ESPN lead soccer analyst Taylor Twellman doesn’t take things for granted, especially when it comes to his sport and the opportunity for new experiences.
On Sunday, he will call his first major international championship match when he and partner Ian Darke are at Stade de France outside Paris for the 2016 UEFA Euro 2016 final – Portugal vs. France (2:30 p.m. ET). The assignment culminates a thrilling month of global football for Twellman, who has already called eight matches in France and been part of ESPN’s studio analyst team.
A former U.S. National Team player and veteran of ESPN’s 2014 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012 coverage, where he called matches and worked in-studio, Twellman spoke with Front Row about the past few weeks covering Euro 2016.
How would you describe your month in France for the Euros?
This has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Travel, food, culture have all been the best and then when you throw the Euros on top of it, it’s difficult to top.
What’s the most challenging thing about working a tournament like this?
I love my role because I get to call games and be in-studio so I get a taste of it all in big tournaments like this. It only works if your research is on-point and you have a good base of knowledge of every player in the tournament. The group stage is a sprint but then when the knockout stage comes you actually have down time and the hardest thing about doing those games is getting back to that adrenaline level of the group stages with three games a day.
How has the travel been from city to city?
Easy. To be honest, I am extremely jealous of Ian and Jon Champion now because the travel in Europe to games is light years better than what we have to do in America to call games.
What’s the best part about working with Ian Darke?
The 90 minutes with Ian is the easy part but not the most fun. It’s the travel and dinners that make it the best. He is your uncle and friend. I have thoroughly enjoyed our partnership over the last four years. Now, if only I could get Ian to hit a 5-iron correctly.
How do you pack for a trip like this?
I start preparing my attire in March with my personal tailor – no pun intended, 9tailors in Boston – and they sort out what will look good in the summer and what I should bring. It’s a fun part of the job for me because I know the viewer is interested in what’s new or different. Bob Ley is still making fun of my flowers, cuff links and 40 ties.
What have you done when you are not working matches and in-studio?
Other than the museums and sightseeing in Paris, I did a couple of things I love. I followed Rory McIlroy at the French Open then played Golf de Chantilly which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Beach day in Nice with Ian and [ESPN producer] Matt Leach, walked the streets of Lyon eating crepes and got my first European haircut.
What are your thoughts on Sunday’s final?
When the tournament started, I felt Germany-France would be the final. Even though I still believe France is the favorite, Portugal have not lost in a competitive game since [Manager Fernando] Santos took over – and Ronaldo gets another crack at a major title. Dream matchup.