My winner in the box office Euro 2024 battle between BBC and ITV

BBC coverage of Euro 2024 semi-final between Spain and France
Micah Richards (right) has done a decent job as a replacement for Ian Wright

Here we are at the beginning of the end. Just one game to win for England to become European champions. You can hardly believe it following the limited displays from the team earlier in the tournament. It’s 58 years since England’s one and only international tournament success – the World Cup win in 1966 by Sir Alf Ramsey and his team.

Mind you, there was a 70-year gap of waiting before Britain found another winner of the men’s singles at Wimbledon. You just have to be patient. These things take time.

I’ve been interested to hear from some football fans that they follow the action at the Euros but often avoid the preliminaries involving the guests’ opinions. It is true that both the BBC and ITV have tended to go on air an hour before kick-off but for me the studio discussions have been the best part of the broadcasts.

On the BBC, Alan Shearer seems to have decamped to become co-commentator, leaving Gary Lineker to expand his role to presenter and pundit. So as well as coping with the production complications, he is offering his very valid opinions on the art of centre-forward play.

Alan Shearer reacts to England's draw with Denmark
Alan Shearer's (above) transition to the commentary box has meant a change of role for Gary Lineker - BBC

England’s match against the Netherlands was televised by ITV. That meant that back in action were Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Ian Wright. They are definitely box office, those three. I am an admirer of Neville in particular, who once said that playing for England was a strain. His frustration at the handball rules, which he simply does not understand any more, was particularly revealing. If he doesn’t understand them, what chance have we?

I can’t get used to Wrighty not sitting alongside Lineker and Shearer, a combo that worked brilliantly for Match of the Day. Micah Richards has done well in his place but there is no doubt that ITV have scored higher with their panel. If anything, they went a little easier than the BBC on England’s earlier ineptitude. Neither Lineker nor Shearer held back in criticising England displays. They were not happy but if anyone had the right to voice their opinions it was two great players who were on the receiving end of plenty of barbs in their time.

So, here we go. It’s not going to be easy. There will be some suffering. It may involve extra time, even penalties again but Spain stand in the way. If England can win, which seemed highly unlikely a couple of weeks ago, then it’s off to the Palace – and I don’t mean Selhurst Park. Sir Gareth has a nice ring about it.

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