THE WORLD CUP is almost upon us, and while we’re giddy at the prospect of watching the best players on the planet showing off their skills from the 12th of June until the 13th of July, there’s also the small matter of the battle of the pundits to be decided too.
Let’s be honest, sometimes the pre-match, half-time and post-match discussions are nearly as interesting as the games themselves, particularly when the panel of experts manages to illuminate with their analysis or entertain with their opinions.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the various presenters, pundits and commentators that you can catch during the upcoming tournament. Which line-up will have you enthralled this summer?
Bill O’Herlihy will front RTÉ’s coverage of the Brazil tournament, with his inimitable prompting and feigned ignorance sure to get the best out of the evergreen John Giles, balanced Liam Brady and outspoken Eamon Dunphy once again.
O’Herlihy is set to retire from presenting after the World Cup, meaning the performances of Darragh Maloney and Tony O’Donoghue in providing cover for the Cork man will be closely watched.
Former Ireland internationals Richie Sadlier, Ronnie Whelan and Kenny Cunningham provide a blend of technical, tactical and opinion-based expertise in rotation with the established trio in-studio.
Ossie Ardiles, the marmite of the RTÉ panellists, is back to ensure an international twist, while former Liverpool midfielder Didi Hamann is usually a guarantee of quality analysis.
There are three newcomers to the panel this summer in former Celtic manager Neil Lennon, ‘Spurs goalkeeper Brad Freidel and Real Madrid coach Paul Clement, an ex-Ireland under 21 coach.
George Hamilton will be commentating and reporting from Brazil, with Ray Hougton Brian Kerr, Jim Beglin and Trevor Stephen on co-commentary, while Après Match offer RTÉ a genuine trump card with their comedy gold.
The BBC’s coverage will be led by Gary Lineker, the 80-times capped former England striker and current face of Walker’s crisps. Joining the front man will be Alan Hansen, starring in his last ever tournament as a pundit with the BBC.
Ex-England captain Rio Ferdinand has been added to the panel for this World Cup, as has Frenchman Thierry Henry, who won a Jules Rimet trophy in 1998. Clarence Seedorf, the former Dutch midfielder, is also on board.
Ex-Brazil and Middlesbrough playmaker Juninho is another newcomer for the British broadcaster. Neil Lennon, who recently resigned as Celtic manager, should be able to provide insightful punditry too.
Completing the roster of BBC pundits who will work across TV and radio over the course of the Brazil-hosted tournament are Alan Shearer, Tony Pulis, Brad Friedel, Chris Waddle, Martin Keown, Kevin Kilbane, Mark Lawrenson, Danny Mills, Danny Murphy, Phil Neville, Robbie Savage, Pat Nevin, Jason Roberts and John Hartson.
Meanwhile, Gabby Logan will be the England camp reporter, with Jason Mohammad in a similar role.
Adrian Chiles is back for his second consecutive World Cup as the main presenter for ITV, with Matt Smith offering back-up in the hot seat.
Andros Townsend, Fabio Cannavaro, Martin O’Neill, Gus Poyet and Patrick Vieira offer some high-calibre punditry, although the recent news that Roy Keane will not be involved was a blow.
ITV regulars Lee Dixon, Glenn Hoddle, Ian Wright and Gordon Strachan are on the World Cup roster, while Clive Tyldesley and Sam Matterface will provide the match-day commentary.
Former Ireland international Andy Townsend and Clarke Carlisle will offer in-game insight in their positions as co-commentators, while Ned Boulting and Gabriel Clarke are on reporting duty in Brazil.
Which TV channel will you be tuning into this summer? Who are your favourite pundits and presenters?