The 1987 film Suspect, starring Cher, was on 1, Frasier was on 2 and Spain's version of The Million Pound Drop was on 3. There was news on 4 and 6, while Tele5 went with the word quiz game show Pasapalabra and then Sálvame – a four-hour marathon of celebrity and shouting. It did not matter where you turned: there was no football, not even on the sports channels. You could watch basketball and you could watch the Republic of Ireland getting hammered by Germany, but for the first time since 1981 no one in Spain showed Spain.
On the morning of the game, the price had dropped below €800,000 (£645,000) but still there were no takers. The world champions were not on television – the only country in Europe not to be broadcast anywhere on its national network. Fans could not even listen to the commentary live from the Dynamo stadium: broadcasters were told at the last minute that it would cost them €25,000 to do so, leaving them obliged to commentate from their Minsk hotel rooms, watching on local TV.
"It is a pity that people weren't able to see this game," the Spain coach, Vicente Del Bosque, said.
It certainly was; they had missed out on another hugely impressive performance. Pedro scored a hat-trick in which all three goals were finished with a dink over the goalkeeper, and his back-heel had already set up Jordi Alba for the first. The passing was impeccable as Spain racked up a 4-0 victory and Iker Casillas broke a national record, reaching 725 minutes without conceding. Spain are now unbeaten in 46 World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, stretching back almost a decade. They have won 24 consecutive qualifying games across the two competitions.
On Tuesday night at the Vicente Calderón stadium in Madrid, they aim to make it 25. While Spain were busy scoring four, subjecting Belarus to death by a thousand cuts, their opponents were losing at home to Japan. So perhaps it is no surprise that their coach declared that when it comes to visiting Madrid his team have "nothing to lose." Except that Spain's opponents are France and they have much to lose, starting with a place in Brazil.
Only one team will go through from the group. Either France or Spain will be forced into a play-off at best. Both teams have won two from two: Tuesday night will set the tone for the rest of this group. The French have, one radio journalist insists, "zero optimism".
It is only four months since Spain and France last met; just two competitive games ago from France's point of view. That night in Donetsk Laurent Blanc chose two right-backs to counter the threat from Spain's left, only for Spain's opening goal to come from that side anyway.
For Spain, it ended with a place in the Euro 2012 semi-final and a victory over the last team to have knocked them out of a major tournament, six years earlier in Germany. For the French, the night ended in elimination and recrimination. Although they had got out of the group, they were beaten by Sweden and for a third successive tournament departed leaving little. The internal battles were not as intense as they had been in South Africa but they were there and afterwards Sami Nasri and Jérémy Ménez were suspended. Hatem Ben Arfa and Yani M'Vila were not paid bonuses they were due.
Nasri's three-game ban has been served but he has not returned to the squad. Nor has Ben Arfa. And M'Vila has been included in the Under-21s but not the senior squad. Blanc has gone, to be replaced by Didier Deschamps. That has brought a shift in philosophy. Blanc may have turned defensive against Spain at Euro2012 – "we cannot," he admitted, "compete for possession with them" – but he talked a different game, a more technical, more expansive one. During qualification, he had appeared capable of delivering it too.
Now, he is gone. Deschamps is more pragmatic, more of a disciplinarian, and his team is more powerful; the focus has become physical. It is also, as yet, undefined. Injuries have played their part – Abou Diaby, Alou Diarra and Rio Mavuba are all out – but there is more to it than that. Karim Benzema played on the left against Japan; he had previously played on the right and behind the striker. With Franck Ribéry, he is France's most talented player; he is also, his critics claim, their most indifferent.
Against Japan, France had 20 shots and Deschamps insisted that the result was "unjust". Yet France did not convince: right now, some fear, they are simply not one of Europe's strongest sides. But still, this is France and there is a certain fear. Spain won comfortably, in Ukraine but it was the first time they had defeated their neighbours in a competitive match. Deschamps, meanwhile, does have a habit of getting results: "It is not always the team that dominates [possession] that wins games," he said as he prepared to travel to Madrid.
The lesson from the last few years suggests that, actually, it is – at least in part. "We have to do the same against France as we did tonight," Pedro said on Friday. There will be one big difference, though. This time the country will be watching.