World Cup TV View: Didi Hamann finds his inner Dunphy as France march on

The French national anthem never sounded so lonely, Morocco’s national tune bellowed from the heavens

A humongous, historical day. “For Morocco this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you may just ask yourself, well, how did they get here?”

And then Peter Collins introduced us to RTÉ’s “talking heads” for the game, Didi Hamann and Liam Brady looking at him blankly, while Richie Sadlier, who – we’re guessing here – has a 1980s vinyl collection that would fill the Al Bayt Stadium, grinned in a “what are you at, you psycho killer?” sort of way.

Just to digress briefly, RTÉ, ITV and the BBC don’t know how blessed they are to have actual coverage of the actual World Cup. Earlier in the day the best Sky Sports News could offer pre-match was an interview with Moroccan rapper Dizzy DROS – DROS standing for “Da Rhymes of Streets”, like you needed to be told – Mike Wedderburn stressing his expertise by introducing him as the man who had “attended all but one of Morocco’s World Cup games”.

“It’s unbelievable, man,” said Dizzy, and that was kind of where his analysis ended. Mike looked defeated when we returned to the studio.


On GB News, meanwhile, Sam Allardyce has been a nigh on permanent fixture through this World Cup, often ending his segments by plugging his gig with ASDA for whom he is modelling Christmas jumpers. “For me it shows you can get some very good gear at a very, very reasonable price for Christmas, the prices run along with most people’s budgets and I think that is very important,” he regularly says.

But when he chatted with Nana Akua he was offered no opportunity at all to plug his jumpers, instead she just, quite coldly, reminded him that his reign as England manager lasted one game.

By way of consolation, she added: “But you lasted longer than Liz Truss – ha, ha, ha, ha!”

Big Sam said “ha, ha, ha, ha” too, but you sensed there was no mirth in his heart at all, the scars not yet healed.

RTÉ, though, had actual football to chat about, Peter, somewhat mournfully, asking Didi if you could only win a World Cup if you binned any notion of playing “open, attractive, expansive football”. Didi found his inner Dunphy by telling Peter, “if you want to see entertainment, go to the circus”.

Shane Dawson, meanwhile, was over in the circus that was the Talbot Hotel, hanging out with a bunch of Irish-based Moroccans, all of whom joined in on a rowdy rendition of “Ole, Ole, Ole” when he finished chatting with them, and you could only wistfully conclude that Morocco are the Ireland of Italia 90. Albeit, going a step further.

Anthems. The Marseillaise never sounded so lonely, Morocco’s national tune bellowed from the heavens to the point where you wondered if your spine would ever stop tingling. Gorgeous. Mind you that man wearing a Santa hat – nope, will never get used to a World Cup at this time of year.

Match time. Not five minutes on the clock, goal, France. This would be mullering, right?

No, the first half becoming a thing of loveliness, Morocco proving they could attack, France proving they could defend, despite all the notions neither could do either.

The RTÉ panel held out a large chunk of hope for Morocco, mightily impressed by their refusal to be bowed by the world champions. Didi reckoning they’d get back into it yet, Richie reckoning the same, Liam offering them some sound advice: “Don’t go willy nilly early on.”

They didn’t, but still France made it 2-0 – and that was that.

We have ourselves a final, then: France v Argentina, Mbappé v Messi, plus 20 others.

After Argentina lost to Saudi Arabia, and after France lost to Tunisia, the finalists might well be asking themselves: how did we get here? Back then they were on the road to nowhere. Now? Within touching distance of glory.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times