesley, Jon Champion, Seb Hutchinson, Joe Speight, Lee Dixon, Ally McCoist, John Hartson, Andros Townsend
Presenters: Mark Pougatch, Laura Woods, Seema Jaswal
Pundits: Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Graeme Souness, Peter Walton, Ian Wright, Karen Carney, Joe Cole, Eni Aluko, Nigel de Jong, Nadia Nadim, Hal Robson-Kanu, Andros Townsend
Commentators: Martin Keown, Danny Murphy, Robbie Savage and Peter Schmeichel alongside regulars like Jonathan Pearce, Steve Wilson and Guy Mowbray
Presenters: Gary Lineker, Mark Chapman, Alex Scott, Gabby Logan
Pundits: Didier Drogba, Pablo Zabaleta, Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Jurgen Klinsmann, Jermaine Jenas, Micah Richards, Vincent Kompany, Gilberto Silva, Laura Georges, Mark Schwarzer, Alex Scott, Ashley Williams, Ian Rush, Danny Gabbidon, Dion Dublin, Chris Sutton, Izzy Christensen