ESPN should be congratulated on the fantastic job they have done with the 2014 World Cup studio coverage. The announcers and commentators have done a great job and are really first rate. The part of the studio show called “Last Call” has been especially enjoyable. This reminds me of my previous favorite studio show, “Clu Barcelona” hosted by Jim Lampley at the 1994 Summer Olympics. Both of these studio shows are, and were, very friendly and welcoming. They make you feel an intimate connection as if you were the only one watching and were right there with them.
Some of my favorite commentators are the former players from foreign countries. These guys are like the Board of Directors of International Cool and Sophistication. Below are some of my impressions of a few favorites.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy: One high point has been seeing the former Netherlands player and big-time European star goal-scorer sweating out the Coast Rica game.
Michael Ballack: I think the German has been hilarious. Apparently the rest of the hosts and commentators did too because he has been the constant butt of their abuse.
Gilberto Silva: The Brazilian has been appreciated for his soft-spoken manner and he took it like a man when Brazil was pounded by Germany.
Santiago Solari: Mr. Cool from Argentina always looks like he has just stepped right out of a GQ magazine.
Shaka Hislop: The former Trinidad and Tobago, and English Premier League, goalkeeper is perfect for ESPN with his United States connections.
Efan Ekoku: The former Nigerian national team player who has played for a number of English sides, has been another intelligent contributor. I wish ESPN had used him more than they have thus far.
Roberto Martinez: I pay special attention whenever the Everton coach gives his strategy breakdowns.
The 2014 World Cup is ESPN’s swan song at least for now. Fox takes over in 2018 in Russia. Considering the foregoing, I’m not sure this is a great move, but at least the bar has been set rather high.