Each World Cup comes with a flush of new technologies, from the goal line cameras that help the games themselves be fairer, to the apps and websites developed by web and mobile-conscious marketers.
And heaven knows there is a hunger for smart tech among football fans. With multiple matches taking place each day, and live coverage starting at potentially anti-social hours (depending on your timezone), followers of the tournament are lapping up developers’ offerings that can help them keep up to date.
In the U.S., every match is available with English-language commentary via FIFA’s official network coverage, on ABC and ESPN (and their respective websites). The Spanish broadcast can be accessed through Univision’s website and the Deportes app. These options all have plus points, and none are perfect.
WatchESPN runs replays of every match. The interface is a little clunky, and the feed lists a running time of more than four hours, presumably to allow for the pre-match hype and any extra time or penalty shootout situations. You can’t help but feel ESPN could have come up with a better offering than this, which only gives you the actual broadcast somewhere in the middle. The usual problems of navigating less-than-stellar video sliders apply – go too far by mistake and you might see a scoreline you were hoping would come as a surprise (especially problematic on mobile devices).
Other features range from the good to the bad to the downright ugly. In the latter camp sits the inappropriately named ‘highlight reel’, which in the case of Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina was longer than the game itself!
On the other hand, the ‘tactical cam’ pleases this writer’s eyes immensely. I’ve longed for the chance to watch a (nearly) birdseye view of the action from start to finish. It’s not for everyone, but the geometrical shapes formed by the ant-sized players and ant-football-sized ball is mesmerizing, and really demonstrates ‘The Beautiful Game’ at it’s free-flowing, pattern-making best. Neither ESPN’s highlight reel or the tactical cam include commentary, which is either a boon or a bummer, depending on your point of view regarding play-by-play announcers.
Over on Univision Deportes, the interface is much better - but full match replays are not possible. Instead, you get a good highlights clip (with commentary!) and multi-angled shots so you can savour the goals. And despite there being no love lost between me and commentators, it’s a much more passionate, thrilling experience in Spanish. Though that could be simply because I don’t understand the drivel.
There’s no shortage of other World Cup apps out there. So get on your mobile, browse the web, and get plugged in to the greatest sporting competition on the planet.