Football / World Cup USA '94: Wily Waddle's dextrous dribble dazzles amid the drivel: As coverage kicks off Jim White tunes to the TV pundits' star-spangled banter

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The Independent Online
WITH five minutes to go, Brian Moore had ceased all pretence of objectivity: 'Go on Jason, run at them' he yelled. 'Just hang on in there, lads' he pleaded and 'look inside every Ireland jersey and you'll find a hero' he suggested: though, frankly, look inside Pat Bonner's top - with its dayglo, acid-web motif - and you would have been more likely to encounter a large spider which had recently gorged on mushrooms.

But no wonder he was excited, this was the best World Cup start by our lads for years. True they were wearing green instead of the traditional white and blue (perhaps that was Italy's mistake, trotting out in England kit), but Mooro and his side-kick Ron Atkinson knew what was going on here. This was a triumph for an English manager ('I wonder if the linesman speaks Geordie') a team captained by 'Manchester-born Andy Townsend', won by a goal scored by 'Aston Villa's Ray Houghton'. Things had come a long way since the 1974 World Cup when the only thing to cheer was the nationality of the ref.

Certainly in the studio, Matt Lorenzo was revelling in the performance of England-by-proxy. He was apparently contractually obliged to call the team: 'Jack Charlton's Republic of Ireland'. The studio, he couldn't stop reminding us, was in America; just in case you may not have noticed, as it hardly looked a continent away from the studio in London the BBC were occupying, there was a little aide memoire on the wall behind Lorenzo's head: 'ITV Dallas' it said.

Not that it really mattered where they were. During non-playing periods, Ray Wilkins would just have time for a deft 'very much so' and carefully laid off 'he's done exceptionally well' before they were off on a commercial break and more pictures of Jack Charlton, this time up to his knees in a trout stream extolling the virtues of a holiday in Ireland.

The commercials knew their audience. They fell into three catagories: they told you what a wonderful place Ireland was; they told you that the only reason you weren't playing in the World Cup was because you weren't wearing the right football boot; or they were voiced by someone doing a bad John Motson impression.

Less thought had gone into the preparation of ITV's title sequence. Perhaps so as not to detract from the adverts around it, it was a melange of the unimaginative. Sound-tracked by Daryl Hall's official World Cup theme, a song which makes Tina Turner's 'Simply The Best' sound a model of lyrical restraint, and featuring the Stars and Stripes, an eagle and the flags of the competing nations, it was about as unpredictable and illuminating as Trevor Brooking.

The BBC's, on the other hand, was a delight. Making the appropriate switch from La Scala to Broadway, they had swapped 'Nessun Dorma' for West Side Story, and a dazzling sequence of American images, from architecture, through bucking broncos to bucking taxi cabs. To complement it, the Beeb had also unearthed a couple of unexpected match analysers. There was Liam Brady (an unusual beast, Brady: an Irish international with an Irish accent) and Chris Waddle, who achieved something of a first: he was chastised by John Motson for a laboured pun. During the American game, when the player Tom Dooley botched a shot, Waddle was in like flash with 'he'll be hanging down his head now'. 'I was wondering when someone was going to say that,' said Mottie, a note of disappointment in his voice as he mentally scrubbed that one from the repertoire he had prepared earlier. Though there might be a danger he could go over the top during penalty shoot-outs later in the competition, Waddle is my man to follow. The pity is, but for an unfortunate accident in his grandparents' birth, he could have been out there playing.

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