The ITV team are already assuming that England will win their group (presumably they have never seen England play) and are more excited about the runners-up in Group A than they are about the winners. Ruud Gullit’s eminently sensible suggestion that the inclusion of Wayne Rooney in the squad might be risky is dismissed as “controversial”.
Eventually the panel get round to mentioning the game we are about to watch, demonstrating, by way of a simple graph, the relative altitudes of Warsaw and Quito. A cursory glance at the team sheets follows, and the game is on.
The match starts frenetically, with Ecuador the more positive and Poland the more combative. A sloppy back-header almost gifts Ecuador the lead but Poland resist their attacks until Carlos Tenorio scores in the 24th minute.
The pace drops after the goal. Ecuador continue to dominate, with some skilful passing, while the Poles seem unable to do anything more than disrupt their play. They eventually begin to penetrate a little more often, but half time arrives without any further major incident.
During the break the studio panel continue to discuss England in the most banal way imaginable. David Beckham appears on video and reveals, in response to a viewer’s question, that there are players in the England squad who play practical jokes, but he won’t tell us who they are. Tabloid sports editors will no doubt be rubbing their hands at this bombshell.
The second half begins scrappily. Poland have the ball in the net but the linesman calls it offside. They are buoyed, however, as are the partisan crowd, and begin to look stronger in attack. Ecuador are forced to defend and do so valiantly. They barely get a sniff of the Poland box until Delgado slips one in on the stroke of 80 minutes after a counter-attack results in the Polish keeper Boruc facing two men.
The Poles press on. One shot hits the crossbar and another the upright, but it is too much to ask. The match ends 2-0 and Ecuador, from what we have seen today, look a good bet to qualify for the next round.