I’m missing Martin Tyler’s World Cup commentary

The first World Cup that I blogged was France 98.

Arsenal had just won the double and Ian Grant and I were  on a high and Ian said,”Why don’t we keep the website going, do the World Cup?

I’d just gone online and found out what a website was. Before the end  of May, 1998 I had never seen a  website and knew nothing about the World Wide Web.

So it was an accident. It’s just happened. Myles went online on  the very day that the 32 coaches named their 22-man squads. I didn’t realise how many matches were coming up. But since  I always watch  the World Cup, and always talk about it, I said, “Why not? I’ll just type out what I say to my friends and stick  it up  on this new-fangled World Wide Web thing.”

As you probably know by now, Martin Tyler is one of my favourite football people. He is someone  I can learn from.


This is an  ANR flashback  :

During France 98, Martin Tyler  commentated on 21 games for SBS, an Australian network whose coverage also went to South Africa, Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Since Italia 90, Martin has covered five major tournaments for SBS.

After that World Cup he  talked  exclusively to Myles Palmer before going on holiday to Portugal with his wife Pauline and kids Adam, 10, and Jenny, 8. World Cups mean a lot to Martin, especially the 1982 tournament. That’s where he met Pauline, who worked for the travel company which took ITV  to Spain.  She was ITV’s interpreter in Bilbao.


It was better than USA in many ways. I was against 32 teams, but I have to say it they brought out a breadth to it, and made it a genuine sporting circus. It took it a little bit away from the football people, but gave it genuine global interest.

It’s become far less elitist. As a wholesome event, a force for good,   it was enhanced by having the 32 teams. Overall, the pluses of having 32 outweighed  the minuses.


I thought France hosted it magnificently. The whole technical side of the television was faultless,  they got the right plug in the right socket every time, the lines were through all the time. And when you think that all these games were going all round the world, it was superb.

I\’m not saying the way they covered it was perfect, they gave it their own idiosyncratic stamp. The replays were not editorially-driven, they were artistically-driven. That interfered a bit with the football. But nevertheless it produced some shots that you wouldn’t have seen replayed by a British director.

Again, it’s the broadening of the appeal. In the two days since I’ve been back I’ve met a number of people , especially women, who are nothing to do with football, who have watched it. It’s got to be judged in those terms.

I call it the greatest event on earth. It’s way surpassed the Olympics, nothing else lasts four and  half weeks. Although FIFA have said they will trim a bit off that.

There was too long between the first matches for each country. There was a desire to not have too many games on each day. Everybody went virtually a week between their first and second games. So they could have shaved a couple of days off that. And I’m sure they will for the next World Cup.


I don’t think the players and coaches felt that. They were protected from it a great deal because of the design of the competition. They weren’t stuck in one place   where they were hounded. They were stuck in one place with their matches elsewhere. They had base-camps which were very protected. And therefore they could be exposed as much or as little to the outside world as they wanted.


No, it reflected the characteristics of the individual person in charge of each team. You could have an open-handed coach of any nationality. Belgium had a very open policy in Casablanca when I was with   them there, but that was cut back.

I think the amount of media makes  that side of it almost impossible to do properly now. The clamour for time with these players, the risk of them being physically mobbed. To come up with a format which works, and make it open house, is very, very difficult.

Norway were very open house. Denmark, to an extent. I quite like the idea of  nobody being based in one area, so the fans can see lots of different teams at the stadiums.

I haven’t heard many complaints from the teams, who treated them all like away games. They had their bases and went   back to the same base every time.

England flew in in from Nantes, and it meant quite a late night after each game. That won’t happen next time because we know we’ll have four groups in South Korea, and four groups in Japan.


It was a complete shock. I like to think I\’m completely prepared for these games. I knew that Ronaldo had a bit of a knee problem all through the tournament. And he also hadn\’t trained in the   two days leading up to the day before the final.What he did on the last day hasn\’t been made public.

So I chased down and found some 500 Brazilians all open-mouthed and shocked. The shock wasn’t so much that Ronaldo wasn’t playing  – the shock was that they didn’t know that Ronaldo wasn’t playing.

The Brazilian journalists think they know everything before it happens, really. And they were absolutely stunned. They were all in little huddles, on the phone.

It was presented to us on a teamsheet that had Edmundo in, and Ronaldo as a substitute. Then the word came round came round that there was a mistake. We got another teamsheet.

Then, as the national anthems were playing,  a photocopied, hand-written release was given to all the commentators saying that Ronaldo been to hospital for a scan on an ankle ,and that he had only been cleared by the Brazilian doctors 45 minutes before the kick-off.

So we all went with that. And they didn’t come out for a warm-up, which was a big surprise. Then they played as if they hadn’t warmed up.


Ronaldo had done OK in the tournament because he’d scored four. And he’d made three goals, three killer passes. One against Morocco, two against Denmark, three terrific passes. He also hit the post  a couple of times against Chile.

By normal mortal standards he’d had a good World Cup. But not, obviously, by his own standards. And then what he did in the 90 minutes was a complete puzzle. If he was injured , why didn’t they take him off? They all played as though they were beaten before they started.


In seven games the only  time  Brazil kept a clean sheet was Morocco. They looked there for the taking in a number of games. I did five of their seven games. Scotland had spells of supremacy against them , and at 1-1 it could have gone either way.

Against Morocco, they scored at all the right times. Early in the first half, right on half time, and right at the start of the second half. So there was no room for Morocco to effect much contribution to that .Then they  lost to Norway. Strange circumstances, but they did lose, and it was a penalty. Subsequently, Swedish TV produced an angle on it.


Then  they played Chile, which was a game that fooled a lot of people. I like to think I wasn’t one of those. Chile  played well in the first half, then two free-kicks, one a piece of bad defending, and one a ricochet. Those two Cesar Sampaio goals, then the penalty right on half- time.

So Chile, who have contributed a lot to the first half, come in 3-0 down. We’re going out of the World Cup, we’ll have a go in the  second half, leave some gaps. And of course Brazil roar into the gaps and play with a bit of cavalier spirit. But that was against a team who were pushing on and taking risks. It was great to watch , but Chile played a great part in it.


Then Denmark, a goal down after two minutes, caught out by two quickly taken free -kicks. Even at  3-2 it wasn’t secure until the final whistle. And then, for 90 minutes, Holland were the better side. Extra time, I thought Brazil were the better side. In the end it you rather felt it caught up with them. Dunga, in the final, was fatigued.


The first thing I heard after the game was that Nike had ordered him to play. But they’ve made a very sensible statement. It doesn’t do them much good to have him play. They’ve got the whole  team. After all it’s much better for them to have the world champions than it is to have Ronaldo being part of it.

Brazil were unfortunate in that Edmundo, in his cameo appearance against Morocco, was absolutely awful. And he’s come on rather like a man who thought he was  in the team and wasn’t. Only Denilson played really what you might call normally  Brazilian free-wheeling style. He  threatened. But Thuram watched the ball. Zagallo got it right up to the final. I said at the start of the tournament I couldn’t tell you who would win it , but I didn’t think Brazil would retain it. Those words were haunting me up till 9 o’clock on the night. But I still stand by that as a   pre-tournament prophecy.


France had sailed through the easy half of the draw. They had a pretty easy group. A struggling Denmark, whom they beat with a reserve team. Denmark were very lucky to have the four points by then. Denmark could   have lost to South Africa, easily. And they were no better than Saudi Arabia in one of the worst games of the tournament.

And then, of course, other people went out the window. Spain disappeared., England disappeared, Germany disappeared.


One thing that worked well was Jacquet bringing in the third recuperateur, they call them, ball-winners. Putting Karembeu in there with Petit and Deschamps, that gave them a platform when it mattered and allowed the other three to play – Zidane, Djorkaeff and Guivarc’h, who actually played quite well, but his finishing was awful.


I commentated on some excellent performances in games where they’re would only be one winner. Like  Argentina 5 Jamaica 0.

And Holland 5 South Korea 0, where  Hiddink’s tactics were  absolutely spot-on. He changed the  team, put Cocu as a forward, shocked everybody, changed the balance in midfield. Said he would bring van Hooijdonk on. And he came on and scored. Everything Hiddink did that night worked.

I think Holland were the best team. England could have become the best team, but we can’t be sure of that. Holland played seven games, and of the four teams that played seven games, I thought they were the best. But they finished fourth of the four. They were the most invigorating team of those last four. The Dutch played the most open football, more so than Brazil. They lost the third place game  with about 70% possession.


I did Nigeria 1 Denmark 4. And enjoyed Denmark’s performance immensely. A cracking storyline   because Peter Moller had been saying quite publicly that he must get a chance. The others haven’t been scoring and he’s really got to get a chance.

A lot of players would never dream of saying that, but he said it. And  of course he scored within two minutes of getting his chance and seven or eight minutes later he took the free-kick and Rufai made a hash of , and Brian Laudrup got the second. I thought, Wow! That was somebody putting his money where  his mouth was.

Helveg has gone from Udinese to AC Milan for £6 million, and if you’d seen him in the first three games you wouldn’t think he was worth £60,000. In that game he was just wonderful, he gave a monumental performance. And Michael Laudrup decided he wanted another game. He had retired, not just from international football, but from football. And he certainly came to life.


It was fascinating looking at what African football could offer. Morocco were very good, I   thought. Ipkeba’s goal for Nigeria against Bulgaria was a  great move.That was one feature of the World Cup, some lovely passing goals. Started by Babayaro, actually. And then Kluivert’s goal from  Bergkamp’s little header into space was a super passing move.

THE adidas BALL?

The standard of goals was very high, with one exception, the long shots. The ball was a serious matter of debate.It took the swerve out of Roberto Carlos. He said that after the first training session before the tournament game.I used that line in the Scotland game. And then in the final he came head to head with Barthez, whom he’d bamboozled in Lyons the year before with a different ball. Did we have a 30-yarder bulging the top corner? I don’t think we did.To get the ball wrong in the World Cup is unforgivable.


For players who’ve been  involved in a war, winning a football battle is a piece of cake. I’d say two things about Croatia. One, they were so brave, and made the most of their ability, and their will to win was tremendous. And, in their first World Cup, to finish third is a fantastic achievement. But I did think that, by some distance, they were the most cynical team, and provocative at times.


I was at the press conference where Pele said the refereeing was the low-point of the tournament. I thought a lot of the refereeing was extremely good. Given that the authorities decide to re-educate them before the tournament, and then during the tournament, had a hit at them for not applying it.

The main issue was that we all applaud anything that makes it easier for the creative player. But in return for that we can’t allow creative players to cheat and dive and sprawl around and play for fouls that are not there.

One of the things that came over to me was that the standard of ethical behaviour by English journalists, and English footballers, is not in keeping with the way other countries look at the game.

Which is : anything you can get away with is fine because you got away with it. I don’t subscribe to that view. I never will. The moral code is something we’ve gotta keep tabs on.

Ortega dives, the referee gives  him a yellow card, Van der Sar comes and provokes him, Ortega gets sent off, Van der Sar gets no punishment whatsoever, and Holland win the game.

I thought the standard of refereeing was good. The fitness levels were extremely good, and the decision-making in very difficult circumstances, was OK.


The one game that stuck in my mind was the semi-final. The guy from the United Arab Emirates had clearly made   up his mind that he wasn’t gonna be fooled by anybody diving. So that quite a high proportion of genuine fouls went unpunished. But he was totally consistent from the first whistle.   I don’t have a problem with that. Because I really think the referees have to be true to themselves.


As a commentator of long standing, I feel that a lot of these replays should be shown in normal speed.I do think the slow-motion makes certain incidents look far worse than they are. As if it’s aimed, when it’s just accidental.At some point it would be great to see all these incidents at normal speeds from different angles.

When you see something first up, your reaction is often : That wasn’t a foul! Where replays are extremely good in slow-motion is telling you where the first point of the foul occurred, edge of the area decisions. Every decision that I saw – on the edge of the area/was it a penalty?   – was absolutely right, in the whole tournament. I thought there  was some brilliant  judgement in that.

Was the ball over the line? OK. Was contact made on the ball before the man? OK. But actual moments of contact, I find them quite hard to judge on replays.It would be better if we saw them at normal speed.


I expected it to be blighted by refereeing. We had more games than ever before, and more red cards than ever before, but there weren’t too many bad decisions. Desailly, as soon as he did it, he knew. It was so stupid. It was like Schmeichel getting injured in the Arsenal game, 80 yards from goal. Desailly, the best defender for many, and certainly the best centreback for everybody in the World Cup, there he is ten yards over the halfway line making a challenge that’s totally unnecessary.Players have got to learn.


I don’t condone Bilic, but Blanc swung round with his other arm. He didn’t use his arm by that side to push him away. He swung round an arm. Alright, it was a push, not a punch.

The shirt-pulling has got to stop. That will be the next crusade. Heinrich I will see on August 1st because he’s just joined Fiorentina, and he’s playing in this tournament I’m doing in Middlesbrough. If I get the chance to speak to him about it, I will. To me, how could he have thought he wouldn’t give a penalty away?


The worst game, for lack of sportsmanship, was Germany-Croatia, without a shadow of a doubt. Once the   German had quite rightly been sent off they tried every which way to do a balancing act ,and get one of the Croatians sent off.

I thought it was a very very significant story in world football because it shows again the problems in the German game now. In a World Cup that wasn’t cynical, that was the most cynical match. It stood out, among 64 games, as an unseemly affair.


The older you get, the more  players have to compromise at that level.What upset me even more was that some of the younger players were at it as well. And I don’t think there’s any excuse for that. German football has a big problem, they don’t have any young players coming through.

It’s very good management that they’ve kept Berti Vogts, and he can only work with what he’s given. Too much success has bred complacency. Not in the Federation. Maybe in the clubs, maybe in the young players. I was told by a German that even in the schools   the game is not as popular as it was.

But they still got further than us.They’ve got  great heart, tremendous spirit, but they could easily have lost to Yugoslavia. They could easily have lost to Mexico. They were another one, a bit like Brazil, where you thought,  they’re gonna get rumbled.But they were getting   better all the time, like Argentina.


Veron was one my favourite players. And I would put Petit in that category. He stepped up a level. He stepped up from being somebody who needed his life re-arranged.

I don’t know whether you know this, but four of the eleven who played for France in the final had lost brothers in the previous ten years. A lot of soul-searching had gone on.

Thuram lost a brother, I’m not quite sure how. Petit’s brother died playing football, had a health problem. Desailly’s brother was killed   in a car crash. And Deschamps’s brother in a plane crash.

They\’re very hard lines to put into commentary , but I did use it. Saying that there is even extra motivation, with thoughts of those who are not here to watch.


Petit felt the injustice of life, really. And he got himself back together. He put his game back together at Arsenal in fantastically successful  circumstances. And he wasn’t expected to be in the French team.
He wasn’t expected to be in the French squad. His tournament included that moment of sportsmanship against Italy which got him proper recognition,  although his teammates bollocked him for it. To score twice, which was as many as he scored for Arsenal all season.

To beat Schmeichel. I made a point in the commentary saying : it’s not Manchester United’s year, they’ve  lost another goal to Arsenal. Somebody  went to Schmeichel and put it to him, rather foolishly.He wasn’t best pleased !

Then to score in the final. Made by Vieira, scored by Petit. It was the best pass I’ve ever seen Patrick play ! When the pass left his foot my instincts didn’t tell me : goal! But it was like a  Zidane pass,  a lovely, lovely pass. To score the only goal from open play in the Finals in the 1990s. One penalty, Andy Brehme, a penalty shoot-out, two corners – and Petit !


France did all that could   be asked of them. I’d personally commentated on three losing finals featuring Zidane : Bordeaux-Bayern Munich, Juventus-Dortmund and Juventus-Real Madrid in three successive seasons. None of which he did himself justice  in. The ultimate choker in club football, if you like. All this had been put to him during the week and he said : Oh, don’t worry, this is international football,  it’ll be different. He also said : All I want from this World Cup now is a goal.


I thought he got all the preparation right. The base in La Baule was beautiful in its design,   ideal for what England needed. I haven’t had any discussions with him about this, but I took the line about tournament play and qualifying play from his earlier statements. I think   he was right in that .

He named an unchanged team for the first time in his management when he named the team for the Argentina game. He got that right. Where he didn’t get it right was that every player in the squad should be taking penalties when you go into the knockout phase.That is part of preparing for a game where  penalties are the rules. So I was disappointed to hear that line, “We don\’t know who is going to be on the field.”


I had a great feeling of emptiness that we never found out how good we were.There was a good groundswell that England, playing like they did against Colombia, and with eleven men against Argentina, could have won the World Cup.

Amongst other media people from other countries. I certainly felt that, had we won that game , we would have been in the last eight with every bit as good a chance as anybody else of winning the World Cup. I really mean that.


Batistuta was taken off against us, when Argentina  had eleven against ten. Argentina play very narrow. The only way to really exploit playing eleven against ten is to go wide and make people work that much harder.

Argentina were the worst team in the world to try and get wide. If you had drawn lines connecting the corners of the penalty areas and played the World Cup in that pitch, Argentina would have won it.

Their wide players  both wanted to play infield, especially Simeone. Zanetti wants to play centre midfield.

If I had to take a young player out of that World Cup, Michael Owen would be the first one. Veron would certainly be in the top three. I hadn’t seen him play in the flesh before, and I was very impressed.


The bottom line is that the World Cup has been watched by record television audiences all over the world. Japan, I was told, Australia  I can confirm, South Korea, record viewing, France, record viewing. Apart from the  United States, the impact of this tournament has been phenomenal.

You and I have our chats, and we both share a fantastic depth of feeling for the  game, but this has now taken it beyond the sort of people we are. It’s almost to the point where the World Cup isn’t for people like you and me, but it is for everybody else. We will enjoy it anyway, but we can’t look at it as an isolated entity, maybe as we used to. It fits perfectly into the  global village, and it creates a new kind  of overview and a new kind of involvement. It won’t stand the test of time for all football. It won’t bring   people who watch the World Cup and nothing else that much closer to the game, because there’s something about the cachet of a World Cup.

The world has been brought together over the last four and a half weeks, and football has been the glue. And , goodness me, the world needs bringing together. And that\’s another feather in the   cap of the game that we stand up for, come hell or high water.


Some of the tweaking now is being done by the right  sort of people. Michael Platini’s contribution  has been enormous. They are trying to make football work. They are trying to give football back to the footballers. That was Blatter’s election ticket. Johansson was on the same beat. If the footballers have it, there’s a good chance   the right sort of decisions will be made.


The one thing I would like  to see, having experienced the atmosphere at 25 of the matches, is that once it reaches Group stage, the tickets are sold as if the matches are being played in those countries.

Let\’s take a fixture that we had, England -Tunisia. The moment the ground is known, you section off the ground and you say to the Football Association : You can either take 3000, 5000, 7000, 10,000, 15,000 or 20,000 tickets. And the FA says : Right, we can sell 10,000.

And if they sell out and more people want tickets, you can’t have a go at FIFA. And then you sell the rest. And if you do that you’re not gonna and end up with Japanese and South Korean fans getting nothing.

And the prices should be adjusted to take into account the profit that the World Cup makes. And then you get the right people. And you’ve got six months.

In six months you can vet every person. You can put their own name on the ticket. You can can have their passport photo on the ticket.You won’t get in if you haven’t got your passport photo on your ticket.

You could put their fingerprints on the tickets which could be read at the turnstile. All sorts of things. That\’s hard to do, it takes a bit of detail,but it gets the right people to the games.


The tournament was a bit long. The shirt-pulling. The penalty shoot-outs.  The positives were some of the best fellowship between nations who would never ever be in each other’s company, that I’ve ever seen. Happiness.

To see Japanese chanting for 90 minutes was great. When they went to the first Toyota Cup 20 years ago, the first World Club Championship, they didn’t know when to clap.They’ll be OK in 2002.


I didn’t  care, to be honest. At that stage, it was the most wonderful match to be at. I’ve only had one other experience in my life like that and I wasn’t actually at the game, but I  commentated on it. One of our Copa America coverages between Brazil and Argentina, which also went to 2-2 and had a player sent off. It was just the most wonderful, wonderful half of football. All my judgements were rather coloured by the disappointment of what happened after Beckham was sent off.


It’s a serious issue that the game should  address. If  a player gets a second yellow card, he should be substituted. You should  only go down to ten men if you’ve used your three substitutes. But he still gets exactly the same punishment after the game.  So you don’t get eleven against ten on such a regular basis. If it’s a straight red card, fair enough.


England certainly left us wanting more. Glenn had said all along that tournament football and qualifying football are different. And he’d got into his tournament team, some people said here, too late. But he was still playing qualifying football in the group stage of the World Cup. Because you’ve gotta qualify for the knock-out phase.


We were keeping clean sheets, but we were giving away chances. The one that sticks in my mind was Portugal. Michael Owen should have had a penalty, Adams had that goal disallowed. I spoke to an England player after  the game, who must remain nameless. I said  : It could have been five, and he said : You mean to them? It was a smiling remark, but it was a recognition of the chances that Portugal had. Glenn called it lack of concentration, and it is to an extent.


But also, it’s a different type of football. These intricate give-and-gos around the penalty area, are something that our players don’t do. We defend further up the pitch, normally. So we’re not quite as good at dealing with those wall passes.

Of the goals that were scored, clearly, the first Romanian goal was very poor defending from a throw-in. It was a very bad goal.

The second goal, I’d give Dan Petrescu an awful lot of credit. But it’s to our discredit that we knew the player, and we should have been prepared for it. He made a run right across the front of the goal.You see players of Petrescu’s type getting into positions on their side of the pitch, but he’s got into a scoring position on the other side . It’s easy to criticise the defending, but it was a terrific piece of play from Petrescu.


The Argentinian goals?   I thought it was a penalty, by the modern legislation. Simeone got the ball and let Seaman connect with him. It was clever play from Simeone within the laws of the game. The referee was right to   give a penalty.

Second goal, a fantastic free-kick from Argentina’s point of view, sloppy from us. And that was it. That was the goal that actually cost us a place in the quarter final. But the Zanetti goal was  as exciting a goal as Michael Owen’s goal was moments before.

It was just a wonderful half. I said something like, “Saint Etienne is throbbing at the end of the first half. We’ve got to draw breath, half-time,   2-2.” It’s because football can be so exciting that we all wait for the time it is.


Personally, he’ll have no problem at all. Alan is somebody who wants to be in a successful team. Alan Shearer does’t need to be the star man in a team. He wants to be in a winning team and do his job. If he plays, he’ll score some goals.

England in his time have had other players who have done what Michael Owen is doing. Ian Wright certainly had a spell where he looked as if he could do that. If you go back to before Shearer did his knee, to ’92. We demolished Turkey at Wembley when Wright and Shearer played really well together. I don’t think there’s any problem at all with Shearer and Owen.If you play as a forward , you want your team to be scoring goals. You know that if you make chances you’re gonna get some of them.

It’s when the team never makes a chance that you struggle. Alan played  plenty of games for Newcastle this season when there weren’t many chances made. Now he’s with a player who’ll take markers away from him.