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Back in June we looked at what each PL club needed this summer. Now we re-visit last season's top six to assess their progress. There are an awful lot of gaps...
Thought you'd get a life because football on your TV was over? Don't be stupid. Stock up the fridge and get back in the house because there are two weeks of top class international football about to start.
The Confederations Cup is here again. Four years ago in South Africa it was a superb tournament. We especially enjoyed USA's besting of primer fanny comerciantes, Spain and we're back for more, tongues hanging out, trousers more damp than is strictly sanitary.
Despite it not having anything to do with England, the Premier League or the Champions League, it's being taken seriously by all concerned with proper big full squads being fielded including people you will have heard of.
This year it's in Brazil and we can feel some tumescence already at the thought of David Luiz's hair. How will it stands up to hot, humid days in the land of the string-thong? Will it sink like an under-cooked soufflé? Will Luis Suarez eat anyone? Will Neymar look any less like a camp Butlin's act from 1985?
This tournament features eight teams - Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Japan, Nigeria and, yes, the big one, Tahiti. Call us narrow-minded and unsophisticated if you will but we've never actually seen Tahiti play football and are very much looking forward to doing so. At 138th in the world, they sound like the sort of side that will inevitably be patronized to within an inch of their lives by the TV coverage, their status as the reigning Oceania Football Confederation Nations Cup holders not withstanding.
Ah yes, it's all on TV. Every single game. That's the good news. The less good news is that its on the BBC. Not bad in and of itself except they've assigned their usual team to the job. The press release says: "Commentary in Brazil comes from Jonathan Pearce, Steve Wilson and Guy Mowbray, with Kevin Kilbane, Mark Lawrenson and Martin Keown providing analysis."
We've never heard Lawro doing any analysis before - we've heard him moaning though and desperately hope we won't be whining about being in Brazil in June surrounded by the best-looking women in the world. And we especially hope he isn't in full piss-taking mode about Tahiti, but we fear our hopes may be dashed upon the rocks of his crushing predictability.
The BBC blurb goes, "Gary Lineker, Mark Chapman and Dan Walker will be on presenting duty, with studio pundits throughout the tournament including Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen, Robbie Savage, ex-Uruguay forward Gus Poyet and former Nigeria midfielder Sunday Oliseh."
Given the welcome overseas presence to give insight into Uruguay and Nigera, we have to ask where are the experts on the other six sides? Are we expected to believe Big Al is an expert on Japanese football? Will Robbie Savage be able to stop looking at his own arse in a mirror for long enough to learn anything about Mexican football? We suspect not, which is potentially very annoying. Hopefully their gaping chasm of knowledge, matched only in size by their fees, will be compensated for by interesting clips packages featuring more educated people.
It seems an opportunity missed, though. Obviously viewing figures are not going to be massive, but why not make a virtue out of this and use it as a chance to experiment with something a bit different? It seems unlikely that your Big Four-following, permanently seething dimbo casual fan is going to be that bothered by Japan v Mexico, so the argument that the state broadcaster 'has to appeal to the lowest common denominator' does not hold water here. Why not use this opportunity to try out some of the up-and-comers in the BBC, or get some presenters and pundits from outside the football inner circle? Does Lineker really need the work?
Anyhow, we will find it almost astonishing if Tim Vickery isn't involved at some point. An always engaging South American expert, he's often to found on the BBC World Service football programmes, so quite why he isn't the default choice to head up the BBC coverage rather than any number of people who simply don't know that much, is a question we will never get an answer to.
As our favourite BBC presenter is Mark Chapman we exclude him from any of this criticism. Thankfully he'll be on hand to reduce the polo-shirted golf clubbiness. He's also to found here presenting an excellent half hour show about the tournament. Highly recommended, this is the sort of stuff the BBC does really well - lots of old clips, a preview of each side, and even a short interview with Fat Ronaldo whose head is now so big it appears to have its own gravitational pull. An excellent aperitif which sets you up nicely for the first games on Saturday.
The BBC is all over the Confederations Cup in an interactive websitey way, broadcasting all of the games somewhere or other, be it on the actually steam-powered tube on BBC1 & 3, red button, online and beamed into your arse via their new digital fisting technology. Actually , we made that last one up...or did we?
Here's where you can find out the hows, whats, whens & wheres but probably not the whys.
Fans of stadium porn will also enjoy these photos of the grounds the games are being played in here.
We should also mention that the U21 Tourney that is still on-going without Stuart Pearce's unhappy mob, and is providing much fun. This weekend sees the semi-finals between Spain and Norway, while Italy play Holland. The final is next Tuesday. You can find all these games on Sky Sports 2.
And if that isn't enough international football, Eurosport has World Cup qualifiers next week between Uzbekistan v Qatar, Australia v Iraq and Oman v Billingham Synthonia, or possibly, Jordan. They will also be featuring the U20 World Cup which will give everyone who enjoys self-loathing another chance to punch themselves in the balls with a copy of the Daily Mail while watching England take on Iraq on 23rd June.
So, basically: don't panic. It's not a football-free wilderness on the TV this summer after all.
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here
Alan's football and cricket books are all in one place here