ESPN Taps Quintet As First World Cup Analysts

ESPN has named its initial roster of analysts for its upcoming coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The worldwide leader announced that five former soccer professionals and national team players -- Michael Ballack (Germany), Alexi Lalas (U.S.), Steve McManaman (England), Santiago Solari (Argentina) and Taylor Twellman (U.S.) – comprise the first wave of its analyst talent for its coverage of the quadrennial from June 12-July 13, 2014.

Ballack, Lalas, McManaman and Solari will appear on pre-match, halftime and post-match shows, SportsCenter, ESPN FC, and FIFA World Cup-themed news and information programs. Twellman will primarily serve as a co-commentator. McManaman will also co-commentate on select matches.

The quintet’s first assignment comes Friday, Dec. 6 at 11:30 p.m. at the ESPN studios at its Bristol, Conn. headquarters, where they will join host Bob Ley to present and analyze the World Cup Final draw, which will air on ESPN2.

“The quality and diversity of our analyst team was one of the keys to our 2010 World Cup success,” said Jed Drake, ESPN senior vice president and executive producer, in a statement.  “Michael, Alexi, Macca, Santiago, Taylor and others to come, will form what we expect to be one of the best collections of football minds available anywhere for this global sporting event.”

Ballack was the German national team captain from 2004 until injury forced him off the World Cup team in 2010. Debuted on ESPN networks as a pundit for UEFA Euro 2012, Brazil 2014 will mark his debut as a World Cup analyst.

Debuting in 2006 as a guest analyst, Lalas, a U.S. men’s national team defender, will work his third straight FIFA World Cup for ESPN. He is sports programmer’s lead studio analyst for USMNTand Major League Soccer matches.

McManaman, a Liverpool FC legend and former England national team player, premiered on ESPN during South Africa 2010. He has since served as match analyst for the network’s coverage of the Barclays Premier League from 2010-2013, working alongside play-by-play commentator Ian Darke. McManaman teamed with Darke again as the network’s lead match commentator team for last year’s Euro tourney.

Solari, former Real Madrid winger and Argentina national team player, will make his World Cup debut on U.S. television with Friday’s draw. He is one of the pundits on ESPN FC, the company’s global soccer news and information program. 

Twellman, a former USMNTer and New England Revolution stalwart, will make his World Cup debut in the booth in Brazil. He is ESPN’s lead match analyst for the men’s national team and MLS.