World Cup commentator loses his cool in strange ITV moment

Gary Lineker hits out at BBC over past World Cup coverage

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Former Arsenal, Celtic and Wales striker John Hartson was caught up in a curious moment during Croatia’s clash with Morocco on Wednesday. Alongside Jon Champion on commentary duties, Hartson appeared to take a light-hearted comment the wrong way which led to an awkward on-air exchange.

Those tuning in with high hopes of a football spectacle on Wednesday morning will invariably have been left disappointed. Croatia made it to their first-ever World Cup final in 2018, while Morocco have been touted as dark horses to emerge from a tough group in Qatar, but their match-up was hardly free-flowing. 

In the end, Morocco will be the happiest of the two to come away with a point following a 0-0 draw as fellow Group F members Belgium and Canada face off later in the evening. Towards the end of the tie, Champion informed Hartson that he had been on co-commentary duties for two of the tournament’s three goalless draws at that point. 

The former striker was also present for Denmark’s stalemate with Tunisia on Tuesday, during which he sparked a reaction by calling a fairly understated Kasper Schmeichel save ‘one of the best he’d ever seen’. 

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Hartson seemingly didn’t appreciate Champion’s tongue-in-cheek remark, however, as he strangely responded live on ITV: “Well, what do you want to do? Ban me from World Cup games due to a lack of goals?”

The incident prompted a response on social media, with some not entirely satisfied with Hartson’s World Cup contribution. “No, do not ban John Hartson from games because of the lack of goals,” wrote @bnrcmpbll. “Ban him from games because he’s insufferable on co-comms.”

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Croatia evidently aren’t the force they were four years ago in Russia, despite having the likes of Luka Modric, Josko Gvardiol and Ivan Perisic in their ranks. They may need positive results against Belgium and Canada to progress with Morocco boasting numerous talented footballers of their own. 

Modric won the Ballon d’Or in the aftermath of the 2018 World Cup for his role in guiding Croatia to the final, as well as his exploits at club level with Real Madrid. Now at 37 years old, this is likely to be his last shot at the World Cup as manager Zlatko Dalic discussed the frustrating result after the final whistle. 

“It was a tough game which we expected it would be,” he said. “They were compact and organised which we knew. We were scared to make mistakes and lacked depth. Today we opted for more experienced players in defence.

“Unfortunately, Nikola [Vlasic] was injured in the first half. I can only complain that there was a lack of determination and verticality. We lacked courage. This was different than four and a half years ago. We have to get 4 or 5 points to advance out of the group, we won’t complain and we move forward now.”

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