Argentina vs. France Thriller Is Most-Watched Men’s World Cup Final in U.S. History

The previous record holder was 1994's Brazil vs. Italy, which also went to penalty kicks, on ABC.
LUSAIL CITY, QATAR - DECEMBER 18: Lionel Messi of Argentina lifts trophy wearing a Bisht - traditional Arab robed as he lifts the world cup trophy surrounded by team mates uring the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Lionel Messi of Argentina lifts the FIFA World Cup trophy
Getty Images

As if we needed another reason to declare Sunday’s FIFA World Cup Final between Argentina and France the best soccer game of all time. The Argentina victory, at long last for star Lionel Messi, was the most-watched World Cup Final in U.S. and English-language TV history, according to Nielsen data.

The Argentinian team, Messi, and Fox are probably still kissing trophies as we speak.

Argentina-France scored 16.783 million total viewers on Fox and Fox streaming services.

The previous high came from 1994, when Brazil vs. Italy drew an average of 14.510 million viewers on ABC. After a 0-0 draw, that one also went to penalty kicks; Brazil triumphed 3-2. Beyond the nail-biting excitement, the ’94 final drew extra American eyeballs due to location: Brazil’s big win took place at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The Argentina-France game also surpassed a prior record set earlier in this World Cup, when 15.491 million people watched the USA-England match during the group stage.

Brazil-Italy is the only World Cup final in history to be scoreless after extra periods. The PKs had a shocking conclusion of their own, when Silver Ball winner Roberto Baggio missed the decisive penalty for Italy. The rest is history. And so was Sunday.

Messi cemented his G.O.A.T. status with a pair of goals on Sunday, including the one that was almost the game winner. But after a handball was called against Argentina in the 118th minute, France star Kylian Mbappé completed his hat trick with a PK goal in the second period of extra time.

Both Messi and Mbappé converted on their attempts in the penalty-kick finale; unfortunately for France, Argentina’s goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez, was a stud. Martinez won the tournament’s Golden Glove award, Messi won its Golden Ball, Mbappé won the Silver Ball.

The World Cup final looked like it would be a runaway win for Argentina, which led 2-0 until the 79th minute. Mbappé then scored twice in two minutes.

The overall tournament averaged 3.588 million viewers across 64 matches on broadcast network Fox and cable channel Fs1, up 30 percent from 2018’s tournament. The World Cup’s streaming-growth statistic from the four-years-ago tourney, which was held in Russia, was +47 percent.

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