ESPN Impress with World Cup Coverage Thus Far

June 13, 2010 - South Africa - Football - Serbia v Ghana FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 - Group D - Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria, South Africa - 13/6/10..Asamoah Gyan scores the first goal for Ghana from the penalty spot.

The first few days of the 2010 FIFA World Cup have come and gone like Robert Green’s stint as England’s #1 and ESPN (so far) have impressed with their fantastic coverage here in the States. It seems like ITV is the Robert Green of the tournament thus far while ESPN’s solid coverage, analysis and team of experts can be compared more to Tim Howard’s man of the match effort v England.

There’s still plenty of football left to be played which means there’s loads of time for Alexi Lalas to bug me with his incessant flag waving for the USMNT and his unhealthy obsession with the Greece national team. I get that he’s a former player and loves his country, but the way he goes about professing that love is nothing short of annoying and can be compared to overly dramatic theatre. Other than Lalas and his assumptive analysis, the team fielded by ESPN have been nothing short of professional, entertaining and informative.

Every broadcast in American starts with a thirty minute pre show hosted by Bob Ley or Chris Fowler who sound as if they really know who and what they’re talking about. Ley or Fowler are then joined by a combination of the aforementioned Lalas, Ruud Gullit, Roberto Martinez, or Steve McManaman. All have brought their own informed opinion to the platform when discussing pre and post match thoughts. Wigan boss Roberto Martinez and Gullit seem to be the two most objective and intelligent pundunts while still able to keep their comments light and to the point. The easily likable Martinez even comes across quite charming with his Spanish accent.

The actual match commentators have also been nothing short of flawless, informative and enjoyable throughout the opening weekend of matches. My favorite so far has been Ian Darke who most Premier League fans have been used to hearing for some time now. I love Darke’s voice and the way he sets up dramatic moments like they way he did for Asamoah Gyan’s penalty for Ghana v Serbia. There’s a sense of urgency with Darke and my hope is that he’ll be around for a 3-2 semi final macth or a dramatic penalty shootout. His commentary could be nothing short of epic and memorable for a high octane match.

Martin Tyler, Robbie Mustoe, Adrian Healey and more have been great in the opening round matches along with Darke. They seem as if they’ve been following these teams for months with their knowledge of players and insight into formations, tactics and positioning. One would expect nothing else from some of the world’s best commentators, but there’s always a sense of doubt with soccer coverage in the States because it’s been dumbed down in the past with bemused results.

My one glaring complaint came in Saturday’s match between England and the US when coverage shifted from ESPN to ABC. The ABC coverage would have been the same feed as ESPN showed, but there seemed to be way too many slow motion replays for my liking. In the opening 20 minutes of the match, there must have been 10-15 slow motion recaps where most featured David Beckham or Fabio Capello in their fine three piece suits with constipated looks of disbelief on their faces.

When the ball is in play on the field I want to see every second of it. In order for ESPN to avoid an ITV-esque moment where a major play is missed, they’ll need to limit the amount of replays shown and save them for halftime. ESPN also feature multiple highlights programs throuout the day and an extended look at the day’s matches later at night for those who missed the live broadcast. Great stuff for junkies like myself.

Whether you’re catching games on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 or ABC HD, leave a comment below and share your thoughts on the opening weekend coverage.

44 thoughts on “ESPN Impress with World Cup Coverage Thus Far”

  1. Jesse,

    Totally agree. ESPN has been excellent so far. And I don’t just mean they’ve excelled by making sure not to miss critical goals. (Sorry, ITV)

    I’ve also enjoyed the studio coverage with Lalas (smart pocket square!) and company, and I think ESPN’s South Africa studio set is really eye catching.

    My only complaint in live coverage has been a failure to provide game stats like time of possession and shots on goal.

    Twitter: @standupkid

    1. “Univision has been owning ESPN so far.”

      ESPN has done a much better job of speaking English during its broadcasts. That, in my opinion, is where Univision has been lacking.

  2. CR7: Maybe Idiotvision is getting better ratings, but the quality of ESPN has not comparison. The announcers at Univ are the worst. Fernando Fiore’s previews are dumb, he is ignorant of the game and he’s always saying stupid and unrelated things.

    1. quality? Not when Lalas and Harkes are part of the team.

      And let’s not forget Tyler and Ekoku knowledge of the offside rules.

      1. very true. the assistant made a very good decision. they were both clueless and went after the referee. overall though, i have loved espn coverage

      1. “Exactly. That’s what the article mentioned.”

        Really? It certainly seems like Jesse is under the impression ESPN has control over replays:

        “When the ball is in play on the field I want to see every second of it. In order for ESPN to avoid an ITV-esque moment where a major play is missed, they’ll need to limit the amount of replays shown and save them for halftime.”

        1. Sorry dlink, I was referring the article I wrote that was posted earlier today where I mentioned that ESPN wasn’t in charge of the feed and were showing the international feed just like everyone else.

          The Gaffer

  3. Do you know if the opening to every broadcast (the aerial sweep of the multi-colored flags forming this years logo) is unique to ESPN or is it a FIFA thing that all broadcasters play before a match. It is absolute quality. the other question I have is who determines studio placement? The BBC has a smart studio with plenty of glass looking out toward Green Point Stadium and sweeping views of Table Mountain. Very slick. The ESPN studio is fantastic also but I wish they’d landscape around Soccer City. It looks like they’re almost done with the place. Overall, this World Cup production has been fantastic. Final thing, I tinkered with the idea of buying a 3D television because ESPN indicated they would broadcast every game in 3D. Haven’t heard a thing about it since they announced it. Am I to assume they scrapped the idea?

    1. I wondered the same thing… I’m pretty sure that is a unique opening for ESPN – and I agree it is fantastic – Univision has a completely different opening to their broadcasts

    2. M. Garcia, I agree that the ESPN/ABC opening montage is BRILLIANT. I got goosebumps when I saw it for England v USA. I believe they created it themselves.

      As for the World Cup in 3D, ESPN is showing many of the World Cup games on a special 3D channel that’s available on U-Verse, DirecTV and other providers.

      The Gaffer

  4. The American fan also has to thank ESPN. We had for many years wanted ESPN to bring its full production and studio shows, etc. to soccer. You see the results every day know from South Africa.

    1. I really wish ESPN would do more with their breakdowns and analysis. Kudos for putting the games on and even having condensed replays on ESPN2 at night and kudos for Roberto Martinez. He’s been stellar. But Alexi Lalas seems to be filling the Tommy Smith buffoonery role that I thought ESPN was getting away from.

      Also the recaps on Sportscenter are woeful, though tbf much more than they ever do for soccer.

  5. I have always suspected that ESPN secretly had no interest in soccer and would replace it with truck racing or some other bullsh*t if it got more viewers. But they are to be congratulated for their excellent coverage of this tournament. They are 99% spot on, the 1% being the fool Lalas and his “analysis”. Well done ESPN. Keep up the good work, and please try to find a way to get Georgie Bingham back on the air.

  6. I think Lalas has been good. He’s not afraid to give harsh criticisms. I found his love for the US national team and his love for the Greeks to be humorous. His analysis when breaking down a goal has been spot on. ESPN have an excellent job so far.

    1. I don’t think Lalas has been “bad” per se, but he’s been way too critical of England for my liking. He seems to really hold a grudge and dig into them any chance he gets. I am saying this as a US supporter.

    2. Yeah, Lalas is certainly the best of the retired USMT players to move to TV. He’s clear and articulate, and generally has a reasonable point to make. Not my favorite, but I think he gets some undue criticism by being lumped together with ex-USMT commentators in general — who, as a group, have generally been poor.

  7. I’m impressed with the mix of analysis you are getting. The commentators are doing a good job of explaining nuances of the game to a lamen, without alieniating hardened fans.

  8. I cant stand Alexi and Im American. Dude drives me crazy. Also not a big fan of Steve McManaman. He might be a bigger homer for England than Alexi is for the U.S.

    Other than those two I have enjoyed ESPN’s coverage.

    1. I agree with you. But you have to admit those two having a go at eachother ahead of the US/England game was quite humorous.

  9. I am very pleased with ESPN’s coverage. As I expected, Martin Tyler and Ian Darke have been excellent. Although I’ve never liked John Harkes he was better than usual, probably because of Tyler’s presence. Like the Gaffer I was perplexed with the FIFA feed. I was wondering if there would ever be a replay of Altidore’s sprint around Carragher. When It came it was much too late to have any impact.

    The studio production by ESPN has been superb. I have always been annoyed by previous year’s World Cup coverage and the patronizing way the network’s treated the American viewer. It was if the networks felt that Americans had no knowledge of the game. None of that is present this year. I’ve always been a fan of the work of Mike Tirico and Chris Fowler. They haven’t disappointed. They are knowledgeable and know what they are talking about. It’s as if I was watching Paul Dempsey. In my opinion Tirico and Fowler are that good. The mix of pundits has also been good. Steve McManamen, Ruud Gullitt and Roberto Martinez have been excellent. I even have been able to stomach Alexi Lalas. With first class performers surrounding him, his work has been getting better.

    The buildup to the US-England match on television was electric. I wished I was present and was envious of two of my friends who were at the game. I’m hoping for a long run by the US squad and the continuing good work by ESPN. The next four weeks watching football are making my summer more pleasurable than usual.

  10. Totally agree. ESPN has been excellent. They obviously learnt from mistakes made in prior Euro and World Cup games and have improved as a result (getting rid of that Irish guy was step one) It is a pleasure to hear commentary and analysis from people who really know the game.

    We should be emailing ESPN directly to give them the positive feedback as when they screw up we do yell at them!

  11. You have to wonder if the flavor if international football coverage might change ESPN’s coverage of other sports for the better.

    Compared to sports coverage in the US, coverage of the beautiful game is a lot more brutally honest. Where in the US commentators tend to be too easy on sports stars.

    So I was shocked when Bob Ley, a well known Super Carebear, called a player “stupid.”

  12.’s video quality has been pretty poor for me so far. It was always excellent until the latest change to the software/appearance. Kind of a bummer.

    On the other hand,’s feed has been really good, although I’m not sure if you can watch the matches on demand, since I don’t know Spanish.

  13. I hate to say it but espn coverage has been pretty good. Though Alexi Lalas has no clue! Good thing they have Martinez, Gullitt, and McNamaman to provide some useful insight. Lalas adds nothing from a technical or tatical standpoint – probably because he has no idea!
    I have enjoyed espn coverage but still find myself downloading ITV highlight show with Matt Smith (when they’re not showing an advert!!).
    Can anyone help me with getting BBC Five Live on my Iphone when they block us out during WC commentaries.

  14. I could not disagree more about Bob Ley or the American commentators in general. Broadcasting professionals for sure, but they are clearly just-phoning-it-in. This is ESPN desperately trying to place an All-American face on match analysis, when in fact they’re quite short of American commentators who actually seem to care (excluding Lalas, who actually wants to participate). Their comments are largely vague and surpassed by the philosophical introspection of the European guest analysts.

    I also noticed that Bob Ley is NEVER shown in close-up. NEVER. Perhaps filming him from mid-range will conceal the fact that this guy is probably reading cue cards.

    1. Wow I Never knew what people meant by the term “Eurosnob” until now. Yes all the Americans are garbage and the Euros are all great.

    2. You do realize that the people like Bob Lee and Chris Fowler are only there to keep the show flowing and get the opinions of the analyst right? Nobody wants to hear their opinions on soccer, that’s why they aren’t giving it. There is a reason that Alexi, McManaman and the others are there.

  15. All in all the coverage has been very good. Lalas has been lalas but after a while you learn to put up with his comments. Of the commentators, John Harkes has been awful. Finally, I wish Mike Tirico would stop calling goalkeepers goal tenders.

  16. Oh NOOOO! Not again, another World Cup game, and again, we all had to put up with very crude British accent and all their Propaganda and non-stop brainwashing, even thou the Brits are the most Racist, Biased and dead last in Football, we are all forced to hear the following crap in everygame non-stop: Liverpool, Stoke, EPL, EPL, Liverpool, Chelsea, EPL, United, bla bla bla, bla, WOW! How arrogant of the British morons to keep trying to Brainwash the whole US soccer fans with all British Boring Crap, Its all so very sick!

  17. We must Boycott ESPN like they are Boycotting American commentators!
    Instead of being a great Opportunity for so many American X-Players like Ricky Davis, Peter Vermes and so many others who all have played in over 3 world Cups, ESPN went for pure garbage, the British!

    What a SHAME that the very biased and Crude British/Australians/Canadians who 100% run FUX Network, The FUX Soccer Channel, Sky, Yahoo Sports, and all Soccer on ESPN
    (English Soccer Propaganda Network) plus ESPN Soccernet.
    So very Shameful.

    As ESPN has laid-off all their American commentator for the World Cup in June 2010 in South Africa and REPLACED them ALL with the very Crude SCABS from the UK.
    I guess we will have to watch all the games on (HD Univision).
    (Its high Time to BOYCOTT ALL ESPN Channels).

    Think about it, USA will be playing in the World Cup and all the media JOB Opportunities have been given to the dead last in football, the British.
    We MUST Boycott ESPN like they are Boycotting American commentators!

  18. Did ESPN think that accents makes up for being monotonous, bored and boring? Comment on the goal is “goodness”! Please serve tea with crumpets?

  19. Although Espn needs to improve the entertainment aspect of its transitions, Univision is truly pathetic. In Univision, the only people that know about Football (soccer) to those in America, are Chilavert and Otati and Chilavert is not a polished commentator. He is however, the most qualified and knowledgeable of the sport on their panel. On the other hand, I wonder who’s Fernando Fiore friends with…what is he doing there. He looks like and is as competent as inspector clouseau. His comments are out of place, inaccurate and partialized on behave of Argentina and against Brazil. Even when he uses cheating cards to remember a preplanned reference of one of his idiotic comments, he makes mistakes. He is an illiterate of the sport, he is probably the only Argentinean in the universe that is completely ignorant of the sport and he is the face of sports for Univision. That is truly sad. I am sure that Argentineans are not proud of this individual. I am glad that ESPN is an alternative. If Univision incompetents were my only alternative I would rather put up with my grandmother perspective of the games.

  20. I Think It is the one of the worst telecast of FIFA 2010 by ESPN.
    All time in the duration of live telecast one noise which is very irritating come all the time .this kind of sound noise i have never seen in espn or star sports .I have been watching since 1988 at that time mainly it covers cricket matches.Now I think the quality of this channel goes down drastically and no one is taking care of it.

  21. Alexi Lalas needs to be thrown on his ass from ESPN.. How can ESPN sit him with Klinsmann and Gullitt (two proven world players)?!?!? They laugh at him.. Ask anyone in Europe if they have ever heard of Alexi Lalas and they would laugh?


  22. While throwing out Lalas they should include Harkes with him. Harkes is the most unintelligent broadcaster around. Even if he played the game once he seems to know very little about soccer. What a waste of airtime!

  23. They need to keep Lalas and Harkes otherwise they will alinate the WASPS who watch! It is just simple marketing. Harkes gets his facts mixed up but I would still take him any day over the bald Irish twat and his old onion bag crap! Not having to listen to his drivel or see his onion bag head has made this WC even more enjoyable!

  24. Espn coverage off the world cup was excellent… But univision was superb…espn soccer coverage on sportscenter sucks.Foxsoccer channel is the best… I’m done with espn………..

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