Ahead of the final eight games, the tournament pauses and FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, speaks of the “best ever” opening stages to a World Cup. “The matches have been of great, great quality in beautiful stadiums – we knew that already. However, as well, the public was incredible” Infantino remarked.
“The level is very, very equal. National teams from all continents going to the knock-out phase, for the first time in history. This shows that football is really becoming truly global.” The quality of the football and the sheer quantity of goals was historic with some of the world’s most famous teams being tested by the likes of Morocco, South Korea, or Saudi Arabia. “The first knockout round featured a total of 28 goals over the eight games played; the most there has ever been since the round of 16 was introduced in 1986” explained Infantino.
UK Prime minister Rishi Sunak had announced a similar sentiment days earlier when he tweeted after the England 3-0 win over Senegal. “Hats off to Qatar for hosting an incredible World Cup so far. The group stages will be remembered as one of the all-time greats.”
The ratings speak to the dramatic matches viewers enjoyed. According to the Financial Times, “Fox has averaged 3.15mn viewers through the first 10 days of the World Cup, up 44 per cent from the equivalent period in the 2018 tournament, according to Sports Media Watch”. Between the difference in time zone and the World Cup competing for ratings amid the busiest season for sports in North America in the yearly calendar, the ratings signal a rise in the US’ following of “soccer” as President Biden called the sport it in a show of support for team USA.
Worldwide ratings were staggering. Infantino announced that the opening stages saw “Record-breaking figures on TV – we already had over two billion viewers, which is really incredible”.