The Anglo-Italian encounter was a good chance to see how old and new measure up: Sportsnight's slimline highlights vs satellite's five-hour overkillathon. And my goodness me, it's certainly no coincidence that both channels end in a one, because it was very much a case, I fancy, of Sky Sports One 1, BBC1 1. That's one own goal each. Sky introduced the female singer of the Italian national anthem as Alessandro Bernardi, the stripping tenor from Clerkenwell who had in fact been vetoed by the Italian embassy the day before. And the BBC ripped up their own rulebook to let Ruud Gullit wear a top monogrammed with the letters RUUD. Accountants are still trying to work how much money Gullit's new fashion line saved in free advertising.
Afterwards, the England camp were keen to play down the calamity of defeat. As John Motson had reminded us at kick-off, there were still 13 matches to come in this group. ("One hopes that's not unlucky for England," he added. Which, ironically, appears to have been the case. Very much so.) The BBC have adopted a similar stance to England's: they may lose individual battles in the field of broadcasting rights, but there's still all to play for in the war. Which is, of course, a gigantic stack of ordure. The BBC have no more chance of winning this war than Italy do whenever they get involved in one.
Ah yes. Jingoism. Nationalists in the gantry are pretty tightly marked these days, so commentators bent on dissing Gianni Foreigner had to take the chances as and when they came. Motson got his attack on the Italians just before the final whistle, when they brought on a substitute to use up time. "A typical time-wasting tactic," he explained. "Continentals love to bring a sub on in the stoppage period." It was simple, bold strike, but Sky's Martin Tyler equalised almost immediately with the suggestion that some Italian fans might have failed the Tebbit test, which decrees that immigrants must support the new country rather that the old. "They'll go home happy," said Tyler after the final whistle. "Not too sure how far they'll have to go home."
In other areas of the contest it was pretty even, with a tough old tussle to see who could come up with the wildest mispronunciation of "Gianfranco Zola". Tyler located a caesura inside Zola's Christian name ("Jan Franco"), as if his parents had been thinking of John Franklin Kennedy. Motson opted for the more traditional cock-up: Gee Anfranco (cf the popular Irish opera Don Gee O'Varney).
At half time, both sides paused to take stock. The first half reminded Motson of "a sandwich: the outside parts were pretty solid, but the filling, well, that was really supplied by Gee Anfranco Zola." This was probably the metaphor of the night, and not something the Sky pundits were going to top. They were content to be simply worried. "I'm worried," said Ray Wilkins, who wasn't wearing a top monogrammed RAY. They have to wear dark suits on Sky, to convince a sceptical public that the channel takes its duties seriously. (Interesting, though, that its panel of experts have all recently made a pig's ear of management. What does this say about Sky?)
A South Bank Show (ITV, Sun) profile of Gilbert and George found England and Italy working in harmony. But where do the artists (or "artist", as Melv dubbed them) stand on the Tebbit test? Would Gilbert, the Italian one, have supported his country of origin or adopted homeland? And, in accordance with their system of mutual plagiarism, does George copy him? Or does he copy George? Whatever, they would have loved the entertainment at Wembley, because it was pissing down, and England were crap. The artist likes working with both those materials.Reuse content