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Confederations Cup

FOX Sports’ coverage of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup

Coming just a year after an underwhelming spectacle in the Copa America, the worst was expected from some critics regarding FOX’s coverage of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. But surprisingly for some, FOX Sports has come through with solid coverage.

As we have now finished the group stage of the competition and enter the knockout phase, the time is right to give a full accounting of FOX’s coverage and how it impacts next summer’s World Cup.

Here are the highlights:

Absence of the USA helps FOX cover competition properly

The over-the-top cheerleading FOX Sports has subjected viewers to when covering the various US National Team’s or competitions the USA qualifies for is absent in this Confederations Cup. Perhaps the neutral viewer who just wants to watch the tournament should be thanking Mexico for the victory in the CONCACAF Cup in October 2015, which sent Mexico instead of the USA to this competition. Without the USA narratives to drive coverage, FOX Sports has had to do the basics right, which means developing storylines about the participating nations, and just cover and analyze the games with the players and countries that have qualified.

Without the USA present, FOX Sport has focused on analyzing soccer and trying to do so objectively. As a result, the Confederations Cup is proof positive the absence of the USA actually improves the network’s objectivity and presentation for the competition.

Studio teams

FOX Sports has featured far more studio analysis and time in covering this tournament than ESPN did in 2013. It is worth noting that the ESPN FC program, which anchors ESPN’s soccer coverage, was a critical component in World Cup 2014 and UEFA Euro 2016 coverage but it did not launch until August 2013, a month after the end of the 2013 edition of this event.

For FOX Sports, the broadcaster deployed Eric Wynalda to Russia alongside Kate Abdo who has been outstanding as usual. Guus Hiddink has proven a useful addition with some strong analysis. Back in Los Angeles, Ian Wright has stood out for his strong commentary at halftime and after matches. And Alexi Lalas, though inconsistent, has offered some very good moments.

Fernando Fiore hasn’t added much except for forced clownish behavior and obvious analysis on the set. Fiore is an expert on the sport and a colorful character but it seems his act is at times over-the-top and he isn’t being relied on to give the type of analysis he has for years on Spanish language television and radio. Mariano Trujillo has been outstanding when in the studio adding to the discussion not just on Mexico but also on the opposition.

Rob Stone and Abdo have both facilitated conversations well among the studio talent. The let downs of the studio teams have been the Germans (Arne Friedrich and Lothar Matthaus), a seemingly forced aspect of FOX’s coverage when Germany is playing.

It also should be noted that FOX Sports has done a good job of keeping storylines in context regarding next summer’s World Cup. Instead of overhyping this tournament and its importance as ESPN was guilty of doing both in 2009 and 2013 at times, FOX Sports has offered a perspective that is refreshing and takes big picture considerations into account. The World Cup and qualifying is what matters and FOX’s studio team has done a great job of reminding viewers of that.

Match commentators

The two rotating commentary teams of John Strong and Stuart Holden as well as J.P. Dellacamera and Aly Wagner have been fantastic. Holden is improving with every opportunity though it’s still questionable how well he would do without Strong who has emerged as arguably the best-ever American commentator in this sport.

Wagner, in particular, has given sharp analysis and seems unafraid to be critical when warranted. If this is an audition for her to be on a commentary team next summer, she’s passed with flying colors. If it weren’t for Dr. Joe Machnik, Wagner would be the star of the summer on FOX Sports. Meanwhile, Dellacamera remains a broadcasting legend and his work in this tournament has lived up to his lofty reputation.

In contrast, the FOX Sports team of Jorge-Perez Navarro and Cobi Jones for Mexico games have been unlistenable. For Mexico games, Telemundo’s team of Andres Cantor, Manuel Sol and Carlos Hermosillo remain preferable to FOX’s team. Navarro’s English language usage is strong enough but his cadence is poor and Jones doesn’t help him with his rather predictable analysis.

Last but not least, Mark Followill and Tony Meola have continued their strong FIFA U-20 World Cup with work broadcasting MLS games while the rest of the FOX Sports team has focused on Confederations Cup. That team of Followill and Meola should be in consideration for World Cup duty next summer as well.

Video Assistant Referee/rules

Dr. Machnik has been johnny-on-the-spot for FOX Sports, giving a level of analysis as we go through the growing pains with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system. Machnik has gone from being awkward and annoying on air during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and last summer’s Copa America to being perfectly comfortable and borderline indispensable in this competition.

Time and again in this tournament, unlike the past, Machnik has been willing to criticize officials if they get a call wrong and has been able to break down the frustrating VAR process. He’s become incredibly poised and confident on air, be it in studio or being literally “on call” for Strong, Navarro or Dellacamera to consult with on a moment’s notice when a controversial call takes place. Machnik has been assured when brought in on these occasions.

SEE MORE: Schedule of Confederations Cup games on US TV and streaming

Machnik is giving American viewers a treat when it comes to rules interpretations and understanding of the VAR process. If VAR is retained for next summer’s World Cup, Machnik again might well be FOX Sports’ “man of the match” each and every game.

Broadcast windows

FOX Sports has treated American viewers to two Group Stage games on the FOX over-the-air but has also bumped a match to FS2 and will be showing the Germany-Mexico semifinal on FS2. Sadly FOX’s ability to showcase certain matches is limited by contractual obligations to other sports, particularly the USGA and NASCAR. Like the bumping we would see of matches to ESPN2 during the World Cup and Euros when a conflict with Wimbledon was present, FOX is also hamstrung. But FOX Sports is more committed to forcing games on its over-the-air platform than ABC or ESPN has in this tournament and the network has pledged to bring us an unprecedented level of matches over-the-air next summer.

Final analysis

FOX Sports has been surprisingly strong during this tournament. Coverage of soccer on the network is an acquired taste, and while it is not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s by any objective measure improving.

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33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. nick

    July 3, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    video of the televised game are terrible…. camera work is either from too far away or too close the regular play is hard to watch. Only Replay camara work is Good and clear, with plenty of angles.

  2. Tom

    June 23, 2018 at 11:41 am

    Going to disagree on the John Strong comment that he is the best American announcer of all time. There are many more announcers now not given the chance or even known by FOX or ESPN. You and others are just force fed John Strong. Until you’ve heard all the announcers in America your view is an uninformed one.

  3. MRasi

    June 21, 2018 at 9:45 am

    Here is my 2cents on covering 2018 world cup, it seems Fernando Fiore some times is biased and his comments are not fair and his tone is harsh and unpleasant, he doesn’t belong to English speaking soccer commentators group.

  4. Oliver Tse

    July 3, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    Huge shakeup at FOX Sports.

    Eric Shanks has fired FS1/FS2 President Jamie Horowitz, effective immediately, for allegedly not respecting or adhering to “professional conduct”.

    One industry report cites alleged sexual harrasment.

    Expect lawsuits to fly in both directions. This mess could take years to resolve in the court system.

    Horowitz had spent the past year re-programming FS1 and FOXsports.com, stripping both of news and event content in favor of opinion-driven programming. High-profile talent that were let go from FS1 include Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole (both returning to host SportsCentre on The Sports Network of Canada starting September.)

    Among the soccer event programming given up by FOX Sports under Horowitz’s watch include the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League, and the English FA Cup (all lame-duck products with the 2017-2018 season remaining.)

    • Eddie

      July 3, 2017 at 5:42 pm

      thank you for that and turner sports will air uefa champions league. also, the fa cup will be on nbc sports/telemundo in 2019. fox sports will lose lot of soccer rights and other rights on tv.

      • MAHLUF

        July 4, 2017 at 6:59 am

        Did I miss something?? When was it announced that nbc had won the right to the FA Cup beginning in 2019?

        • Oliver Tse

          July 4, 2017 at 7:20 am

          IMG started negotiations with NBC Sports for US rights to FA Cup after FOX and ESPN both declined.

          IMG has nowhere else to go with those rights.

    • Oliver Tse

      July 3, 2017 at 6:20 pm

      One had to suspect that some nasty stuff allegedly took place that would result in the abrupt dismissal of Jamie Horowitz.

      The reporting being done by the Los Angeles Times and Sports Illustrated have shed some light on this. The allegations are serious, but one should have expected this stuff to happen at FOX (both news and sports.)

      FOX has a long history of hiring interchangeable female talent with similar age (mostly under 40), similar look (i.e. bleach blonde) and similar wardrobe preferences (i.e. short skirts). That formula has been repeated at various FOX divisions around the world in various languages. The infamous “plexiglass desks” used on the set of Central FOX (which airs on FOX Sports Latin America North, FOX Sports Latin America South, and FOX Deportes U.S.) in 2012-2014 represented the most absurd point of that trend.

      Bottom line: various divisions of FOX paraded its female talent around the workplace like pr-st-t-t-s, and of course several male bosses allegedly treated female subordinates the same way.

      • Eddie

        July 3, 2017 at 6:27 pm

        someone got fired from fox sports after loseing soccer rights

      • Cantona

        July 4, 2017 at 11:51 am

        Jesus Christ!!! How the fcuk did you turn this conversation into a “female talent” conversation…

        Sick…. jist sick…

        Cantona—

        • Stranger Things

          July 4, 2017 at 1:55 pm

          Yep, female talent and plexi glass again. It’ sick and Chris Harris is the enabler encouraging this bs.

          • Oliver Tse

            July 4, 2017 at 6:51 pm

            “Stranger Things” and “Cantona” still have their heads stuck in the sewer.

            Jamie Horowitz allegedly treated female talent and subordinates like pr-st-t-t-s, according to the reporting does by Los Angeles Times and Sports Illustrated.

            The FOX organization created that kind of working environment at several divisions around the world with its hiring practices: too many interchangeable female talent with the same look and same wardrobe preferences parading around the newsroom looking like pr-st-t-t-s.

            Does it surprise anyone that FOX Sports (in LA), FOX News (in New York), and Sky Sports (in London) have scandal after scandal after scandal?

            Richard Keys and Andy Gray

            Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly

            Jamie Horowitz

            Who will be the next FOX executive to get caught “with his pants down”?

            This story is far from over. The dirt hasn’t come out of various branches of FOX in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Munich, Milan, or Singapore yet.

  5. phillip

    July 2, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    as always, the Fox pr machine is in working order. in what universe is jp dellacamera considered a legendary broadcaster? ncaa soccerball? john strong is even worse: who the hell is “beauseyour”??

  6. E. Mendez

    June 28, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Pleeeease get the guy who shouts ‘goooooal’ off the broadcast ……. it gets so annoying. We turn the sound off when him and his partner are commentating. Sick of him saying, “Cobi Jones’ what would you have done? Cobi Jones what did you have for breakfast today? Get some decent commentators for heavens sake !

    • Oliver Tse

      June 28, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      Jorge Perez is difficult for me to listen to, just like Andres Cantor was 17 years ago when Cantor called the Olympic matches for MSNBC in English.

      Pairing Perez with Cobi Jones doesn’t help that team one bit.

      Still don’t understand why Mariano Trujillo isn’t in the booth for Mexico matches.

  7. Kurt

    June 27, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Not so much referring to the features. More a lack of creativity from FOX. Not decorating the set or as I mentioned above, creating a tournament theme. I realize it’s only the confederations cup. Just voicing my opinion as of now on the article regarding FOX’s coverage of the confederations cup. Going into next summer hopeful, and with an open mind.

  8. Kurt

    June 26, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    I don’t feel like FOX has done a great job of bringing the Russian culture into the tournament. There is no, “confederations cup theme”. One thing I love about international tournaments, is getting an insight into the host country and the different culture they practice. ESPN did a great job of this. You watched ESPN World Cup coverage and could instantly see it had a World Cup theme. Wether it be a cut scene or the consistent song they played as they cut to commercial. A simple theme, such as text boxes for upcoming games and daily headlines, goes a long way into creating a common theme for the tournament. FOX has been using the same looking studio and text boxes as they do for the rest of the year. Hope this changes next year for the World Cup. This is all difficult to explain without using visuals but I hope you get the point. Just my opinion at the end of the day. Feel like we were spoiled with ESPN’s coverage.

    • Oliver Tse

      June 27, 2017 at 11:21 am

      So you don’t like the National Geographic features performed by Sergei Gordeev?

      I learned something from each feature. They were good enough for me.

      FOX has to save the good features for World Cup 2018. The features FOX showed in 2017 are merely appetizers.

      • Eddie

        June 28, 2017 at 6:55 pm

        what the schedule for fox sports and telemundo on next year coverage of the 2018 world cup games on tv networks. i hope fox/fs1/fs2/fx(might join the coverage) and telemundo/nbcunverso to do better coverge of next year.

        • Oliver Tse

          June 28, 2017 at 7:42 pm

          Telemundo: 56 matches
          Universo: 8 matches (overflow matches during the final 4 days of the group stage)

          Don’t know yet how FOX will divide the matches, and whether FX or FS2 will be used as the overflow channel during the final 4 days of the group stage.

          • Eddie

            June 28, 2017 at 11:38 pm

            okay thank you for the schedule of telemundo and let me know about fox sports schedule for next year world cup asap

          • Eddie

            June 28, 2017 at 11:39 pm

            okay thank you for the schedule of telemundo and let me know about fox sports asap

          • Eddie

            June 28, 2017 at 11:42 pm

            okay thank you for the schedule and let me know asap of next year

            • Eddie

              June 28, 2017 at 11:46 pm

              my bad i accdently said by an accident and duplicate by comments

  9. Brendan Soraghan

    June 26, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    The coverage has been some what good .,.Ferando Floire is a clown . Alexis Lalas is clueless . Ian Wright has been good . I think the two Germains have been very good also Gus Hiddick very understanding of the game and the pressure it brings on coaches and his analyias has been spot on . Kate
    Abdoe always complaining about the weather or somebody insulting her .

  10. Oliver Tse

    June 26, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    FYI:

    Spanish naming convention.

    Jorge Pérez-Navarro is Mr. Pérez, not Mr. Navarro. Pérez is his father’s surname.

    I understand that FOX wants to have a Mexican in the booth for Mexico matches.

    I do NOT understand why Mariano Trujillo is NOT in the booth. Trujillo’s English is good enough.

    Trujillo is usually paired with John Laguna when they call matches in Spanish on FOX Deportes.

    John Laguna, another Mexican, has experience doing play-by-play in English when he called Mexican League matches on Friday nights on FOX Sports World during the network’s early days in 1998-1999.

    Laguna is unique among Mexican play-by-play announcers: he does NOT do the Latin long “goooooooooool” call. Instead, he does a short goal call, followed by the name of the goal scorer, following by the updated score of the match.

    One thing Telemundo Deportes announcer Andrés Cantor (the most famous soccer announcer in the U.S. regardless of language, because he was at Univision in 1994) is teaching his “students” (including Univision Deportes announcers Ramses Sandoval and Nicolas “Nico” Cantor) who are trying to transition from Spanish-language to English-language play-by-play is the following:

    Do NOT translate from Spanish to English in one’s head. The announcer must think in English in order to broadcast in English.

    Andrés Cantor was translating from Spanish to English in his head when he called Sydney 2000 Olympic matches on MSNBC and NBC. He was not good, and he understand how mediocre he was to teach his students NOT to do what he did:

    youtu.be/xFNKfD4w22I

    Jorge Pérez is making the same mistake Andrés Cantor made 17 years ago, by thinking in Spanish and translating into English:

    youtu.be/jjQvDdCATgA

    Ramses Sandoval made the same mistake two years ago when he started calling MLS in English for Univision Deportes Network. He has improved by switching to a new style resembling a “Latin John Strong”, complete with the latin long “goooooooooo” call, which he cannot execute consistently because he does NOT build up to it properly all the time.

    youtu.be/mugP_CN7Kqk

    I’ll have more on Nico Cantor in an upcoming Q & A article for World Soccer Talk. The interview I conducted with Nico before he left for Russia was fascinating.

    • Jay

      June 27, 2018 at 10:55 am

      Jorge is an arrogant clown..He argues and no statistics nothing..wasting time or insulting intelligence

  11. Joe

    June 26, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    I’ve been watching most of the games on Telemundo and I’m underwhelmed with their overall coverage. Fox has done a solid job, but as you mentioned, Fernando Fiore doesn’t add anything. He’s a complete joke and someone whose opinion has no value. From the moment he was hired, I personally thought it was a huge mistake and from looks and sound of it, it has! I understand the reason behind his hiring, but I don’t believe any Hispanic-American finds his commentary appealing. The truth is, he’s an embarrassment to Latino broadcasters. Especially to those trying to break into the English speaking market.

    • Oliver Tse

      June 27, 2017 at 6:55 am

      Telemundo Deportes is a work in progress ever since Mark Lazarus (President of NBC Sports Group) cleaned house by getting rid of Jorge Hidalgo, who basically allowed Telemundo Deportes products to go stale.

      Hidalgo’s long-time trusted host and lead anchor, Jessi Losada, departed shortly after Lazarus ousted Hidalgo. Losada was over 50 years old so Lazarus booted him out the door as well.

      The only ones left at Telemundo Deportes from Hidalgo’s original regime (which migrated from Univision in 2000-2001) are Andrés Cantor and new boss Eli Velazquez.

      Telemundo Deportes’ new hires have made the company look much younger and “hipper” as the company looks to target male viewers ages 18-34. Among the new hires include Honduran general assignment news/entertainment news reporter Ana Flores de Jurka, who was retrained into a sports anchor/studio host so that Telemundo Deportes can have its own version of “Rebecca Lowe”. Miguel Gurwitz was hired as the primary on-site anchor. Two former Mexican internationals, Manuel Sol and Carlos Hermosillo, were hired as match analysts/studio pundits. Reporter Frederik Oldenburg is another young talent.

    • Oliver Tse

      June 27, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      Fernando Fiore is an Argentine comedian.

      He serves 3 purposes:

      1. To set the tone for a night-time entertainment program with the soccer tournament as a theme. The show is supposed to be light on substance and heavy on comedy/laughter.

      2. To set up Alexi Lalas, Mariano Trujillo, Ian Wright, Jorge Perez, etc.

      3. To flirt harmlessly with Kate Abdo and Aly Wagner

  12. Peter Gutsche

    June 26, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    I would agree that Lothar Mattheüs was not a very good choice but I do feel that Arne Friedrich has done as well in his match analysis as Lalas or any of the other commentators. You are spot on with your assessment of Navarro and Jones, I will have to turn the sound off completely to watch Germany v Mexico

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