Germany women's start a TV hit

BERLIN - German organisers of the women's World Cup were rubbing their hands on Monday after domestic television figures showed more than 18 million Germans tuned in at some point to watch their team's first group win over Canada.

Sunday's game had the largest ever German TV audience for a women's football game and was seen by more than twice as many people as those who watched German Sebastian Vettel's Formula One victory in Spain on the same day, organisers said.

"This is an outstanding figure which we never expected," the country's football federation chief Theo Zwanziger said in a statement. "Our expectations were exceeded by several million viewers."

Title holders Germany beat Canada 2-1 in Berlin's Olympic Stadium on the opening day of the June 26-July 17 tournament with an average audience of 15.3 million and a peak of more than 18 million.

The previous record TV audience for a women's match was just over 10 million in Germany's 2003 World Cup Final victory over Sweden.

"That is fantastic. That is pure madness," said Ralf Scholt, World Cup programming chief at state broadcaster ARD.