World Cup: England's Loss to Uruguay Gets Highest U.K. TV Ratings Since London Olympics

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More than 20 million Brits watched England lose 2-1 in a match that may have ended their World Cup run.

England's 2-1 defeat to unfavored Uruguay on Thursday night scored the best television ratings in the U.K. since the 2012 London Olympics.

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A peak of 20.29 million British viewers watched, we assume in dismay, as Uruguay star striker Luis Suarez crushed England's hopes, putting two goals past keeper Joe Hart. The 70.7 percent market share for commercial network ITV was the biggest U.K. audience since the nation went crazy for Team U.K. at the London Olympics two years ago.

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Coverage of the match (excluding halftime) averaged 18.5 million viewers, or 67.8 percent of the viewing public. Full coverage, including pre-match warmup, averaged 13.29 million, or a 55.5 percent market share.

To compare, Danny Boyle's London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony drew a peak audience of 26.9 million for the BBC. Last night's World Cup match drew an audience similar to that of the top sporting event of the Olympics, the men's 100 meter race, in which Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt set a new Olympic record and the BBC scored a peak audience of around 20 million.

The BBC's coverage of England's first World Cup game against Italy averaged 11.5 million viewers on Saturday night for a viewer share of 68.4 percent, with an audience peak of 15.4 million, or 76.4 percent. England lost the match, 2-1.

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England's defeat was must-see TV across Europe. 14.66 million Germans, we assume in delight, watched their traditional soccer adversary go down in defeat, a 47.1 percent market share for public broadcaster ZDF.

In Italy, just under 9 million viewers watched on public channel RAI, a 35.5 percent share, with likely more than a million more on Sky Italia, which has not yet released overnight ratings.

In France, 8.4 million viewers caught the match on TF1, a 35.9 percent share. And in Spain, 3.9 million, or 25.3 percent, watched on Telecinco, we assume in sympathy, after their team was eliminated earlier this week. Some 3.4 million, or 47.8 percent of the Dutch viewing public, watched on NOS.

With former champions Spain out of the tournament and England nearly gone, viewership figures for the remainder of the World Cup could suffer. British sports fans are likely to switch over to Wimbledon, which kicks off Monday and where there is still hope of a homegrown winner in the form of defending champion Andy Murray.

Twitter: @sroxborough