Soccer World Cup 2018: Opening-Match Ratings Below 2014 in Europe

World Cup Russia v Saudi Arabia
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The world's biggest sporting event kicked off in style in Moscow Thursday night, but viewer figures in Europe didn't reach the heights of the World Cup opener in Brazil four years earlier.

European soccer fans showed up in force, in front of their TV sets, for the opening match of the 2018 World Cup, but ratings figures failed to hit the levels seen for the kickoff of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The opening-night match, which saw hosts Russia thrash Saudi Arabia 5-0, provided plenty of spectacular goals, if little in the way of top-end soccer. And the game topped ratings across most of Europe, led by Germany, whose national side are defending champions: 9.5 million Germans, a 51 percent market share, watched the match on public broadcaster ARD. That's not bad, but it's well below the 15.9 million that caught the kickoff between Brazil and Croatia in San Paulo in 2014.

It was a similar case in France, where 4 million tuned in for TF1’s coverage of the opening match, a 36.2 percent share, compared to the 8.7 million viewers that caught Brazil vs. Croatia four years ago. Across the channel, viewership peaked at just over 5 million on Britain's ITV, against the 12 million British fans that watched the kickoff in 2014.

Networks blamed the early kickoff — the match in Moscow aired late afternoon in Europe, compared to primetime evening broadcasts for the Brazil tournament four years ago — for the lower viewership figures. That should improve with upcoming matches, many of which will air in primetime in Europe.