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FIFA: 700 mil worldwide watch World Cup final

World cupBy Scott Roxborough and Benjamin Jones

Soccer's governing body FIFA estimates around 700 million people watched the 2010 2010 World Cup final live.

If that is correct, the match would beat out the estimated 600 million that caught the opening ceremony at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and would be on par, or slightly above, the 700 million that watched the World Cup final four years ago.

Spanish broadcasters said Ole! to record ratings as nearly 17 million fans watched the country's one-nil victory over the Netherlands in the finals.

About 16.8 million Spaniards -- 91% of their TV audience -- caught the highlight of the match, when Andres Iniesta rocketed in the winning goal in extra time giving Spain its first-ever World Cup win.

On average 15.6 million people in Spain, 86% of the audience, watched on the three channels broadcasting the match, an all-time average record, according to ratings agency Barlovento Comunicacion.

Roughly 91% of Dutch viewers tuned into public broadcaster NOS to watch as their Orange-mantled team failed in their third World Cup final. An average of 8.5 million Dutch caught the match, with millions more watching in pubs and public squares across the country.

Certainly the game proved a ratings winner across Europe, with 25.1 million Germans, 71% of the audience, watching on ZDF; 18.4 million, or 66%, of Brits catching the game, which was simulcast across BBC1, BBCHD, ITV1 and ITVH; and 14.1 million French viewers tuning in on TF1 (a 63% share). TF1's result was the best-ever rating for a soccer game not featuring the French national side and was the third-best rating for TF1 this year.

Whatever the final ratings tally, the World Cup has again proved a month-long audience anchor for local broadcasters. Spain's Telecinco averaged 10.7 million viewers, a 66.2% share, for the eight matches it broadcast. ZDF's average was 11.37 million, or 51.3%, over 27 games and TF1 7.1 million viewers (40% market share) for the 27 matches it broadcast. 

Nielsen release U.S. viewership ratings from the game later today.

Scott Roxborough reported from Cologne, Germany. Benjamin Jones reported from Madrid. Mimi Turner in London and Rebecca Leffler in France contributed to this report.