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TV Review - Handing Out Awards For Best And Worst Punditry Of The 2018 World Cup

By Gavin Cooney
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Let's start with the good news, will we? Never again will your daily life be desecrated by Maroon 5:  the pitiful green screen; the disproportionate championing of child locks; the sheer stupefyingly beigeness of Adam Levine; the morbidly ironic song lyrics: never again will we have to sit through that ad.

But this morsel of good apart, at the moment we are all consumed by this deep and yawning darkness of there being No More World Cup.

As a coping mechanism, now that the regally named World Cup Trophy™ has been doled out, this column is going to luxuriate in looking back over the last month and had out some awards of our own.

(They are called the Take Each Game On Its Order Of Merits, but this is subject to change by the end of this article because that's the first thing that came into this column's weary head).

The Terry Venables' Entire Wikipedia Page Award For Depth of Eamon Dunphy Research - Saudi Arabia on the opening day 

Eamo did a remarkable level of research on the Saudis for the opening game against Russia, chucking friendly results and qualification results and friendly goalscoring records and qualification goalscoring records at us like they were going out of fashion. Heck, he even had Liam Brady's work done for him as well. "Eamon has told me about Saudi Arabia, they're a decent team", said Liam.

The Saudis lost 5-0.


The 'Naive' Award for most overused word by pundits - 'Compact' 

This column has watched so much of the World Cup, the punditry vernacular has bled into its own, to the point that we've started ordering 'compact' coffees. Enough.

The King Charles V of France Award for sustained attacks on England - Roy Keane 


We don't think that Keane is a good pundit in the traditional, add-to-your-understanding-of-the-game sense but it's difficult to think of anyone better suited to twisting the knife into England at the moment of their greatest dejection. We've rarely seen him so happy.

The Kenny Cunningham Award for best Apres Match impression - Peter Collins 

Kenny was sadly missing from the World Cup on RTE this time around, which meant we lost out on the tension that fills the studio when he's on with Dunphy and his lampooning by Apres Match. They did a fine Keith Andrews, but we still think their Peter Collins is their finest work.



The Colm Cooper Award for surprising and brief World Cup appearance on RTE - Hope Solo 

Remember that?

The Luka Modric Award for coolness under pressure - Darragh Maloney 


As a lightbulb blew in the studio and almost took Eamo out of his seat, Darragh barely flinched. A pro.

The Ian Rush Award for best geopolitical observation - Ronnie Whelan 

Watching Putin, the Saudi Crown Prince and Gianni Infantino shooting the breeze during the opening game, Ronnie gloriously referred to them as "the prawn sandwich brigade".

The Eamon De Valera Award for international neutrality - Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho did some punditry on RT, and the extent to which he filtered everything through his own self-interest neutralised any hopes he might promulgate a political message.Mourinho generally stood on a Moscow rooftop, hands in pockets, looking raffish, being deeply charming and engaging, refracting most of what he said through what best suited him: openly hoping that Serbia would get knocked out as "my man [Nemanja Matic] needs a holiday".

He hailed the underdog achievements of Iceland and Iran as what makes football "beautiful", while also separating himself from the Einsteins he has been so critical of in the past, using a discussion about Germany and Brazil's relative failures to distinguish his "profile as a pundit" to other pundits who "love blood". He openly wondered why Ivan Perisic didn't join United when he wanted to sign him, and praised Pogba's new "mature" role in the French team.

Even his prescient, Harry Redknapp-style dismissal of Willy Caballero - "Cabellero in goal, or myself, would be the same because I would save the same as Cabellero" - can't be seen outside of the fact Mourinho coaches Argentina's other 'keeper, Sergio Romero.

In these turbulent times upheaval and untruth, trust Jose to promote nothing and nobody but himself.

The Rule 42 Award for mingling of GAA with foreign games - Ger Canning 

"Remember Renato Sanches from the Euros? This time he didn't even make the panel".


The Jim Beglin Award for a dodgy pun - Stephen Alkin

"Our referee today is Mark Geiger, who is a Maths teacher. I guess this makes him a.....Geiger-Counter? [Long period of fist-gnawing silence from Jim Beglin, of all people] .....We shall see".

The Maroon 5 Award for overplayed ad - Shirley Bassey

Holy jaysus.

The Phil Neville Award for quintessential Phil Neville Gaffe award - Phil Neville

"All they're bothered about is winning and progressing through further than what they've ever done before" said Phil of Uruguay. That's two-time winners, Uruguay.

The Vladimir Putin Award for exploiting a bear for propaganda purposes - Sky Sports News

It is difficult to think of anything that has left a darker legacy on broadcast journalism than Paul The Psychic Octopus, as the search for a clairvoyant successor has become a weird kind of holy grail for television producers with a bit of time to fill during a major tournament.

The elusive search led Sky Sports News to a bears' enclosure at Whipsnade Zoo. Setting up two separate boxes of bait - one painted with a St George's Cross, the other with a Belgium flag - they unleashed three hungry bears (not lions?) called Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, with the box to which the bears flocked to supposedly portentous of the result to come.

What happened is exactly what you might expect: one bear gambolled directly for the England box, another went straight for the Belgian box while the third - and slowest - bear was left schlepping around in the middle, confused and presumably very hungry.

When it became clear that one of the bears was mauling the Belgium-branded box of bait, they narrowed the camera to a close up on the bear, proclaiming that the bears had indeed delivered for England at their hour of need; the magnificent, patriotic bears that they are.

The George Orwell Award for suspicions of the efficacy of metaphors or similies - Liam Brady

"Watching Mascherano versus Modric tonight was like watching...er.....a bad player against a very good player".

The RTE panel slagging off Noel King Award for mad post-game overreaction - Argentinan TV

One Argentine broadcaster staged a minute's silence after the psychodrama against Croatia.

The Nihilistically-Screaming-Noiselessly-Into-A-Void-At-It-All Award for blandness - Ryan Giggs

PRODUCER #1: "Who'll we put on the panel for this Iran game?"

PRODUCER #2 - "Give it Giggseh -


The Borussia Monchengladbach Award for name George Hamilton enjoyed pronouncing most - Lucas Hernandez

Herrrh-naaan-des. Beautiful.

The Eamon Dunphy tracing the trajectory of Frank Rijkaard's spit award for broadcasting innovation - Belgium's holograms


[Watch Video]

The Balls.ie TV Review Award for best World Cup coverage - RTE 

BBC was a painfully bland non-event, leaving RTE and ITV to wrestle for the crown. ITV made a late burst thanks to Roy Keane's pantomime, but their habit of arranging a panel of four men and twice as many ads ultimately undermined them. While RTE were missing that bit of madness that has marked their last few World Cups, overall their coverage edged it.

Tweet of the Tournament 

Thanks to everyone who read this column over the last month. We're off to lie in a pundit-exclusionary zone for a few months and lament the fact that the best title we could come up with for these awards is the Take Each Game On Its Order Of Merits. Goodbye. 

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