South Africa 2010: Probably the best quotes in the world

Tongue-twisters, memorable muck-ups and a few more Colemanballs (that's Chris, not David). Phil Shaw picks his favourites

"The BBC is considering a red-button version of the World Cup without the constant annoying drone – or just stop employing Mick McCarthy."

Look Away Now, Radio 4 comedy

There was a surreal moment during the BBC coverage of Spain's semi-final triumph over Germany. Mark Lawrenson, with the air of someone suddenly finding an acquaintance looking poorly or perplexed, asked commentator Guy Mowbray: "You all right?" "Fine," came the terse reply, followed by a pregnant pause. "Thanks for asking."

Viewers have grown accustomed to the duo's peculiar chemistry. Lawrenson responded to Mowbray's remark about Joan Capdevila being the only Spain player not from Barcelona or Real Madrid by suggesting the full-back was not good enough to play for either. "You can say that," Mowbray retorted. "Just did," snapped Lawrenson.

The contrast with ITV's semi-final was stark, Holland's defeat of Uruguay proving a throwback in more ways than one. It not only produced a first World Cup final appearance in 32 years for the Oranje. It was also a return to the days when Messrs Coleman and Wolstenholme flew solo without a pundit.

Illness had confined Jim Beglin to his bed, leaving Clive Tyldesley to soldier on alone. The absence of a second opinion found Tyldesley struggling to answer his own questions and highlighted the extent to which, for the armchair audience, the tournament has developed a narrative driven largely by the "expert" ex-players.

Tonight, after a month of widespread stereotyping – South Americans are "temperamental", Africans "naive" – we await a final brimming with European discipline, resilience and tactical awareness. And the most articulate and perceptive critics, unless the BBC has flown Roy Hodgson back for the occasion, will be foreign guests such as Clarence Seedorf and Jürgen Klinsmann.

Alan Shearer has hardly progressed beyond the "he'll be disappointed with that" verdicts and knee-jerk typecasting. His apparent reluctance to do the basic research which such a journalistic brief (and handsome remuneration) requires is inexcusable. "Our knowledge of these teams is limited," Shearer declared before Slovenia versus Algeria. He was not alone in parading his ignorance.

The outstanding pundits were two lucid Scots, Craig Burley and Pat Nevin, with John Murray, Simon Brotherton, Steve Wilson and Jon Champion the pick of the commentators. They did not strain for lame humour, unlike "Lawro" and Mowbray. Two bizarre examples. Mowbray: "Stuart Pearce is up and down a lot." Lawrenson: "He's got worms." Mowbray: "It was a tap on the ankle." Lawrenson: "Shoulda bin a plumber."

Here are our top 25 memorable quotes from the past month:

'Pele said an African team would win the World Cup before 2000 – I think it's going to be longer'

Alan Shearer on Ghana's quarter-final exit

'Sven Goran Eriksson tinkers with the Ivories'

Peter Drury as Eriksson made a substitution

'The England players didn't like him (Eriksson). He started to pull their birds'

Eamon Dunphy

'You can literally see what the players are thinking'

Ally McCoist

'If England do get through it looks like they will play Germany or Siberia'

Mike Parry on TalkSport

'When Diaby opens his legs he's quite a handful'

Craig Burley

'There's a real lack of inexperience in the South African team'

Steve McManaman

'Vidic got raped by – sorry, got taken apart by – Torres in that one game at Old Trafford'

Graeme Souness

'If Gerrard plays on the left we may as well pack up and go home'

Lee Dixon after "sources" assured him (incorrectly) England's captain would play in the centre

'The Eyeties don't have it'

Paul Ince, formerly of Internazionale, assesses Italy

'Too much too late'

Gareth Southgate after late Italian pressure failed against Slovakia.

'And so we say au revoir to Italy'

David Pleat

'One-nil is never a lead'

Efan Ekoku

'He hasn't had a kick, except for two headers'

Robbie Savage

'I wish somebody would elbow someone. It'd give us something to talk about'

Mick McCarthy on Brazil v Portugal, which ended 0-0

'Cometh the man, cometh the hour, as they say'

Chris Coleman

'It was a toughicult match for Upson to come into'

Alan Shearer

'It could be a problem for Germany if Schwarzsteiner isn't fit'

Denis Irwin on Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger

'The South Koreans threw the kitchen sink at them, or whatever the Korean equivalent of the kitchen sink is'

Adrian Chiles

'He is not the flavour of a lot of people's eye'

Craig Burley on Franck Ribéry

'You cannot have Guatemalan referees at a World Cup. Name me a club in Guatemala'

Robbie Savage again

'Ghana would love a goal to put the icing on the cake they already seem to be eating'

Martin Tyler

'The altitude must have dropped or something'

Ronnie Whelan after Europe saw off the South American challenge

'This match is like reading a book. You know what's going to happen'

Edgar Davids casts a fashionably bespectacled eye over Denmark against Holland

'Today it's the big one – Holland against The Netherlands'

Paddy McKenna, RTE 2fm presenter

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