Bergkamp goal World Cup Barry Davies, Jonathan Pearce commentary

But Precision was paramount for Davies, who still regrets his initial assessment of the hand of God in 1986, assuming England’s players were appealing for offside rather than Diego Maradona’s handball.

On the Sublime goal which followed, he is beautifully pedantic. “One or two people quoted me as saying it was ‘sheer’ football genius. It wasn’t, it was ‘pure’ football genius. That word was important, because it was pure compared to the Disgrace of five minutes previously, pure cheating.”

This time Davies will be watching Netherlands vs Argentina at home in Barnes with his son. Jonathan Pearce will be commentating for BBC Sport, 24 years after he covered the Marseille game in 1998, for Capital Gold. “I remember it vividly,” says Pearce. “I thought Argentina were quite Shameful that day but the Bergkamp goal was one of the most sublime I’ve ever seen.

“I said in my commentary, ‘That’s one of the best goals you’ll ever see, Argentina are heading out and good Bloody riddance,’ I swore on air and thought it was the end of my career. No one complained, there was no social media in those days, so I got away with it.”

He has warmth for Davies. “Barry was a master of words and so underrated as a commentator. He was a wordsmith back in the days when you had a little more time.”

In any era, sport commentary brings a pressure to deliver under pressure. What is the key to getting it right when narrating an obviously seismic moment? “You need your immediate honest reaction and not to contrive anything. I did the Richarlison goal against South Korea, when he started juggling it, then passed it to Thiago Silva. I think I just said ‘brilliant’ four times. I was totally caught up in the moment, almost like a fan.

“If you capture the moment precisely, the emotion of it, the importance, that’s what makes a good line.”

How we would love Friday to provide Pearce with a moment as good as Bergkamp’s.


Jonathan Pearce will be commentator for BBC One & BBC iPlayer’s live coverage of Netherlands v Argentina, Tonight from 7pm

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