ESPN releases broadcaster pairings for first week of World Cup

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By DAN KARELL

With only three days remaining before the start of the World Cup, ESPN has released their broadcaster pairings for the first week of the tournament in Brazil.

Ian Darke will be the lead broadcaster for ESPN and is scheduled to broadcast the World Cup opener between Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo, England’s opener against Italy in Manaus, and the U.S. Men’s National Team opener against Ghana in Natal. Darke will re-unite at ESPN with Steve McManaman for the Brazil and England games and Darke will work alongside former USMNT forward Taylor Twellman for the USA match.

In addition to Darke, veteran broadcasters Jon Champion, Adrian Healey, Daniel Mann, and Derek Rae have all been assigned to multiple games during the first week of the World Cup. Fernando Palomo and Alejandro Moreno have been assigned to broadcast Mexico’s opener against Cameroon.

Other TV analysts for the first round include Efan Ekoku, Kasey Keller, Roberto Martinez, and Stewart Robson.

The broadcaster pairings also included the coverage on ESPN Radio, which will be lead by veteran play-by-play man J.P. Dellacamera. Dellacamera will work alongside Tommy Smyth, while Ross Dyer will also handle play-by-play Mark Donaldson. Radio analysts include Shep Messing, Janusz Michallik, Paul Mariner, and Shaka Hislop.

Here’s a look at ESPN’s broadcaster pairings for the first week of the tournament:

Date Time (ET) Network Match Group Site Match #
Thu 6/12 3:30 p.m. ESPN Brazil vs. Croatia
TV: Ian Darke, Steve McManaman
Radio: JP Dellacamera, Tommy Smyth
A Sao Paulo 1
Fri 6/13 11:30 a.m. ESPN2 Mexico vs. Cameroon
TV: Fernando Palomo, Alejandro Moreno
Radio: Ross Dyer, Shep Messing
A Natal 2
  2:30 p.m. ESPN Spain vs. Netherlands
TV: Jon Champion, Stewart Robson
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth
B Salvador 3
  5:30 p.m. ESPN2 Chile vs. Australia
TV: Daniel Mann, Kasey Keller
Radio: Dyer, Paul Mariner
B Cuiaba 4
Sat 6/14 11:30 a.m. ABC Colombia vs. Greece
TV: Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman
Radio: Dellacamera, Janusz Michallik
C Belo Horizonte 5
  2:30 p.m. ABC Uruguay vs. Costa Rica
TV: Champion, Robson
Radio: Dyer, Mariner
D Fortaleza 7
  5:30 p.m. ESPN England vs. Italy
TV: Darke, McManaman
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth
D Manaus 8
  8:30 p.m. ESPN Ivory Coast vs. Japan
TV: Derek Rae, Efan Ekoku
Radio: Dyer, Mariner
C Recife 6
Sun 6/15 11:30 a.m. ABC Switzerland vs. Ecuador
TV: Healey, Moreno
Radio: Dyer, Messing
E Brasilia 9
  2:30 p.m. ABC France vs. Honduras
TV: Mann, Keller
Radio: Dyer, Hislop
E Porto Alegre 10
  5:30 p.m. ESPN Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina
TV: Rae, Roberto Martinez
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth
F Rio de Janeiro 11
Mon 6/16 11:30 a.m. ESPN Germany vs. Portugal
TV: Champion, Robson
Radio: Dyer, Messing
G Salvador 13
  2:30 p.m. ESPN Iran vs. Nigeria
TV: Rae, Ekoku
Radio: Mark Donaldson, Mariner
F Curitiba 12
  5:30 p.m. ESPN Ghana vs. United States
TV: Darke, Twellman
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth
G Natal 14
Tue 6/17 11:30 a.m. ESPN Belgium vs. Algeria
TV: Healey, Ekoku
Radio: Donaldson, Michallik
H Belo Horizonte 15
  2:30 p.m. ESPN Brazil vs. Mexico
TV: Palomo, Moreno
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth
A Fortaleza 17
  5:30 p.m. ESPN Russia vs. South Korea
TV: Mann, Keller
Radio: Dyer, Messing
H Cuiaba 16
Wed 6/18 11:30 a.m. ESPN Australia vs. Netherlands
TV: Champion, Robson
Radio: Donaldson, Michallik
B Porto Alegre 20
  2:30 p.m. ESPN Spain vs. Chile 
TV: Darke, McManaman
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth
B Rio de Janeiro 19
  5:30 p.m. ESPN Cameroon vs. Croatia
TV: Rae, Keller
Radio: Dyer, Messing
A Manaus 18
Thu 6/19 11:30 a.m. ESPN Colombia vs. Ivory Coast
TV: Healey, Moreno
Radio: Donaldson, Messing
C Brasilia 21
  2:30 p.m. ESPN Uruguay vs. England
TV: Darke, McManaman
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth
D Sao Paulo 23
   5:30 p.m. ESPN Japan vs. Greece
TV: Mann, Ekoku
Radio: Dyer, Mariner
C Natal 22

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What do you think of these pairings? Do you intend to listen to games on ESPN Radio while in the car or at home?

Share your thoughts below.

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51 Responses to ESPN releases broadcaster pairings for first week of World Cup

  1. Andy in Atlanta says:

    Love Derek Rae!

  2. The Imperative Voice says:

    Darke and Twellman is an odd pairing because they seem at each others’ throats. But then ESPN likes the drama of what could politely be termed point-counterpoint.

    • JBSoccer says:

      Twellman is awful

      • Plebe says:

        totally disagree. love twellman. the footy version of madden. loves the sport. is knowledgeable, opinionated. even if i disagree that is exactly what i want. not some newt like dellacamera who doesn’t understand the game and talks as if lodged by a 2×4.

      • Nate says:

        Darke is awful

  3. Drewbles says:

    We could lose every match 6-0 and sending Taylor Twellman as an announcer would still be America’s biggest embarrassment at the World Cup.

    • Tim H. says:

      I know people despise Twellman. But he is so much better than John Harkes. That guy provided absolutely nothing to a broadcast. As least Twellman can provide insight at times that is actually coherent and relevant.

      • Sammy Nishi says:

        YUP > TT is better than Harkes .. ..

      • Luke says:

        Or Eric Wynalda or Alexi Lalas.

      • Chicago Pete says:

        If we are ranking from worst to best of the four
        1. Harkes
        2. Twellman
        3. Lalas
        4. Wynalda
        Do we really have to hear TT for every game?

        • Skip Walker says:

          You all must have amnesia about the bigger monstrosity that was Marcelo Balboa in the 2006 telecast.

          Without a doubt, it goes like this, with ESPN improving the US color guy in each tournament. I imagine there will be a major step backwards with Fox getting the 2018 broadcast.

          2014 Twellman > 2010 Harkes > 2006 Balboa

          • Brain Guy says:

            Who was the ESPN guy from 2006 who was such a bust? Rob Stone?

            • Tony Meola says:

              The US commentators in 06 were always Dave O’Brien and Marcelo Balboa and they were pretty terrible.

          • Luke says:

            I’m guessing by 2018 we might see Donovan, Howard or Dempsey in the broadcasters booth.

      • NatS says:

        Don’t know why you guys are so down on Harkes; but I suppose I simply have not watched more than a couple matches that he covered. I was recently re-watching the 3-0 victory over Egypt in the ’09 Confed. Cup and was impressed by Harkes’s early and accurate observations that Dempsey was a real liability in the midfield (he was originally lined up on the right wing, occasionally switching with Donovan on the left). Wasn’t getting involved in the offense well, passing was horrid and wasn’t tracking back at all. But then gets shifted forward late in the match (when Feilhaber subbed on for Altidore) and within two minutes scored the decisive third goal (as you recall they advanced over Italy on total goals). I thought Harkes added to the understanding of the game in this case. It was surely something Bob Bradley was saying to himself at the same time.

        • The Imperative Voice says:

          Meh. Sounds nice but Dempsey seemed most effective up top as a late change — precisely how he was used — and if you pulled him and Landon up from mid who was going to play there? The basic problem was they were both the strong forward options and the strong wing options and they couldn’t be both places at the same time.

          You have to remember Holden was just back from injury, Torres was this milquetoast connecting player not even in the running anymore, Beasley wasn’t playing much and had downgraded to supporting role, etc.

      • KGB says:

        Harkes would say “going forward” about 100 times per broadcast. I understand its an acceptable term to use when describing defensive players joining the attack, but he used it to the point where it was a verbal crutch.

  4. Jon says:

    Why is Darke only doing one US game!!

  5. Bryan Fox says:

    Are these times kick-off times or broadcast start times?

  6. Ben says:

    Anyone else looking forward to how many times Shep can insult Rafa during his radio call of the first Mexico game?

  7. Doug says:

    I like Taylor Twellman as part of a studio panel but loathe him as a color guy. Very interesting tht he’s calling non US games. I never seen him make an intelligent comment about anything not having to do with the USMNT or MLS. Colombia and Greece should make for interesting color commentary I not else, for the enjoyment of watching Twellman say Papastadopolous

  8. Drew11 says:

    I remember ESPN broadcasting Mexico 86 with JP Dellacamera calling the games. Hard to believe that was 28 years ago.

    • Smith says:

      Suddenly Bob Neal and Mick Luckhurst on TNT (commercials and all) at Italia ’90 popped into my head. Man that US team came close to drawing with Italy in Rome. Our young mostly amateur side was completely overmatched and we made them wear rancid kits.

  9. Andy in Atlanta says:

    I will be the first to say I am not a Taylor Twellman guy but he is not nearly as bad as people make him out to be. This was not his original profession and it takes time to grow into being a good color guy. He knows the game… he needs to work on his grudge holding though… he hates on Eddie Johnson with a passion…

    • Michael says:

      Once I made a silly “Taylor Twellman is so lame” comment on Twitter under the hashtag for whatever USMNT game was on that day (not those exact words, but that was the substance, and maturity level, of my tweet). He apparently saw the tweet a few days later, and tweeted a response with self-deprecating humor. He also asked what I didn’t like about his work. Hard to judge in 140 char, of course, but he sounded sincerely interested in my opinion, and not defensively so.

      I became an instant fan. I agree with Andy in ATL that Twellman has room for improvement, and I still don’t want to watch him call Galaxy games, but he’s done a good job over the past year calling USMNT games.

      Beyond that, I have to say that Taylor Twellman has class.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Compare his style as a player to the person being critiqued. Twellman was the slower hustling Wondo of his day who had technical limits but was a lunchpail guy who did the intangible things and made goals from nothing (but was reckless with is body and retired from concussions). EJ is an interesting player with athletic ability an intermittent production who drives lunchpail types nuts because he is sloppy and lazy but has so many naturally valuable traits.

      FWIW JK agreed.

  10. slowleftarm says:

    Still an upgrade over the 1994 world cup when ABC used baseball announcer Al Trautwig for the Belgium-Holland game and he had the players for the two teams mixed up for the entire first half. In other words, if #7 for Holland touched the ball, he called the guy the name of #7 for Belgium. Highly entertaining but also highly embarrassing.

  11. Michael says:

    I love JPD & Tommy Smyth. I might have to tune in to the radio broadcast a few times.

  12. Capital K says:

    Oh so right Tim H. John Harkes was pathetic. Terrible delivery and did not stay focused on match. Had a bad habit of wanting to analyse overall status of USMNT program after every misplayed pass or defensive breakdown.

  13. David M says:

    I wonder why ESPN thinks that they must have a Salvadoran and a Venezuelan to broadcast Mexico’s games? I guess as long as they have Spanish accents, that’s all that matters?

  14. Agnus Lazo says:

    Palomo and Moreno are the best. I usually watch Spanish channel broadcast which is also super annoying but when they are on I believe they are better then all the rest.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      US soccer broadcasting has at least achieved this basic upgrade. In some prior tournaments I would watch Spanish on purpose to avoid being annoyed out of my mind. I understood enough to get occasional bits of commentary. Say what you will but when I set the 2014 games to record, I generally went with English except Mexico because it’s up to a tolerable level. That’s progress.

  15. Brain Guy says:

    Unfortunately, this all got me thinking ahead to 2018 and . . . Gus Johnson.

    Oy.

    • bill says:

      If Gus Johnson ever calls a World Cup match I will eat an entire soccer ball. Why they even let him near the Champions League is insulting.

  16. Sebastian says:

    Most of these commentators are solid and will be enjoyable, but personally I’d love to see some Bein guys do some games. Ross Dyer is a GREAT commentator and I think would be perfect for some televised games.

  17. Mark Kennedy says:

    I am a TFC fan and I was worried the first time I watched a Toronto New England game with Twellman as colour commentator. He was fantastic…knows the game, knew the players for both teams and truly avoided sounding like a homer.
    Now the best American commentator, imho, is Tim Howard. On the NBC broadcast of Liverpool – Chelsea he was fantastic. Hope he goes into broadcasting…
    Of course Darke and McManaman are solid gold….