Reynolds Rap

Back Of The World Cup Net For Nets

6/14/2010 12:08 AM

With the de facto home sides taking the field in prime positions, Univision and ESPN have gotten off to strong starts with the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Univision set an opening match record, as Mexico’s 1-1 draw with the host nation South Africa netted 5.4 million watchers in the 10 a.m. (ET) window on June 11. The second Group A contest, a nil-nil affair between France and Uruguay, brought in 2.54 million more at 2:30 p.m. The two-match of 3.99 million essentially doubled the 2 million the Spanish-language media leader in the U.S. garnered with the first two games in Germany during the 2006 World Cup.

ABC got off to an even better start, scoring with almost 13 million watchers with the “Revolution Rematch” between the U.S. and England. The 1-1 draw ranked as the fifth-most-watched soccer match in U.S. history (numbers include pre-game coverage), trailing Brandi Chastain’s moment against China in the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final on July 10, 1999 (18 million); Brazil-Italy with the 1994 WC Final in the U.S. (14.5 million); Brazil-U.S. in the round of 16 on the Fourth of July from that tournament (13.7 million); Zinedine Zidane’s infamous head butt during the 2006 WC Final (12 million); and 10.8 million for England-U.S. on Saturday.

ESPN’s top game over the tourney’s first two days: Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Nigeria on June 12, which could have been a lot more if Lionel Messi had converted on any of his four shots and other chances, averaged 3.73 million watchers.

These front-loaded U.S. and Mexico schedules give the English- and Spanish-language rights-holders a chance to rack up some big numbers over their Nielsen marks from Germany four years ago.

But I’m not quite sure those who don’t enjoy soccer’s teamwork, nuances and subtleties have been converted by what they’ve seen thus far in South Africa: Eight matches have produced just 13 goals, four by the Germans, who outclassed Australia’s Socceroos on Sunday.

Indeed, America’s moment came on Clint Dempsey’s grounder, where the shortstop, er keeper, got called for an E6 on what appeared to be a routine bouncer. To his credit, England’s Robert Green shouldered the infamy and didn’t blame Jabulani for his miscue. He then had a measure of redemption against Jose Altidore’s run on the best scoring opportunity for either side in the second half.

For his part, U.S. goalie Tim Howard turned aside a number of rockets. Now, the question is he can overcome his rib injury and get between the pipes in the American’s next match on against Slovenia , which won its game when Algeria’s keeper played a bouncer off his chest into the back of the net.

That is now essentially a must-win if Sam’s Army is to advance out of Group C and should prove to be quite an attractive match, even with its 10 a.m. kickoff on Friday. Maybe, a lot of Nielsen families will take advantage of an early pre-summer Friday or call in sick and don their red, white and blue face paint.

For its part, Univision figures to rack up strong ratings again with El Tri battling Les Bleus on June 17 at 2:30 p.m. Group A is wide open with all four of the teams collecting one point apiece after their initial encounters. Univision officials and fans of Mexico have to hope that reports that a calf injury to opening-game goal-scorer Rafael Marquez are overblown and the defender will play.

October