Sport on TV: French provide kiss of death but everyone's lips are sealed

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The Independent Online

It was always likely to be a night of passion in Paris. Sagna was sporting a dash of scarlet lipstick, Gourcuff had gone heavy on the eye-shadow, Henry just couldn't keep his hands to himself. Zidane and Barthez sat in the stands, nary a hair between them, the old goalie maybe whispering "Kiss my bald head" to bring the French luck. The brilliant successor to Zizou, Karim Benzema, was deemed too young to take part. He was only allowed to watch.

Raymond Domenech may be a hopeless coach but he's just the man for a torrid affair, as the World Cup Play-Off against the Republic of Ireland (Sky Sports 1, Wednesday) was to prove. He infuriated France by proposing to his wife in the post-match interview after his side were knocked out of Euro 2008 by Italy. And recently he was the subject of a song by a former porn actress, 'I fancy Raymond'. But in the end it was Ireland who got screwed.

Matt Holland was on hand to provide a dispassionate appraisal of proceedings. "What a fantastic, fantastic half an hour," he quipped after his old team scored first. "You can hear a pin drop – except for the thousands of Irish fans."

He was always available to drag back down to the emerald turf Rob Hawthorne's flights of fancy, such as "we'll see whether the French will be showered with garlands or showered with garlic" as the home side went in 1-0 down at half-time, or "more the Clouseau style of leadership than the De Gaulle style of leadership" regarding Domenech's tactics. If the Irish really want a replay they could just listen to Hawthorne.

You might have expected outrage in the studio but there was none of Jamie Redknapp's nonsensical blather or Graeme Souness's brooding malevolence; just Ronnie Whelan, wearily resigned to blaming the Irish yet again, and Alex McLeish, droning on about Scotland and injustice in the Premier League.

There were no post-match interviews. In Paris they were tongue-tied; on Sky they sat around like a clutch of ageing hookers discussing how all Frenchmen are love cheats.

* Who thought they would ever say "Thank goodness for Joe Bugner"? But the brutish British exile has given sports fans something to cheer about on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV1, Friday) while Jimmy White slumps in the background like some pale, sweaty smack addict.

The former heavyweight boxer still isn't pulling his punches, reportedly starting his tenure by saying that Aids had been invented by the CIA, a remark which was regarded as so offensive that it couldn't be broadcast. Then he said of the singer Sabrina's cuisine: "You don't cook chicken like that, it was shit." One waits with delicious anticipation to see what will happen when the Big Bug has to sit down to a plateful of spiders, grubs and kangaroo balls.

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