Most Watched Football Matches in the World
Football is the most popular sport in the world. That is a fact that we football fans know very well but it always helps to look at the records to back that statement with facts. The World Cup which is the most prestigious football competition has had some of the most watched football games ever, with the most recent 2018 Russia World Cup being watched by more than 3.572 billion people, that is only 30 million less than the Olympics. In fact, Summer Olympics, comprised of practically every sport, as far as viewers go is the only competitor that football has and that should settle everything about football’s popularity!
In truth football is a drama, a grand everlasting drama with an engaging audience who take note of its every turn and twist. As a result when the competition hits its peak intensity, whether at International level or club level, people tune in to watch what happens and as a result we have some of the most watched football match in the world. But which of them are exactly the most viewed soccer match ever, find out in the list below!
The Most Watched Football Games ever
Although the most watched football games in history have usually been World Cup games, we have tried to compile a list that also includes various club games, so we will be taking a look at some club games as well as some International Tournament games to balance it out, let’s find out what are the most watched football games ever:
From El Classico to the FA Cup in Wembley, here are some of the most watch club football matches of all time:
FA Cup 2020 Final
FA Cup is the oldest competition in football. It has a huge tradition and history, containing some of the most memorable moments in English Football. it is also very special to English fans and footballers, a fact that is not entirely understood by many foreign viewers of the competition, as the competition seems like a usual domestic cup and not a grand tournament.
If we narrow down the reasons why this competition is so beloved and popular, we arrive at the fact that it is mainly because of its legacy but also because of FA Cup’s structure which allows more than 700 teams to enter each year to win the final prize. As it is often the case with football, the better teams usually win the competition but there is always that hope of upsetting the powerful teams for the small clubs, we have seen it last in 2012-13 as the relegation side Wigan won the cup over Manchester City and was forced to compete in both Europe and the lower leagues of English football the following year!
Nonetheless, in regards to the most viewed football match ever in the competition, it was the last season’s final where Arsenal played Chelsea in front of an empty Wembley stadium. Like a lot of competitions, in the wake of the COVID outbreak, last season’s FA Cup final was the most watched soccer match of all time in the competition's history. It was a London derby as well as being a cup final which made it even more entertaining to watch and the two teams didn’t fail to deliver.
Arsenal was looking to extend their record of 13 FA Cups, which was the best in the competition's history, and Chelsea was like always hungry for another trophy. Chelsea managed to start the game really well by scoring early on as their American star Christian Pulisic seemed to rip Arsenal’s defence to shreds and score in the 5th minute of the game but Arsenal’s manager Arteta had a clear game plan and he stuck to it until the end.
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Using the speed and explosive runs of Aubameyang, Arsenal tended to cross the ball deep into Chelsea’s right hand side, where Aubameyang made numerous problems for the aging Chelsea Captain, Cezar Azpilicueta, and he finally managed to get a clear chance but Azpilicueta fouled him and a penalty was given and Aubameyang himself converted it, drawing the match.
Chelsea went down to 10 men in the second half and from there on it was all Aubameyang’s show as the Gabonese superstar scored an incredible goal to secure Arsenal’s 14th FA Cup title. As BBC reported, it was most viewed soccer match ever in Britain this year with 8.2 million viewers but the actual number of viewers could rise much higher, perhaps double or triple that amount, as the match was also being viewed by other means than BBC channel.
Derby di Milano 2017
This is another one of those derbies that many football fans crave to see. Just like El Clasico it’s a fixture that is entertaining to watch and so often becomes one of the most watched football match in the world. The two teams, AC Milan and Internazionale, have always been rivals and enemies with both being 18 times champions of Italy, although they were both having a bad season when this particular fixture happened.
The Milano derby in the April of 2017 became one of the most watched soccer match of all time because of outstanding circumstances as the match’s kick-off time was changed to accommodate the viewers in Asia and more prominently China where Internazionale’s owners where from. As a result, the match was expected to be broadcasted to 860 million people, over 500 million of which were from Asia, but the actual number of peak views could be much lesser and in the same vein of 70-100 million views, just like El Clasico, which makes this one of the most watched soccer match of all time.
The match itself was entertaining as always despite being relatively unimportant in the title race. The first half of the match was all Inter's, as the Nerrazzuris managed to score two goals despite having less possession of the ball. Antonio Candreva managed to score in the 36 minute and then just before the halftime whistle blew, Internazionale Captain and talisman, Mauro Icardi scored, as he always liked to do in Derby Milano.
But the second half was all Milan’s as they managed to put on a show, justifying the match’s status of being one of the most watched soccer match in the world, and they pulled one back in the 83rd minute with their center-back Romagnoli but it didn’t end there as their other center-back Zapata managed to score an extremely late goal 7 minutes in the injury time drawing the match, leaving Inter with 2 points less. Undoubtedly an entertaining end to a derby and one of the most viewed football match ever.
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El Clasico 2020
Whether you love these two teams or hate them, watching an El Clasico is inevitable if you are a football fan, as this is usually the most watched football game ever in any season and its always entertaining to watch. Even though the fixture itself has become increasingly more popular in the past decade and a half, the roots of this rivalry goes a lot deeper.
El Clasico is one of the oldest rivalries in football as well as being one of the most political, as Barcelona is heavily tied to the Catalan state and their quest for independence and Real Madrid is tied to the central government of the Spain, which naturally opposes Catalan's interests. In fact, one of the most watched soccer match in the world was delayed last season because of the riots Catalans were causing against the central government.
On the pitch it’s a different scene altogether, as these two teams often have the most exciting superstars of world football playing for them. Their last meeting in the March of 2020 was expected to be broadcasted to 650 million people but the realistic number of viewers could be somewhere around 70-100 million average viewers which made this most viewed soccer match ever last season, except for the Champions League Final.
The match itself lacked that usual rivalry between Ronaldo and Messi, something that has made this fixture even more enjoyable to watch in recent years, but apart from that the tensions were there as both teams were vying to win the La Liga again. Real managed to beat Barcelona 2-0 though, despite being unimpressive in the first half.
In the second half though, Zidane’s team came back with just one objective and that was to win the match in front of the Madrid fans and they managed to do so. Vinicius Jr. was undoubtedly the star of the match by scoring a goal and looking a threat throughout the game. Mariano scored Real Madrid’s second in the last minute, bringing a fitting entertaining end to one of the most football match in the world.
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Champions League 2018 Final
Every year, except on years with an important International tournament, this is the most watched football match in the world and rightfully so because it is the pinnacle of club football in Europe. The competition has always been prestigious but it has grown in popularity immensely in the past two decades, as has been the case with tournaments that has the most watched soccer matches in the world.
Every year the most powerful teams in Europe compete in the Champions League, first in a play-off and a group stage and then in the knockout stages. It’s the knockout stages that draw most of the UCL’s views, as the 16 best teams in Europe play each other, often with very exciting pairings that sees teams who ar favorites to win the competition meet each other way earlier than the final.
But it all climaxes in the final, where many football fans tune in to watch two best teams in Europe battle it out for the much sought after UCL trophy. Because the exact number of views from the 2019-20 Champions League final hasn’t been announced we have to use previous records, although it’s worth noting that because of the outbreak of the virus, viewership has skyrocketed and this year’s final could very well be the most viewed but we have to go with facts.
The facts tell us that the 2017-18 UCL Final between Real Madrid and Liverpool was the most watched football match in the world, in the club competitions, with 380 million viewers. The match came at the end of the most recent Golden Generation of Real Madrid and it saw them play against the new emerging Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool. Real Madrid has a lot of enemies among football fans and every one of them rooted for Liverpool in the final, as the Reds had the opportunity to upset Galactico’s record of being Champions of the Europe 3 times in a row.
But Liverpool failed to do so as Real went on to beat them with the help of Liverpool’s keeper and the Supersub, Gareth Bale, who managed to score 2 incredible goals with one being a bicycle kick.
A record was set as Real Madrid and their manager Zinedine Zidane managed to win UCL for the 3rd consecutive year with the help of their Galacticos, Cristiano Ronaldo was chief among them as he scored 15 goals in the competition and at times dragged his team to the final. This would also be his last match in Real Madrid shirt that also became the most watched football match in the world.
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International games, especially tournaments, usually have a lot more views because the stakes are much higher than annual club games and also whole nations tune in to watch their national team, even the casual football fans. this whole list could have been comprised of International matches but we have chosen a handful, so here they are:
2010 World Cup Final
There is just no competition for the World Cup final being the most watched football match in the world, as it is the most important match in a 4-year period of the most popular sport in the world. The competition itself, as we said in the beginning of this article, sees only the summer Olympics above it with a narrow margin. 2010 World Cup final was between two Giants of European football, Netherlands and Spain.
This was arguably Total Football at its best. As the Dutchmen were playing Total Football their own way as opposed to Spain’s tiki-taka football which was a new take on the idea of Total Football. This was without a doubt the Golden Generation of Spanish football as their clubs were dominating the Europe at the time and they were Euro 2008 champions. The Dutch side with players like van Persie, Robben and Sneijder and under the guidance of van Berwijk was also really powerful as they beat Brazil in the quarter-finals in their way to the finals.
The two teams played each other in the Soccer City stadium in what would be one of the most watched football games in history by having 909.6 million viewers in at least one minute and over 610 million viewers for the last 20 minutes of the game.
The match itself seemed to go either way as both teams played attacking football, with Spain having a bit more possession and chances, but the result was 0-0 in the normal time as no team was able to beat the oppositions defense. Arjen Robben lost two one-on-one chances against Iker Casillas which would prove their downfall as Andres Iniesta was assisted by Fabregas to score minutes later in the 116th minute of the game and making La Rojas World Cup Champions for the first time ever, in what was one of the most watched football games ever.
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2014 World Cup Final
The 2014 World Cup final was between Argentina and Germany. The two teams were facing each other in the final of the competition for the third time, the first two taking place in 1986 and 1990 World Cups, with each of them winning a game. Argentina’s hopes were high as they had Lionel Messi, arguably the best football player of all time, as well as several other world class players playing for them. The final was watched more than it was in 2010, with over 1 billion watching at least one minute and 695 million watching the final 20 minutes of the game.
But as Argentina struggled to get in the finals by winning over Netherlands in the penalty shoot-out, Germany had an entirely different story. Germany managed to beat the hosts and winning favorites Brazil 7-1 in the semi-final, absolutely dismantling the World Cup champions record holders and breaking every Brazilian heart.
Compared to their semi-final, Germany had a lot quieter game, as it was Argentina that was making most of the chances in the game. But despite Argentina’s attacking force which was at the time one of the most powerful attacking trios, with Higuain, Aguro and Messi, they didn’t manage to score. Messi and more prominently Higuain lost lots of good chances and the game ended with 0-0 result. It then went into the extra time.
As everyone was preparing for the arduous penalty shoot-out, Germany suddenly surprised Argentina when a cross found the youngster Mario Gotze who was fresh off the bench and he beautifully put it past Romero and into Argentina’s goal in the 113th minute of the game, making Germany World Champions in one of the most watched football match in the world.
2016 Euro Final
As the home to some of the most powerful football teams in the world, both at club and international level, it is no surprise that the final of Europe’s continental tournament is watched almost as much as the World Cup final, which makes it one of the most watched football games in history. This particular final was between the favorites and the host, France, and the underdogs, Portugal, a team that struggled to qualify from its group and failed to win a single match in the normal time until the final.
Portugal’s hope of winning the Euros rested solely on Cristiano Ronaldo’s shoulders, as he was at the peak of his career at the time and the only player that had experienced the final on another occasion on both teams. Their hopes were shattered when Ronaldo was forced to leave the pitch with tears because of an injury caused by Dmitri Payet’s tackle. Portugal was then left with a France side that had an abundance of talent in each position, especially the attacking positions.
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Like the last two entries in this list, this final also went into the extra time. France who were hopeful after beating World Cup champions, Germany, in the semi-finals and were adamant to win it in the extra time but their hopes were shot down as the Portugal’s substitute in the extra time panned off and the new boy Eder scored to make Portugal Champions of Europe in one of the most viewed football match ever, where over 600 million people watched the game.
2018 World Cup Final
France’s 2016 heartbreak didn’t last very long as they, as one of the strongest teams in the world, got even stronger and won their way over Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium to reach the Final of the 2018 World Cup to face the competition’s surprise package, Croatia, who had a much easier route to the final but managed to upset England and the hosts Russia in the knockout stages.
This was the most watched football game in history, a game that happened in Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow and with Nestor Pitana as the refree and it was a very open game, as the two teams loved to play attacking football. Croatia started the game very well but France hit back when Mandzukic scored an own goal. Croatia then set out to draw the game and they managed to do so in the 29th minute.
The rest of the game however was France’s show as they battered down Croatia by scoring 4 goals, with their stars Pogba, Griezmann and Mbappe getting on the scoresheet and Mandzukic managed to pull one back in the 69th minute to make the final result 4-2 to France. France was champions and the tournament’s sweethearts, Croatia, was humiliated, but everyone applauded them for their brave and entertaining display.
With over 1.12 billion viewers, the 2018 World Cup final is most watched football match in the world and it will probably remain so until the next world cup, with no single match even coming close to beating its number of views.