Harry Kane celebrates at Wembley after England's win over Czech Republic
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
For many of us, defaulting to the BBC at moments of national importance is the habit of a lifetime. Then Emma Hayes came along.
The Chelsea Women manager is not the only reason making ITV tempting for Sunday’s final, but her casual brilliance is emblematic of the station’s strong tournament.
Its host Mark Pougatch has an urgent and slightly chippy style. He is every inch the former BBC 5 Live man, prodding for the news angle, visibly annoyed about the time he’s losing to those pesky adverts.
He has the perfect blend with him: the withering fury of Roy Keane, the righteous delight of Ian Wright, the suddenly jovial Gary Neville. You may have been wondering which mic-wearer was responsible for peppering Wednesday’s post-game with an off-key singalong of Sweet Caroline. It was the same fella using a football match to unsubtly criticise the government. Truly Neville is a land of contrasts.
Hayes will bring her tactical insight and winning style to the relatively new bonus pitchside analysis role, with Ashley Cole keeping her company.
On the other side, Gary Lineker is in his dotage now, an undeniably endearing presence who has fully relaxed into the role. His pace of delivery is dropping a bit but you may prefer the more sedate style. You can guarantee he will be wearing a delightful suit.
Alongside him Alan Shearer continues to impress, ever sensible but with a growing glint in the eye. Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand complete what once would have been the ‘studio’ team, but now seems to be stationed on a floating platform between the first and second tiers at Wembley.
What a night. What a stadium. Come on England 🏴 you can do it 🙏🏻🙋🏼♂️ #ENGDEN #EURO2020 @wembleystadium pic.twitter.com/uqmDnIXDqP
— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) July 7, 2021
Female pundits seem to have finally earned the right not to be hounded by dolts on account of their gender this summer, so it seems strange that both channels go for all-male main teams for the final. The Beeb’s Alex Scott, like Hayes, will be in the pitchside role with Jurgen Klinsmann. Clearly a lovely bloke, rarely contributes anything enlightening.
But it’s on the gantry where the battle for your remote could be won and lost. Guy Mowbray has risen from an indistinct chasing pack to fill the post-Motson void for the BBC and is surely now the country’s pre-eminent commentary voice. Steady, weighty, good voice, knows when to pull back a touch.
Jermaine Jenas joins him, growing imperceptibly smoother with every passing year like a seaside stone, with all the charisma to match.
ITV pair Sam Matterface, who took his turn this week as football TV’s villain in chief, with Lee Dixon, sound of judgment, increasingly crotchety in outlook.
So what’s the best way to consume the final? This feels like a night for urgency, so it’s got to be ITV from 6.30pm. But like Gareth Southgate, we shouldn’t be afraid to change approach to suit the occasion.
The official verdict is this: ITV for the build-up, half time, and afterwards, BBC for the first and second halves. This gets you maximum Neville, Wright, Keane and Hayes but the pleasant company of Mowbray for the game.