World Cup: Mark Pougatch says his brain is ‘wired’ to be neutral ahead of England v Senegal

‘Ian and Gary can be as partisan as they want… I just nudge them in a low-key way’: ITV presenter Mark Pougatch says his brain is ‘wired’ to be neutral but won’t stop colleagues Wright and Neville to use ‘us’ during the clash between England and Senegal

While the rest of the country will only be concerned about the possibility of an England victory, there is one person who will somehow have to remain unbiased most of the time in the huge World Cup clash against the Senegal.

As a seasoned TV presenter, however, Mark Pougatch is almost conditioned to put history before patriotism and insists he will have little difficulty maintaining a measure of decorum on Sunday night.

Instead, the tub beating – or heaven forbid, the chest beating – will be left to Ian Wright and Gary Neville, his fellow experts inside Qatar’s Al Bayt Stadium.

ITV presenter Mark Pougatch says he finds it simple to stay neutral during games against England – which will be evident ahead of Sunday’s World Cup round of 16 clash against the Senegal.

England captain Harry Kane trains with his teammates on Saturday ahead of their final round of 16 clash

England captain Harry Kane trains with his teammates on Saturday ahead of their final round of 16 clash

“Ian and Gary can be as partisan as they want, so I’ll leave that to them,” Pougatch said. sports mail. “I would never use the word ‘we’ but they played for England so they could.”

‘To reflect what is happening at home, it is impossible not to [be a bit partisan]. I just nudge them along the road or reflect the excitement back home, in a slightly different and more understated way.

It turns out that the only downside to his privileged position in the face of television coverage is that Pougatch has a hard time experiencing a sporting event with the joy of a bettor.

“That’s what I do all the time,” he says. “I went as a punter to the England vs New Zealand Cricket World Cup Final with my wife. I was a bit of a nightmare because in the last over I thought New Zealand were going to win. And I was telling him what an amazing story it would be if New Zealand won, given how many people live in New Zealand.

“She just looked at me and said ‘can you be a bettor for once? I think my brain is wired that way now. I thought, you know, in Senegal without [Sadio] Mane, and with a coach [Aliou Cisse] who was their captain in 2002. And who lost family members in a tragedy. If they were to win, you know…’

Almost 17 million viewers watched England’s final group game against Wales. You assume the audience will be even bigger on Sunday night. So what about the pressure of the occasion? Does it at least reach him?

No chance. “I love it,” he says. ‘That’s why I do it. I don’t lose sleep over it. I can not wait to be there. It’s a huge privilege to do this. You know, I grew up watching people do that. To be on the other end and to have the responsibility to do it is fabulous. It really is.’

Let’s hope he is as dynamic at the final whistle.

Mark Pougatch will present Sunday’s coverage of England v Senegal on ITV1, from 6pm.

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