Ian Darke: Thanks to his goal calls of Donovan and Wambach, Darke is now the #1 announcer for U.S. games. This means he’s also #1 for England games. He’s worthy, willing to be more emotional than the average English announcer. Can let his biases show a bit too much, but given his accent and knowledge, he’s very much a Martin Tyler, only a step below. Add in his more-emotional delivery, and he tops even Tyler for the American market.
Derek Rae: I mentioned to someone that Rae would be a great announcer for someone new to the game. He is skillful at working useful information and even analysis into his play-by-play, which itself is very good. To my ears, he’s good at pronouncing names.
Jon Champion: Solid English announcer, which means he’s pretty good. I haven’t heard much of his work in Brazil, but I’ve had plenty of time in the past to listen. To some extent, I have a hard time distinguishing him from the other Brits.
Adrian Healey: See Jon Champion, above.
Fernando Palomo: What I’ve heard, I like, and he brings a Spanish-language fervor to the games. But he usually gets assigned the big Latin matches, which I almost always watch on Univision, so I miss out on Palomo.
Daniel Mann: I confess I knew very little (i.e. nothing) about Mann prior to the Cup. I don’t have anything bad to say about him, which is a good start.
Pablo Ramírez: The #1 guy for Univision. Has a sense of humor, and his goofy “AZO! AZO! AZO!” for exceptional goals has grown on me over the years. I miss Jorge Ramos and Andrés Cantor, but Ramírez is solid.
Luis Omar Tapia: Among my favorites of these announcers. Begins each match with “Comienzan los 90 minutos del deporte más hermoso del mundo!” Known for giving nicknames for players, although in fairness, all of the Spanish-language guys seem to do this … watch a Mexican league match sometime, practically every player on the field has a nickname.
Jorge Pérez-Navarro: Another favorite … I could have him confused with someone else, but I think he’s the guy who gave the Earthquakes Ramiro Corrales the nickname “OK”.
José Luis López Salido: Usually when I don’t recognize the voice, it’s José Luis. He’s the Adrian Healey of Univision.
Enrique Bermúdez: You always recognize this voice, which is low and booming. Main thing I don’t like is that he seems to take time away from Pablo Ramírez. Univision has started this odd practice of splitting the play-by-play among two announcers, one per half. I don’t know why.
Édgar Martínez: Incomplete, not sure I’ve heard him.
Color commentary, English:
Steve McManaman: He and Darke have a great rapport. But, even more than Darke, Macca lets his English heart show, and his analysis never seems too deep.
Efan Ekoku: Sounds authoritative. Whether that confidence is warranted, I’m not sure. He does give more detail about his opinions than the average ex-jock.
Kasey Keller: Pleasant, useful. I wouldn’t say that adds up to “bland”, but he’s on the fence, at least.
Alejandro Moreno: Usually (always?) works with Palomo. I like him, and not just because he once played for San Jose. But, as with Palomo, for most of his matches, I’m tuned in to Univision.
Stewart Robson: See Adrian Healey, above.
Taylor Twellman: It’s nice to have an American in the booth, and he brings more personality than Keller. But his insights rarely rise above the usual ex-jock stuff.
Craig Burley: Incomplete.
Color commentary, Spanish:
Everyone gets an Incomplete. My insufficient command of Spanish gets the best of me here. I’m good enough to call myself fluent for conversational purposes, and I’ve been listening to sports in Spanish for a long time. But the best color guys offer detailed analysis, and I’m never confident I’m picking up the subtleties (there’s nothing subtle about the goooooooool calls, so this doesn’t really matter for play-by-play). I end up liking or disliking a color guy based on what I get of their personality. So I’m really enjoying Hristo Stoichkov, partly because I loved watching him play when he wasn’t breaking an opponent’s leg, partly because this Bulgarian speaks better Spanish than I do, partly because while I couldn’t identify it as Bulgarian, he clearly has a different Spanish accent than everyone else. He even seems pretty likable. Beyond him, Jesús Bracamontes is known as “El Profe” because he’s supposed to know a lot about the sport … he’s an ex-coach rather than an ex-jock. He gets respect from the other announcers, who call him “Profe” without irony. The rest blend together in my mind.
I don’t watch the pre- and post-game shows, so I can’t comment on them. There have been a few folks on Twitter that have served as a kind of virtual commentating crew. The legendary Ray Hudson, whose network does not have World Cup rights, is left with Twitter to hand out his magisterial praise to Messi. On the local angle, up-and-comer Kate Scott is delightfully profane and enthusiastic. And, in a more cultish vein, Golden FM does an entertaining job of interpreting the matches as if he was managing a game in Football Manager (sample tweet: “Lahm playing in a classic inverted false wing back role today”).