England’s dismal start to their Nations League campaign against Hungary was broadcast to the public via Channel 4 on Saturday night.
The TV channel – currently British Sports Network of the Year – has beaten rivals ITV and Sky Sports for the right to show all of the country’s international matches, it was announced in April, in a first foray into the male soccer.
The deal will see England’s Nations League games, European Championship qualifiers and international friendlies on free-to-air TV until 2024, along with all previous Three Lions Nations League games on Sky.
Channel 4 has done well with several high-profile events like Emma Raducanu’s US Open win and last year’s thrilling F1 season finale, and has been renowned for its strong Paralympic coverage since 2012.
And their coverage kicked off as Gareth Southgate’s men were humiliated 1-0 by hosts Puskas Arena, with fans criticizing a bizarre segment discussing Southgate’s clothing, but the channel won praise for its insightful analysis.
So below, sports mail took a look at the good, the bad and the terrible of C4’s English cover.
England’s poor start to the Nations League campaign aired to the public on Channel 4
The Three Lions lost 1-0 to Hungarian Group A3 minnows in Budapest on Saturday night
And Free TV’s Saturday night coverage had good times and bad.
THAT embarrassing segment of Southgate
Where else to start? Channel 4’s coverage of their first-ever England international was barely five minutes old when levels of awkwardness peaked when Gareth Southgate was asked about his choice of attire on that hot Budapest evening.
The England manager’s time is surely at a premium, especially with less than an hour before the side’s Nations League opener, so a completely unrelated opening gambit was an odd choice at best. .
“New campaign and I’ve seen you’ve changed gear quite a bit,” presenter Jules Breach joked with Southgate. “You went for a full navy outfit today.” Southgate gave a wry smile but wasn’t sure how to respond.
“It’s very hot so I don’t think the jacket is going to stay…but we’re looking forward to the game,” he replied, hoping that would be the end of the matter. “It’s a very different atmosphere…it was good to have all the kids in school.”
Bizarre and awkward section on manager Gareth Southgate’s clothes went awry with fans
But Breach was undeterred. She and the rest of the Channel 4 team clearly intended to bring this segment to a successful conclusion as a photo montage of Southgate’s various England outfits appeared on screen and the host asked if he ” would bring back the polka dot cardigan, jumper or tie’.
“Well, if that’s the biggest consideration at the end of the night, I’ll be delighted,” Southgate said, puzzled as to whether that was actually happening.
The discomfort at this point was almost unbearable, so much so that Michael Owen was thankfully able to end the discussion with an attempt at a light-hearted joke: “I can assure you his dress sense wasn’t so good when he was young.”
Thankfully, things improved considerably throughout the evening – at least in terms of broadcaster coverage, if not team performance.
But they didn’t take themselves too seriously
However, they have earned some credence with their lighthearted, jovial style, providing a new contrast to Sky Sports’ sometimes ultra-serious and po-faced coverage.
Breach and pundits Michael Owen and Jordan Nobbs were happy to chat cheerfully and crack jokes, sounding more natural and less woody.
But presenter Jules Breach’s jovial style helped Michael Owen and Jordan Nobbs relax
They mixed it up a bit with some off-script moments shortly before kick-off, showing a clip of Breach chasing a stray ball in the warm-up just past Owen’s face towards Nobbs, who sent it back in the field.
Ade Adepitan leading a trio of England stars through a few rounds of Pictionary was also a recipe for laughs, with Declan Rice, the dry-witted Bukayo Saka and the wise Jack Grealish clearly enjoying each other’s company. .
Nice analysis by Nobbs and Owen
While perhaps not generally considered the A-team of hard-hitting experts, Owen and Nobbs put in a solid enough performance.
The pair did a good basic analysis of Declan Rice’s driving runs from West Ham midfield, using Premier League clips to clearly show him and the meters he covers, followed by a brief analysis descriptive by Jude Bellingham.
Nobbs (left) and Owen (centre) provided expert advice moments before the game
Owen, while not always the most charismatic or captivating, also provided some interesting insight into fellow countryman Harry Kane’s chipped finish attempt on Peter Gulacsi – the kind of shot he would have attempted in his own stellar career.
Meanwhile Nobbs, who will miss the European Championships on home soil in England this summer, has shown she has a future on TV like her distinguished former teammates Alex Scott, Eni Aluko and Rachel Brown-Finnis.
Rob Green impressed as co-commentator
Ex-England goalkeeper Rob Green’s specific and detailed analysis of stopper Jordan Pickford was also good.
It’s unusual to hear a keeper discussing a keeper rather than an outfield player claiming to know what the position is like.
Former England goalkeeper Rob Green (above) also provided an interesting tactical analysis
The quick pre-game chat from the commentary box also provided an interesting visual counterpoint to the usual pitchside or studio conversations.
Although Green may not want to hear a clip posted on social media of him possibly mispronouncing Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold’s name as Alexander-A*******!
Firm position on racism
As might be expected given Hungary’s history of troubles, the C4 squad were also well prepared to respond to the audible boos from the home crowd at the England team taking the knee in an anti-racist gesture.
Quickly asking UEFA governing body manager Southgate and player Conor Coady their thoughts on the unacceptable actions rightly showed a clear and firm stance on the matter.
Their sentencing made up for all the minor starting issues like volume distortion during the anthems, poor replays of the penalty incident, and early mispronunciations of Adam and Zsolt Nagy’s last name, corrected in the second half.