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World Cup TV review: Roy Keane and Graeme Souness arguing was gold

Step aside, Phil Foden. Some things matter more than the balance of England’s attack or the best use of this country’s most technically gifted players.

For now, there are bigger debates to settle: Who can stop Kylian Mbappe? What, in the absence of any brain, allows Gianni Infantino to keep talking? Who is winning our biennial battle of the box?

BBC vs ITV. Sam Matterface vs Guy Mowbray. Roy Keane vs Graeme Souness. Oh, wait, sorry… they’re on the same side.

As the group stages approach their climax, Sportsmail runs the rule over the two channels…

Roy Keane and Graeme Souness having a half-time ding-dong over whether Argentina deserved a penalty against Saudi Arabia has been a World Cup punditry highlight

Argentina were given a spot kick after Leandro Paredes (bottom left) appeared to be dragged down in the box by Mohamed Kanno - leading to the half-time debate

Argentina were given a spot kick after Leandro Paredes (bottom left) appeared to be dragged down in the box by Mohamed Kanno – leading to the half-time debate

ON THE MIC 

Wall-to-wall football means one thing: airtime for fresh new commentators and familiar voices who have been the soundtrack of a generation.

How great it is to hear more of Clive Tyldesley and Jon Champion on ITV. All we are missing? Andy Townsend.

They do at least have Ally McCoist, whose insight and gusto could light up even the most attritional game of backgammon.

On the Beeb, Guy Mowbray remains a master.

Ally McCoist and Jon Champion (right) have put their partnership back together in Qatar

Ally McCoist and Jon Champion (right) have put their partnership back together in Qatar

We also need to talk about John Hartson.

Social media suggests the Welshman divides opinion. But for me (Clive), he is cut from a similar cloth to McCoist, if not quite as polished. Both have an endearing enthusiasm and charm to their co-commentary.

John Hartson's enthusiasm has occasionally led him to invent new words and phrases

John Hartson’s enthusiasm has occasionally led him to invent new words and phrases 

There is appeal even in their foibles and missteps. Six years on from Euro 2016, when Hartson described Wales as ‘running amok… an absolute mok!’ he produced another gem.

During Wales’ draw with the USA, Hartson began discussing Brennan Johnson’s introduction from the bench. ‘Fresh legs!’ he exclaimed. ‘Use that energy, that young youthness he’s got about him.’

Ignore Susie Dent. We all knew what he meant. And it’s preferable, surely, to the performative grumbling of some commentators?

Without Mark Lawrenson, space has opened up for new chief cynics.

Jonathan Pearce is an obvious candidate, having become professionally unimpressed with modern football.

Then there is Lee Dixon, who just seems to be having a rather miserable time all round. Cheer up, fella.

IN THE STUDIO 

Why delay the inevitable? Souness vs Kane.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that these two – neither of whom gave an inch during their playing days – are unlikely to back down from a verbal scrap.

But fair play to whoever predicted it would be Saud Abdulhamid and Leandro Paredes who lit the match.

Their argument, over whether Argentina deserved a penalty against Saudi Arabia, went beyond faux-outrage.

Roy Keane has fellow ITV pundits Ian Wright (left) and Gary Neville (middle) in hysterics

Roy Keane has fellow ITV pundits Ian Wright (left) and Gary Neville (middle) in hysterics 

‘Let someone else speak,’ Souness told Keane mid-squabble. ‘You’ll learn a lot more if you listen rather than talk all the time.’

It was glorious. But it should not overshadow some of Keane’s other contributions – most notably on the OneLove armband, when he and Ian Wright offered a sharp, emotional analysis of teams’ ‘protest’. 

Some new(er) faces have impressed too: Hal Robson-Kanu, Karen Carney, Joe Cole and Nigel De Jong.

ITV select an all-female on-screen panel for a men's World Cup game for the first time ever, as presenter Seema Jaswal (left) is joined by Karen Carney (right) and Eni Aluko (centre)

ITV select an all-female on-screen panel for a men’s World Cup game for the first time ever, as presenter Seema Jaswal (left) is joined by Karen Carney (right) and Eni Aluko (centre)

The all-female panel were covering Saudi Arabia's World Cup group game with Poland

The all-female panel were covering Saudi Arabia’s World Cup group game with Poland

Many football fans took to social media to praise 'absolute legend' Alex Scott for 'making a bold statement' by wearing the rainbow armband in support of the LGBT+ community

Many football fans took to social media to praise ‘absolute legend’ Alex Scott for ‘making a bold statement’ by wearing the rainbow armband in support of the LGBT+ community

Over on the BBC, they may be drowning in complaints but credit Gary Lineker and Co for tackling tough topics – corruption, migrant workers, LGBTQ rights, even climate change.

You can forgive their pundits – such as Ashley Williams – for sounding a bit scripted at times. These aren’t easy discussions to have.

And well done to Alex Scott for wearing the OneLove armband on air. Pictures, a thousand words and all that.

BBC’s Gary Lineker addressed the human right’s issues in Qatar in his opening monologue at the start of the organisation’s coverage

ANY OTHER BUSINESS? 

A couple of items. Firstly, fair play to ITV for their on-screen animation – when running through the England team against USA, they sprinkled in images and clips from each players’ past. It is neat.

Less jarring, certainly, than the BBC’s opening credits which feature a repurposed clip of Mowbray shouting: ‘Here we, here we, here we go!’

More RUN DMC than BBC.

The BBC's opening titles haven't proved very popular despite featuring classic moments

The BBC’s opening titles haven’t proved very popular despite featuring classic moments  

The 46-second sequence includes iconic moments from previous tournaments accompanied by remixed commentary

The 46-second sequence includes iconic moments from previous tournaments accompanied by remixed commentary

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