World Cup 2006 Blog

From our reporters in Germany

Nobody knows anything

paul_armstrong_55x55.gifBERLIN – I was going to call this pre-final blog “Some people are on the pitch” in homage to Kenneth Wolstenholme’s immortal commentary.

In the end, I shied away from any reference to anything to do with England, for fear of any more accusations of unwarranted nationalism.

Instead, I thought I’d quote Martin O’Neill quoting the screenwriter William Goldman at the end of last night’s 3rd place play-off show...

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Peace, love and understanding

paul_armstrong_55x55.gifBERLIN - If you ever needed proof that the World Cup inspires passion and divides opinion, you should read some of the responses to my last blog!

All I did was defend our coverage of France v Portugal. As ever, most of the responses are well-argued and the feedback is of great interest to us as programme-makers. However, a few of the respondents – and seemingly some members of the wider public – would do well to remembers John Arlott’s observation that “some people take sport too seriously, and life too lightly”.

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You dive me crazy

paul_armstrong_55x55.gifWe’ve had complaints from one or two quarters claiming that our coverage of Wednesday’s semi was influenced by sour grapes towards Portugal for having beaten England.

If that was the case, we’d be permanently sour during the latter stages of every tournament. There was no antipathy from us towards Brazil in 2002, nor Portugal in 2000 or 2004 for that matter.

Our pundits and production team first took issue with Portugal in this tournament following that horrible game with Holland, several days prior to the Rooney/Ronaldo shenanigans...

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Frings really have changed

paul_armstrong_55x55.gifBERLIN - Bear with this blog: I’m eventually going to agree with my fellow blogger Paul Atherton who has audaciously adopted the host nation for the remainder of the tournament.

Eventually. But first, as that well-known goalkeeper and part-time existentialist, Albert Camus once wrote: “All I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football.”

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Brandenburg Blues

paul_armstrong_55x55.gif BERLIN - As I’ve been at pains to point out throughout the tournament, the BBC’s World Cup coverage from Germany isn’t being brought to you by a bunch of little Englanders.


However, I would be lying if I told you that the prevalent mood here at our HQ in Berlin this evening is one of “Hey-ho - you win some, you lose some.”

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You’re all doing terribly well

paul_armstrong_55x55.gifMUNICH: An astonishing 8.8m people watched the penalty shoot-out climax of Switzerland v Ukraine on Monday night.

It’s difficult to calculate how many of those were waiting for the News but, if they were, it was good of them to stay tuned and thereby swell our viewing figures.

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Watching England from the bench

paul_armstrong_55x55.gifBERLIN: Having edited last night’s game and not travelled to Stuttgart, I was in the same position as the rest of the nation watching England struggle through on the BBC this afternoon.

And probably even more relieved than most, given that we have first pick of the live quarter-finals, and will, unsurprisingly, now pick England.

At one point, though, those of us back here at base thought we might be heading for a Theo Walcott-like desperation-inspired appearance from the bench.

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Hold the lottery

paul_armstrong_55x55.gifBERLIN. Having re-arranged the BBC One schedules for the weekend at a couple of days’ notice, we spent this evening re-arranging it live on the hoof as Argentina v Mexico went into extra-time.

Our planned 2215 off air, with leisurely post-match analysis, a re-cap of the Germany game and a look ahead to England tomorrow fell by the wayside. In its stead was a hasty agreement with Network Control to get off the air five minutes after coming back to the studio once extra-time and/or penalties were over.

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If it's Sunday then it must be Stuttgart

paul_armstrong_55x55.gifBERLIN - Television schedules are usually drawn up months in advance, set in stone weeks in advance, then fine-tuned by no more than a few seconds here and there. However, at this stage in a World Cup, all that goes out of the window.

At a couple of days’ notice, BBC1 have completely redrafted their plans for the coming weekend and slotted in an avalanche of live football. Events like Wimbledon or the Olympics hijack the airwaves in a similar way, but they can be planned with a fair degree of precision months and sometimes years ahead.

Sharing a football tournament with ITV, and the absence of even a day’s gap between the first and second phases meant that four days’ television output was put on hold until the last possible minute.

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Muddling through

paul_armstrong_55x55.gifBERLIN - Once again, setting aside our personal feelings, England’s result was satisfactory, in that they won the group. An England v Germany clash on Saturday would have been enormous, but would have presented us with a few headaches.

The split with ITV gives us sole live coverage of England’s second-round game. We will have a studio on site but are happier with Stuttgart on Sunday rather than Munich on Saturday. Like the team, we could use an extra day’s preparation time.

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One-nil to the BBC

paul_armstrong_55x55.gifBERLIN: All’s fair in love and ratings

Peter Crouch’s late goal yesterday was greeted with joy unconfined here in our Berlin studios. Even amongst the non-English contingent. We now know for certain that we will be covering at least one more England match live, and that our very own selection gamble has paid off.

The BBC and ITV bought the UK rights jointly, and divided up the live coverage in a meeting after the draw. We had only one group game – the opener v Paraguay – in return for first choice of 2nd round and quarter-final matches. An England semi would be transmitted by both channels, as will the final.

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Tor! Tor! Tor!*

paul_armstrong_55x55.gif BERLIN: I know that the BBC has to be neutral, but I must admit to celebrating that dramatic late German winner last night. I’m also really enjoying all the feedback and reaction we’re getting through this site.

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The BBC's new football channel..

paul_armstrong_55x55.gif BERLIN - It seems like we’ve been broadcasting on a BBC Football channel. Well, OK, it was actually BBC One but three live games plus a highlights show on Tuesday make eight hours in total. Add in the interactive World Cup Extra, and it’s probably some kind of record.

The vagaries of the BBC/ITV split give ITV three live games on Thursday, while we showed all three on Tuesday.
Incidentally, that’s one more than we had in the whole of the 1998-9 season...

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Answer to some of your questions

BERLIN - Today is a bonkers day as all three games are live on BBC One.
But I wanted to answer some of your questions about our coverage, including some feedback on the camera positions, so here goes:

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In the hands of the hosts

paul_armstrong_55x55.gifBERLIN - The football in this tournament has so far mostly been highly entertaining. As I've said before, that's by far the most important variable in our output - but the one over which we have no control whatsoever.

For 23 months out of 24, we also have complete control over live match coverage - if a less than illuminating replay is used on the FA Cup Final or an England home game, or there is a cut to a close-up camera while the ball is in play, then we only have ourselves to blame.

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Football Breaks Out

BERLIN - As I write this, it’s two matches down, sixty-two to go. The highlights team are preparing their first show and I’ve just been out for a bite to eat having been the programme editor for the opening game.

For the first time, German flags are everywhere. The Berlin fanpark is located on the other side of the Brandenburg Gate from our studio, so there are thousands of happy locals thronging the bars and restaurants blissfully unaware of the caning their nation’s defenders have just taken from Messers Hansen, Shearer and O’Neill.

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Inside the Match of the Day camp

paul_armstrong_55x55.gif BERLIN - Not long to go now til the hype can be interrupted by the outbreak of football. I've been in Berlin since Saturday but even here - thanks to 24 hours news and it's been possible to tap into the round-the-clock metatarsal coverage.

We're having to rely on eye-witness reports to tell us about the numbers of flags flying from cars, but we can sense expectations growing. The German media are almost as obsessed with Ballack as we are with Rooney: did he really slate Jurgen Klinsmann's tactics, did he miss training as a mere "precaution" or - as it now turns out - was something worse afoot? Or indeed acalf.

I'm typing this in the area adjoining our studio, overlooking the Brandenburg Gate, and after four days of awful weather (it was snowing on Sunday in Baden-Baden) it finally feels like summer.

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About Paul Armstrong

I've worked for BBC Sport since 1989 and this will be my 5th World Cup.
I was an Assistant Producer for the first three: in Television Centre,
London for 1990 and 1994 and then Paris in 1998. In 2002, I was one of
our Programme Editors, as I will be again in Germany.

In essence, this means I'm responsible for the content of individual
programmes, liaising with the presenters and pundits, drawing up a
running order and then adapting it during the live transmission. On the
air, the director is the rally driver and the editor navigates, trying
his best to make sensible contributions while holding the map the right
way up.

For 2006, we're occasionally broadcasting from the stadiums (for England
v Paraguay from Frankfurt, for example) but most of our output will be
coming from our purpose- built studio by the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin,
where I'll be based throughout.

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