Brian Viner's Armchair View: Now it's clear we really do know more than Sven

'In the good old days there was always Jimmy Hill to disagree with'
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The Independent Online

As the credits rolled on EastEnders, the BBC's continuity man said perkily that it was time for "the boys to show us what they've got". What the boys had was Sven Goran Eriksson in charge, which no longer gives much cause for optimism.

One of the pluses for Eriksson in the match against Sweden was the performance of Owen Hargreaves in the holding role, said Gary Lineker, "so naturally he switched him to right-back". Nobody laughed. We all used to think that Sven knew something we didn't. Now we're pretty sure it's the other way round.

Before the match, Alan Ball was interviewed by Ray Stubbs. The 1966 World Cup winner was worried about Wayne Rooney being played as a lone striker.

"I'd always play my best player where he's happy," he squeaked. It sounded like good sense. But when Bally, a man whose managerial record evokes a multiple vehicle pile-up, comes across like a combination of Sir Alf Ramsey and Arsène Wenger, it's time for all of us to worry.

The worry was compounded in the 11th minute when Paul Robinson, the one man in the England camp as indecisive as the manager, was saved, not for the first time in this tournament, by his crossbar.

Up in the commentary box, John Motson sounded worried, too. We could tell because his trademark chuckle had gone missing. Motty rarely gets as far as the 10th minute without unleashing a "hah", if not a "hah hah", but not even he could find a reason to chuckle. Maybe his chuckle had wilted in the heat. It was 36 degrees in the box, he told us. And that's hot when you're wearing an ankle-length sheepskin coat. Or maybe Motty was cross because Adrian Chiles, in his splendid little pre-match travelogue, had unearthed some facts about Ecuador that Motty hadn't. It's where Panama hats come from, apparently. Not forgetting Christina Aguilera's father, although Christina tries to. They don't get on.

In the BBC studio, everyone gets on. I never thought I'd miss Peter Schmeichel, but at least there was a bit of history between him and Ian Wright, whose mutual loathing on the field must surely have continued to simmer on the sofa. And in the good old days there was always Jimmy Hill for everyone to disagree with. Now, there's too much cheerful consensus for my liking. Moreover, Alan Shearer doesn't bring as much to the party as he should. All those years of stating the bleeding obvious in post-match interviews have rubbed off.

The second half started brightly, not least in the commentary box, where Motty's chuckle finally got an airing after 54 minutes, 52 seconds. "The two players warming up ... hah, no need to warm up in this weather," he said.

Not long afterwards, normal service was resumed on the pitch, too, the England captain scoring with a trademark free-kick. Thoughtfully, the host broadcaster provided a shot of Mrs Beckham celebrating in the crowd and even a slow-motion action replay, the better to enjoy the swing of her ear-rings.

The same replay facility was mercifully not extended to the spectacle of her husband vomiting, although if it had, I have no doubt that he would have found a way to capitalise. Beckham-endorsed tablets to settle the stomach? Coming soon to a pharmacist near you.

Afterwards, Lineker tried half-heartedly to drum up some support for Eriksson's brilliant game plan. Wrighty was having none of it, and nor was Bally. Still, as Shearer so perspicaciously pointed out, England are now in the quarter-finals.

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