June 19, 2018 / 3:07 PM / in 2 months

Soccer-Iceland gripped by World Cup fever

GELENDZHIK, Russia, June 19 (Reuters) - A staggering 99.6 percent of TV viewers in Iceland tuned in to see their nation’s first World Cup finals game on Saturday, a 1-1 draw against an Argentina side led by Lionel Messi.

According to electronic audience data collected by research firm Gallup, the game broke the previous record for a sporting event set during Iceland’s run to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals in France.

“The 60 percent rating with a 99.6 percent share beats the previous record of 58.8 percent rating reached at the Euros 2016 in a game against England,” Valgeir Vilhjalmsson, who is head of media research for public service broadcaster RUV, told Reuters.

“It´s also interesting to know that last Saturday this game got a 58 percent rating among women and 62 percent among men - football has never been this popular with women,” he added.

Amazingly, the game did not break the overall viewing record, which is a 100 percent rating held by an annual New Year’s Eve comedy show that was achieved in 2016.

As for the 0.4 percent that chose not to watch Alfred Finnbogason cancel out Argentina’s opening goal and Messi miss a penalty, 0.3 percent of them watched a re-run of cooking programme “The Great British Bake-Off” and 0.1 percent plumped for a repeat of weight loss show “The Biggest Loser”.

Iceland’s World Cup fever shows no signs of abating, with businesses announcing plans to close early for Friday’s game against Nigeria.

Financial institution Landsbankinn announced on Tuesday that it will shut its offices and customer service centre at 1400 GMT on Friday to allow staff an hour to get home to watch the game, which kicks off at 1500 GMT.

Reporting by Philip O'Connor in Gelendzhik, additional reporting by Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen, editing by Ed Osmond

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