RTE teased their World Cup coverage with a classical montage framed by a giddy Eamon Dunphy sitting in the Stella Theatre in Rathmines, explaining the Russian word 'toska' as meaning a "deep yearning for something lucid, perhaps unattainable".
Another Russian word which has no direct English translation is бытие. It's pronounced bwi-tee-ye and its closest meaning in English is a kind of hyper-consciousness or an objective and analytical mindset.
Safe to say that RTE weren't going to allow Eamo to lead with that.
Dunphy was disparaging about Russia in the build-up to today's opener against Saudi Arabia, saying that he fancied to Saudis to get at least a draw while forecasting the tournament could become a "bit of a train-wreck" for the hosts.
Russia obviously won 5-0.
Dunphy: always yearning; never learning. But given he is flirting with calling the next edition of his memoirs Wrong About Everything, this column doubts he is too bothered about that.
Many of us measure our lives in World Cups, and RTE's opening montage stirred the mind as it told us that "memories are the architecture of our identity" as it relentlessly hurled colour-drenched images of past World Cups at us. Most evocative of the passing of time, however, was the first shot of the studio: a first World Cup without Bill.
Tradition has dictated that the first-choice panel get the opening game on RTE, so it seems that Damien Duff has been anointed John Giles' successor alongside the extant amigos. Amid Dunphy's plaintive cries for the hosts, Duffer said he wanted Russia to go deep into the tournament as he hoped it "might keep the hooligans at bay". Elsewhere, Eamo had done his deepest level of research for a broadcast since his iconic journey through Terry Venables' Wikipedia page, 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.
By half-time, it was clear that analysis did not extend to their central defenders, who looked like a bunch of reserves comically slipping and slaloming on an oil spill. Dunphy, however, being the Saudi optimist that we didn't realise he was, put together a package entitled 'Good Saudi Play', in which they played the ball among each other sideways and backward. "I wish to God Ireland played that way" came the plaintive summary.
By full-time it was 5-0 and Eamo's Saudi optimism was tested further, but he responded with a kind of bromide barrage. "I feel a great sympathy for them"; "They have no reason to feel be ashamed"; "By our standards, they are a non-league team but they are not non-league for effort".
Duffer, meanwhile, executed his classic move of saying he didn't mean to do something before doing exactly that. "I don't mean to put a dampener on it straight away" glumly declared the great man as he perfectly recreated the sage Giles lean forward, explaining that the Russians are, in fact, no great shakes. The highlight of his evidence was his description of Yuri Zhirkov (so old and haggard now as to be a ringer for erstwhile Secretary of State John Kerry) hasn't a "defensive bone in his body".
ITV meanwhile, introduced their two most expensive toys for this tournament: an enormous, muralled studio in Red Square and Gary Neville.
Neville introduced himself to free-to-air TV as he might to a nippy left-winger: by going in studs-up on the first fiasco he laid eyes on.
Maybe he knew he wouldn't get away with it. Big clubs tend to pay lip-service to the relationship between club and country. But there isn't really a relationship between big clubs and their national teams. When push comes to shove the big clubs will look after themselves and they won't care what the national team wants.
This is another example of that. The reality is that the clubs pay wages and they feel that they are the most powerful.
The Spanish Association have done the right thing. It's about time Associations stand up to what is a form of bullying.
More timid was ITV's opening, as Mark Pougatch wearily admitted that they "had to talk" about the context in which the football was taking place. For this he turned to noted geopolitical commentator Lee Dixon.
Dixon spoke for 29 seconds and told us that Russia "definitely needed a good tournament" while "everyone was aware of the political situation and what's going on". If you didn't know what's going on, Lee Dixon wasn't going to tell you.
Over on RTE, however, Eamo found his form. "It is a repulsive regime, and it is unacceptable".
Dunphy is wrong about a lot of things, but he occasionally speaks more truth than anyone else.
- George Hamilton, a man who may commentate on Champions League games purely for the opportunity to say Handel, was forced by Robbie Williams to stoop to lousy popular culture with a 'Take That, Moscow!' at the end of Williams' serenade.
- Has Robbie Williams morphed into Morrissey?
- Today's referee was once an actor, per George Hamilton's Department Of Colourful Background On The Match Officials.
- Ronnie Whelan describing Vladimir Putin, Gianni Infantino and the Saudi Crown Prince as "the prawn sandwich brigade" a highlight of the opening day.
- A difficult start for Clive Tyldesley on ITV - having used his opening words to say the World Cup is taking place over four different time zones, he managed to get the time in Moscow wrong.
- Flippin' hell, that RTE montage.
- Putin's cheer was the loudest reception for a leader this column has heard since Leo Varadkar appeared on the big screen during Leinster/Exeter last December.
- Gianni Infantino's phrase that "football will conquer the world" was a bit...unsettling.
- Also, in the absence of Pitbull, it is nice to see that FIFA have elected a leader who looks just like him.
- Disappointed but not surprised to hear Williams swerve his song Party Like A Russian, which features the line "ain't no refutin' or disputin' - I'm a modern Rasputin'.
- Robbie Williams wasn't the only bit of nostalgia of the day: ITV have reassembled the Tactics Truck and repurposed it as the 'Analysis Truck', and they've locked Mark Clattenburg inside.
- Apres Match rating - 5/10. (Also, they got a surprising shout-out from George).
- Also, did Hamilton really say that 'Saudi Arabia are fucked'?
Tweets of the Day
— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 14, 2018
Excited for the World Cup opener between Russia and Saudi Arabia. It's a crucial game; the winner gets to run U.S. foreign policy.
— Adam Serwer🍝 (@AdamSerwer) June 14, 2018
Those two microphones look like a bra Madonna might’ve worn on stage circa 1993. pic.twitter.com/tWwzrekbhl
— Tim Stillman (@Stillberto) June 14, 2018