Any broadcaster would be fortunate to cover just one game at a World Cup, never mind the 12 that JP Dellacamera has called for Fox in Russia so far. It so happens, though, that Dellacamera has called three of the most dramatic: Mexico's upset of Germany, Argentina's late triumph over Nigeria, and Belgium's last-minute, come-from-behind win against Japan.
"This has certainly been one of the more surprising World Cups that I can remember," Dellacamera said in a phone interview from Moscow.
The Mexico win was a big deal in the United States, given this country's huge Mexican immigrant population, and in Russia, where Dellacamera said El Tri's fans outnumber German fans "by a huge margin." But that Argentina-Nigeria game, won by Marcos Rojo's 86th-minute goal, shook the entire world. It spared superstar Lionel Messi — who scored that game's first goal — from elimination in the group stage, and sent the Nigerians home when it looked as if they might progress.
"If I was Argentinean, I would say one of the better ones of all time, for drama. … As a neutral person, somebody who's covered these games, it was right up there," Dellacamera said.
Belgium-Japan was dramatic in a different way, and not just because it came in the Round of 16. After a scoreless first half, Japan scored twice in the first seven minutes of the second half, and seemed on the verge of a shocking upset. But Belgium came from behind with three goals in the last half-hour, including a spectacular last-minute charge down the field to win the game.
"With every minute that passed, it seemed like Japan was fairly secure in that game," Dellacamera said. "The moment for me was that first [Belgium] goal. … I think that Japan believed that this was their night until Belgium scored."
"When you see something on television, that's one thing, I think, and even in HD quality it's one thing — but when you see these guys in person, whether you're close or far away, you get a much better perspective on what exactly they can do," Dellacamera said. "Against Argentina, you could really see the skill of Mbappé. Not just the speed, but also the skill. … He was spectacular."
Russia's team has also been a big story. Its run to the quarterfinals has surprised not just outsiders, but the host nation, too.
"The bandwagon was small when the tournament started. Russian people that we talked to didn't think the team was going to do well," Dellacamera said. "You've got to wonder about luck being on their side, because they were badly outplayed by Spain, but Spain's going home and Russia advances. … The parties when they win, the celebrations, all the attention they're getting, has been spectacular here as a host country."
Some observers can't help suspecting that Russia has had more than good luck. The doping scandal that ensnared the Olympics has reportedly included the soccer team, too. Is there something sinister behind the Russian team's having run more distance at this tournament than all the others? How about star Denis Cheryshev's father saying the player took a growth hormone before the tournament?
Dellacamera has seen some of the reports and rumors. He said his nature is to not want to believe them, but he knows he might not have a choice in the end.
"I hope I'm not naive, and nothing surprises me anymore in sports, but you've got to show me more than somebody speculating because of what somebody has done in the past, I guess," he said. "I'd rather give them credit and if it's proven that something was amiss, I'm wrong and I'll react to it then."
He certainly doesn't lack for other things to think about, given how much preparation he does for the games he calls. Traveling from city to city also brings its own headaches — such as a flight he was bumped from because it was over-booked by 160 people.
The positives outweigh the negatives, though, and by a lot. If he needs a distraction, he can just walk outside Fox's hotel near Moscow's Red Square, where fans from all over the world have come to party.
"We hear them every night, even when there's no game, from different countries," Dellacamera said. He has watched fans from Mexico, Brazil, Morocco, Egypt and elsewhere singing together.
It takes something special for sport to transcend everything else that goes on in the world. A World Cup can do it, even in Russia.
"I didn't have any thoughts going in about what I was expecting, so I didn't set expectations low or high. I just thought, it's a World Cup and here we go, and it's Russia," he said. "But it's been fantastic. … Nobody talks about politics; nobody talks about the stuff at home."