Record viewers witness drama of group stages

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The 24 matches in the group stage of Euro 2004 have beaten almost all records for football television audiences, according to Uefa. The total audience for the first round was up 26 per cent compared to Euro 2000 in Europe's six key markets.

The 24 matches in the group stage of Euro 2004 have beaten almost all records for football television audiences, according to Uefa. The total audience for the first round was up 26 per cent compared to Euro 2000 in Europe's six key markets.

In France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom a total of 845m viewers watched the games, compared to 617m four years ago, the Uefa spokesman William Gaillard revealed.

Those figures only count people watching the games at home. If the increasing popularity of sports bars and giant screens was taken into account the figures would be higher still.

"We are really getting figures that we have never seen," said Gaillard. "All records are being beaten." The live audience for games involving a market's home team is up 38.4 per cent and the figures for games involving other countries rose 12.5 per cent.

No figures are available yet for Portugal's penalty shoot-out victory over England in the first quarter-final on Thursday night but those are expected to break records too. "I don't think anyone missed that game last night. Even babies were watching," said Gaillard.

Medics had to treat about 130 fans for fainting and anxiety attacks during that match, a spokesman for the emergency medical service said yesterday. Two supporters at the 65,000-seat Estadio da Luz stadium were treated for more serious heart conditions during the match. "It was a very emotional game and some people had this kind of reaction," the spokesman said.

The Portuguese footballing great Eusebio revealed yesterday that he had given some advice to the team's goalkeeper, Ricardo Oliveira, before the penalty shoot-out.

The European footballer of the year from 1965 said he approached Ricardo and repeated a tip that had been passed on to him by the late Soviet Union goalkeeper Lev Yashin.

"Stay still and look at the player," Eusebio said. "Then I told him, 'You're going to stop these shots and we're going to win'."

Ricardo, who unusually was not wearing gloves, saved a penalty from Darius Vassell with the score level at 5-5, then converted the spot-kick that sent the hosts into the last four.

Eusebio, a former Benfica player, was among the first to race on to the Luz stadium pitch to embrace Ricardo, who plays for Benfica's Lisbon rivals Sporting.

"He told me, 'Thanks, King'. I told him, 'Thanks, no, you're a rival, but here's the national flag," said Eusebio.

Comments