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Controversy on the pitch, granted. Dodgy decision by the match officials, of course. Debatable team selections, obviously. Said factors ensure discussions run riot for the duration of a World Cup – and at times, in fact, for a lot longer than that – but the one thing guaranteed to be often met with widespread disdain is the tournament’s TV coverage.
For all the entertainment on display on the pitch, on these shores the 2014 World Cup coverage has attracted its fair share of criticism, with ITV and the BBC failing to fully convince viewers they’re the real stars of the tournament.
The BBC received 445 complaints over Phil Neville’s commentary of England’s opening game against Italy, presumably by the only 445 viewers who managed to stay awake while the former Everton captain described the events on the pitch with the same verve normally reserved for funerals.
Neville himself admitted that being a football pundit was harder than he had thought and that “it can take time for viewers and listeners to get used to a particular individual’s style of commentary.”
Despite the hundreds of complaints over Neville’s snooker-like coverage, the BBC is the fans’ favourite according to the poll, with 80% of the participants claiming Gary Lineker & Co. are much better suited to the job than their ITV’s counterparts.
While it’s not surprising to see the ever so smart Thierry Henry topping the pundits ladder with the 38.8% of preferences, it’s more surprising to see Alan Shearer in second place with almost the 24% of votes.
Shearer might not venture too far in his analysis which remain very much a case of stating the obvious, but at least the Newcastle legend looks to be making a solid effort to look genuinely interested in the tournament, after famously claiming that he “would have rather being in the gym than watching this” four years ago.
Rio Ferdinand completes the all-BBC podium with the 16.8% of votes, perhaps an unexpected result given the reputation the former United defender has developed on Twitter but, in truth, Ferdinand has looked as at ease in a TV studio as he did when marshalling United back four.
Patrick Vieira and Lee Dixon both get 5% of the preferences with Fabio Cannavaro and Gus Poyet narrowly behind them and it’s hardly an exaggeration to think their lack of votes might be a by-product of having to share the studio with the insufferable Adrian Chiles.
ITV’s international panel could have been a winning combination were it not for Chiles’ incessant personal crusades and clumsy attempt at outsmarting his co-presenters.
In the aftermath of Pepe’s red card against Germany, Chiles was so incensed at Thomas Mueller for getting the Portuguese defender sent off that he almost embarked in an argument with Patrick Vieira forgetting that a) for all of Muller’s theatrics Pepe’s actions were stupid beyond belief and b) the former Arsenal captain knows a thing of two about football (and is also not the sort of man to get into an argument with, unless you’re Roy Keane).
At least ITV can console themselves with fans voting their very own Clive Tyldesley, as the network’s main commentator emerges, somewhat surprisingly, as the favourite commentators of the fans who took part in the poll.
With the 25.10% of preferences Tyldesley just edges out BBC’s Jonathan Pearce, who racked up the 23.92% of votes despite an obvious failure to grasp the technicalities of goal-line technology.
Not surprisingly, Mark Lawrenson, Martin Keown, Robbie Savage didn’t get a single vote among them, confirming they’re the pundit equivalent of Iran vs Nigeria: incredibly dull and awful to watch and yet mysteriously and inexplicably gripping.