For most of us the World Cup takes place in our living rooms. And that means we’re about to be sharing an unhealthy amount of sofa time with a gang of middle-aged men in questionably tight trousers.
With the two channels having now announced their punditry squads, the stage is set for an epic ding-dong on and off the pitch. We’ve run the rule over the key players to assess whose coverage will hit the mark in Brazil.
THE ANCHOR: Gary Lineker v Adrian Chiles
The best World Cup anchors (we miss you Des) walk a delicate tightrope of levity and gravitas, of naivete and knowledge.
It’s a tough job but there’s only one winner in this head-to-head. Lineker may not have the comic delivery of Des Lynam but he does have the gravitas: slick, in control and with the pedigree and confidence of having scored 10 World Cup goals behind him. Chiles is the polar opposite and his fumbling startled owl/dumb bloke act – if it is an act – will become even more grating on the biggest stage of all.
BBC 1-0 ITV
THE CELTIC WARRIOR: Alan Hansen v Roy Keane
A World Cup panel is nothing without a grim-faced ‘neutral’ to put a check on any English overexcitement.
Alan Hansen, now entering his final tournament, lost most of his bite a long time back, so it looks a shoe-in for Roy Keane to successfully transplant his unimpressed sneer on to the world stage. ITV even has the incomprehensible Gordon Strachan in their squad so look well covered here.
BBC 1-1 ITV
THE EXPENSIVE OVERSEAS SIGNING: Thierry Henry v Patrick Vieira
Two World Cup Winning team-mates in contention here. Patrick Vieira tends to talk a lot of sense and his interactions with old enemy Keane are an extra bonus, but he is so softly spoken he can only be heard on some shortwave radio bands.
The Beeb are hoping Thierry’s cheeky smile, sassy charm and excellent English could make him a star pundit with hardcore fans and casual viewers - your Mum - alike.
BBC 2-1 ITV
THE HASTILY CALLED IN 'LOCAL': Juninho v Gus Poyet
Every TV researcher in the business has been frantically scrambling through their contacts book for any South American they can get their hands on. These are the results. In the BBC corner, Juninho is knowledgable and likable but there are some question-marks over whether his English can sustain a major role behind the front two.
The only foreseeable problem with ITV’s Uruguayan Gustavo Poyet on the other hand will be keeping him quiet. Nicknamed ‘El Radio’ as a player, his motormouth delivery could just come into his own on a World Cup sofa. Either that or he will become very annoying, very quickly.
BBC 2-2 ITV
THE ONE WHO ACTUALLY TALKS SENSE: Clarence Seedorf v Lee Dixon
Lee Dixon has quietly made himself undroppable in the ITV box – technically sound, opinionated, interesting and still able to “banter” with Chiles when needed.
The unfortunate truth is that he is up against one of the punditry stars of the 2010 World Cup in Dutchman Clarence Seedorf, whose calm confidence, measured delivery and easy charm gave BBC producers the X-Factor appeal every World Cup panel needs. It’s close but Seedorf’s acc-shent sees him home.
BBC 3-2 ITV
THE TUB THUMPER: Rio Ferdinand v Andros Townsend
Both broadcasters have sought out a patriotic former player to provide ‘insight’ into the England dressing room, generally beat the chest and use the word “lads” a lot. The Beeb’s Rio Ferdinand’s over-confidence and penchant for exclamation marks on Twitter, makes him look better-suited to the more professional and restrained Andros Townsend in the ITV studio.
BBC 4-2 ITV
On paper then, it looks like a fairly comprehensive win for the BBC is in order, though ITV have the kind of talent that could beat anyone on its day. And, like football itself, this game’s not played on paper.