Beckham & Co make television history

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The Independent Football

England's World Cup victory over the tournament favourites Argentina on Friday has made television history with the biggest ever daytime television viewing figure.

England's World Cup victory over the tournament favourites Argentina on Friday has made television history with the biggest ever daytime television viewing figure.

Early totals put the number of viewers who watched the match at 17.6 million – 13.3 million tuning in live at 12.30pm. And these figures do not yet take into account the estimated millions who watched the game live in workplaces, pubs or on big screens in cinemas and parks.

A further 4.3 million watched the match repeated later in the evening. The previous record for daytime viewing was 13.4 million people who watched the total eclipse in August 1999.

Twenty-four million people watched England's previous game against Argentina in 1998, but that was screened during evening prime-time.

England's victory saw bookmakers William Hill immediately slash the odds of England winning the World Cup from 14-1 to 6-1, making England fourth favourites. The tournament is becoming one of the most exciting in decades with unfancied sides continuing to beat more illustrious rivals.

Yesterday another of the tournament favourites, Italy, succumbed 2-1 to Croatia, joining Argentina, Germany and France in a struggle to reach the next round. Only Brazil, who struggled to qualify for the tournament, are living up to their reputation. A 4-0 victory over China secured their route to the last 16.

But yesterday England coach Sven Goran Eriksson dampened the euphoria, saying it would be "stupid and dangerous" not to take the match with Nigeria seriously.

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