26 June 2008

Viennese faults

Like the rest of the football-watching world, my enjoyment of the Euro 2008 semi-final last night was rudely interrupted by an Austrian storm which did for the power supply to the broadcast nerve centre and removed all trace of the pictures and commentary. Though the game was in Basle, the nerve centre was in Vienna and all the television feeds came through from there.

Fair play to the BBC then for quickly adding the Five Live commentary to the 'apology' still which they'd been forced to place on our screens.

Eventually we got a compromise job - the pictures returned but Messrs Green and Waddle maintained the commentary, although a glitch with the satellite speed meant that the commentary slightly pre-empted the pictures, which was disconcerting.

Then in the 87th minute, Messrs Motson and Lawrenson returned. Frankly, I'd have preferred it if they'd kept the radio chaps on. The BBC have an option for you to select the Five Live commentary (or no commentary at all) instead of the telly commentary via the red button but they never greatly publicise this fact.

I'd be interested to know if they can measure just how many people choose to watch the game without the designated telly commentators, especially when Motson and Lawrenson - last night's pairing - are on duty, given their status at the moment as the most heavily criticised duo. Both get it in the neck when together or working with someone else - the line is that Lawrenson is a dreary joke purveyor with little real insight and Motson's started to lose his old knack for saying the right things at the right time.

Either of them ahead of Clive Tyldesley and David Pleat though.

I felt sorry for Motson towards the end, as he kept apologising for the lack of pictures even though they'd returned. Someone with their fingers on the talkback button was not doing their job properly.

The game - what we saw of it - was entertaining, symptomatic of the football on offer throughout the tournament, which I've really enjoyed. The lack of England and the inevitable emotional outpourings closely followed by bitter defeat has made it easy to observe properly the football on show. An entertaining match doesn't necessarily equate to a technically high-value game (some of the performances from individuals have been embarrassing) but ultimately sport remains an entertainment and that's what we're getting.

A pal of mine, who happens to double up as one of the top football writers in the country, told me yesterday that the lack of England means that even the hacks have been able to watch football at the competition - which is their job, really - rather then revolve every single event round England's next game or some guff spouted by Wayne Rooney at the press conference. I'd go along with that.

Spain v Russia tonight. Spain should win it, but Hiddink is a genius, so I can't call it and don't really feel any urge to. Just make it another good one, and if the electrical storms return, don't be afraid to leave Mike Ingham and Graham Taylor on...

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