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.