More than 700 million set to watch final

JOHANNESBURG - A worldwide television audience of more than 700 million is expected to watch the World Cup final between Netherlands and Spain on Sunday, FIFA said.

Football's world governing body added that record viewing figures were reported in Germany for Wednesday's semi-final with Spain, while the United States had reported a 50 percent increase in overall figures compared to 2006.

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"I think the audience for the final will be bigger than 2006, when it was watched by 700 million people," Niclas Ericson, director of FIFA's TV division, told reporters.

He said that in Germany a record of nearly 32 million viewers had watched the semi-final, which Spain won 1-0 in Durban, for a market share of about 90 percent.

Spanish channel Telecinco reported 13.3 million for that match, nearly a third of the population and by far the highest audience for any programme in the last five years, FIFA said.

In the U.S., 19 million people watched the 2-1 second round defeat by Ghana, a record audience for a men's football match. "Overall figures in the U.S. are up 50 percent," said Ericson.

There were also record viewing figures in the Middle East, even though Al Jazeera's signal was mysteriously blocked during the opener between South Africa and Mexico, which ended 1-1.

"If we find out who has done this, we will take appropriate measures," said Ericson.

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