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Review of day one of FOX’s Women’s World Cup coverage

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On one of the biggest sports days of the year, the 2015 Women’s World Cup got underway Saturday from Canada and marked the beginning of FOX Sports’ World Cup era.

In the buildup to the tournament, all the signs had been positive from FOX – from the studio setup in Vancouver, to the number of matches scheduled for the flagship station, to the talent assembled – and day one lived up to the hype.

That studio in Vancouver? It’s phenomenal – maybe even good enough to rival ESPN’s setup on the Copacabana in Brazil, and certainly better than anything ESPN did for the 2011 women’s tournament in Germany.

Interestingly, with their A roster of talent back in Los Angeles hosting FOX’s coverage of the Champions League Final, the network went with five women to anchor their studio coverage.

It was a good look. Former England captain Kelly Smith was particularly impressive, and Kate Abdo did well in her presenting duties as well.

But where the presentation really shined was after the opening match began. The first-choice commentary team of JP Dellacamera, Cat Whitehill, and Tony DiCicco was terrific.

DiCicco – a big character in the women’s game since coaching the US to the 1999 World Cup championship on home soil – was particularly buoyant and entertaining. Whitehill has some growth to do as she steps into a commentary role for the first time, but she certainly has potential.

The old veteran Dellacamera – whose most famous moment probably came calling the final shootout between the US and China at that ’99 World Cup – was terrific as well. Few men play as well off of a great atmosphere as Dellacamera, and it’s a joy to hear him calling major matches on national television again. It’s been a while.

Of course a year ago, Gus Johnson was slated to front the Women’s World Cup, and although we’ll never really what would have become of the Gus experiment on soccer had he had a few more years and a lot less pressure to work his way into the sport, it’s obvious that we’re in better hands with Dellacamera.

The trio captured the late penalty to Canada with panache. DiCicco, who certainly has a lot of Shep Messing in his commentary, broke down the situation well, and his genuine enthusiasm for the game is infectious. Dellacamera’s call provided the necessary gravitas.

There also has to be a special word for FOX’s graphics, in combination with FIFA, which were superb.

The network’s new theme music for international matches is a slam-dunk too, and has the chance to reach iconic status over the next decade.

Although it’s not the most important element, that music is important, and synonymous with a network’s coverage – and it’s only too telling that for previous soccer events, FOX had been using its NFL music as a theme.

All the praise isn’t to say everything was perfect. The actual analysis of the teams and players, especially from the studio crew, was extremely light. There was practically no insight into the Chinese team, and very little about Canada outside of their talisman Christine Sinclair.

It also remains to be seen whether FOX can pull off the gravitas of ESPN’s coverage as we proceed later into the tournament and hit more serious stories, and how the announcers beneath Dellacamera, John Strong, and Glenn Davis perform.

FOX had to be good Saturday. The atmosphere, and broadcast, will suffer when it’s not Canada playing.

All in all, though, it was a good day. FOX has devoted enough resources, glitz, and glamour to this event to make it feel truly major league, and that’s a win for soccer fans everywhere this summer.

The stakes are obviously high. FOX has to make a good first impression here, not because they’ll make money on the Women’s World Cup or grow the women’s game considerably through their coverage – they won’t – but because they need to figure out how to cover a major soccer tournament to the satisfaction of soccer fans before 2018 in Russia.

And, believe it or not, FOX is off to a nice start.

 

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. JACK

    June 13, 2015 at 12:41 am

    THEY ALL DO WELL

  2. Thomas

    June 8, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    This writer seems a bit misinformed. Cat Whitehill was also one of the analysts for ESPN’s WWC coverage in 2011, so I am not sure how the analysis of how “she steps into a commentary role for the first time” holds water.

    It also makes you wonder if he even saw the roving set ESPN used across Germany.

  3. Rick

    June 8, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Fox needs to have a nightly Match of the Day that shows orginal commentary highlights. Show the viewers 10 minutes of highlights of each game without the studio hosts talking over the commentary. Otherwise, coverage is better than expected from FOX.

  4. AJ

    June 7, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    Is FOX paying you to say this?

    DiCicco will never get a thumbs up from me after his kid bashed me on twitter from ripping on his old man.

    The scorebug is horribly small, and picture quality isn’t good.

    They’re going to beat this turf thing into the ground. It’s awful, but ain’t going away.

    Your picture is basically the other reason FOX fall well short, every male in that picture is a knucklehead.

    Got my first taste of Kutcher & Wagner on commentary. Can’t find words to describe how bad they were. Aly Wagner’s never heard of Price is Right, and rarely knows who the players are unless they’re well known, and Kutcher spent the 90 minutes stating the obvious over and over again.

  5. mike

    June 7, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Sorry, just not a big JP guy. Never was. Always injected too much hockey play-by-play into the game.
    Whitehill needs a voice coach. DiCicco is excellent as always.
    Where’s John Strong? At least one of the Sky Sports voices should have been imported to inject some credibility.
    FOX is just never as good as ESPN or NBC when it comes world class football (men or women).

  6. BC

    June 7, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    The Fox Soccer 2GO stream isn’t using the Dellacamera commentary. Is that normal?

  7. andy

    June 7, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    I just watched the highlights of the first two games and thought the commentating was awful for a completely blown call toward the end of the match where a Holland defender sliced the legs out from under a Kiwi forward who had just pushed the ball past her, and came nowhere near touching the ball — in the box! In any league in the world that’s a stone cold penalty, and could have earned the Kiwis a draw. The non-call would have been a major talking point of the match. The TV announcer just said, chidingly, ‘she needs to try to stay on her feet’. It made me think they don’t really get the significance of that play and where it was. I don’t support either team, but Holland got away with a big one. My guess is only that the announcers have been told not to criticize the refs, to keep it all positive. But what a terrible call. If that’s the standard of the reffing and the commentating, it’s a huge step down from other events (eg the CL earlier that day).

    • Brian

      June 10, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      I also feel like Fox has told the announcers not to criticize the refs. The officiating for the Colombia/Mexico game was some of the worst I’ve seen, and Aly Wagner did everything she could to justify the calls of the ref. Whoever “Doctor Joe” or John or whoever their “expert” is needs to get his head examined if he really thinks the Mexico keeper committed a foul when coming out of the box to head a ball away. The Colombia goal ruled out for a handball that struck a girl’s face could possibly be understood, happening real time it could be missed. But Aly Wagner insisting after the replay it was a handball, when it was clearly not, was ridiculous. In fairness, the Mexican player DID handle the ball, but the call was made against the Colombian attacker. Then the winner ruled out against Mexico in stoppage time was just the farcical cherry on top. Even the announcers couldn’t support that call, but their reactions were incredibly muted.

  8. francis

    June 7, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Definitely took a few ideas from ESPN, even down to the plastic fruit on the table! And it’s good that they have studio folks that are really invested in this thing, rather than bringing in guys who cover men’s soccer for a living. Fox gets bashed a lot on this forum – and it’s mostly deserved – but covering 3 major international events (the CL, the U20 and WWC) at once is no simple task

  9. Smokey Bacon

    June 7, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    The good…….basically followed ESPN’s World Cup blueprint almost to the letter. Similar set, similar music, even their version of last call.

    The bad…..it’s still Fox, and therefore feels cheap relative to the production values of ESPN or NBC.

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