There’s been no doubt that FOX Sports has done an excellent job with their Bundesliga coverage for the 2015/16 season. With a strong set of studio talent led by Ian Joy, the opinions of Eric Wynalda, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Jovan Kirovski seem better suited for the Bundesliga, a league that they undoubtedly enjoy and know a lot about.
With a solid foundation in place, the stage was set on Saturday for FOX’s coverage of Bayer Leverkusen against Bayern Munich, which will probably end up being the most high-profile Bundesliga game on FOX during the second half of the current season.
Unsurprisingly, the pre-match coverage was mostly centered around Javier Hernandez. Within 30 seconds of the pre-match show, FOX ran a segment on the Mexican star. And later featured a very short interview clip, as well as highlighting him as one of the players to watch in the match.
But mere seconds after the opening Chicharito feature was played, FOX continued its recent run of flubs by spelling the name of Bundesliga analyst Thomas Hitzlsperger incorrectly on an on-screen graphic.
The mistake was the only one of the 30-minute pre-match show, but it’s FOX’s lack of attention to detail that undermines their credibility among soccer fans who consider FOX’s soccer coverage as second rate. (Thankfully FOX didn’t try to dumb down its coverage of the Bundesliga as it did the previous week for Stuttgart-Hamburg).
The remaining pre-match coverage included a brief chat with Grant Wahl who discussed Chicharito and Christian Pulisic.
Once the match started, the match commentators were John Strong and Stuart Holden. As they did last week for the Stuttgart-Hamburg match, they were solid yet again.
The stage was set, therefore, for an exciting match between Leverkusen and Bayern Munich.
Unfortunately, the first half of the game failed to live up to its promises. The first 45 minutes were dull with Chicharito given no quality chances to shine. In the second half, the level of play improved as spaces opened up to create more chances for both teams to score with Chicharito even getting a clear shot on goal that almost hit Thomas Müller next to the post. However, the game will be remembered more for its plentitude of poor passes, missed chances and physical play, resulting in 28 fouls overall.
Wynalda summed it up in the post-match analysis, by saying:
“I’m disappointed. I’m just going to say it. I wanted more goals.”
Put Bayer v Bayern on network TV they said. It'll be high octane excitement they said. Hey, hey wake up there's a game on, they said.
— Mike L. Goodman (@TheM_L_G) February 6, 2016
While the game wasn’t a good advertisement for the Bundesliga, the redeeming factors were the loud match atmosphere and quality coverage from FOX.
Despite the 0-0 scoreline (the first between the two sides in 26 years) and Chicharito being practically invisible in the game, the match will have generated an impressive number of viewers to significantly inflate the numbers for FOX and the Bundesliga. The exact viewing figures will be announced on Thursday.
FOX’s next Bundesliga game on the over-the-air FOX network is March 19. The schedule has yet to be finalized for that date.