England’s World Cup players returned from Qatar on Sunday as it was revealed an average audience of 20.4million viewers watched their heartbreaking loss to world champions France in a clash successful in the quarter-finals.
They landed at Birmingham Airport on Sunday evening after withdrawing from the tournament.
The World Cup match on ITV, which saw Harry Kane miss a late penalty in a 2-1 quarter-final outing, was the most-watched program on any TV channel this year, said the diffuser.
ITV said the match drew the highest average TV audience of the tournament, overtaking England’s Round of 16 tie against Senegal, which was watched by an average of 18.4 million people, including 13.4 million watched all the coverage.
An average of 20.4 million people watched the match across all viewing devices, with 15.8 million watching all of the coverage.
By comparison, England’s group game against the United States was watched on ITV by an average of 15.1 million people, 11.9 million of whom watched all the coverage.
After reaching the semi-finals in 2018 and finishing second in the European Championship last year, England were hoping to face Morocco in the semi-finals.
The match saw England fall behind for the first time in Qatar after Aurelien Tchouameni’s early thunderbolt, only for Kane to equalize from the spot and match Wayne Rooney’s all-time record of 53 goals for the ‘National team.
France’s all-time record goalscorer Olivier Giroud restored the lead for the Blues who turned out to be the winners after Harry Kane missed a late penalty that ended in a 2-1 quarter-final exit.
Manager Gareth Southgate is under contract until the next European Championship in 2024, but on Sunday night hinted he was considering quitting the job.
England began their return journey on Sunday morning. Jack Grealish, Harry Maguire, Phil Foden and Trent Alexander-Arnold were among the first to leave their base in Qatar.
Southgate gave Kieran Trippier a hug and thanked those who worked with the team during their 26-day stay at Souq Al Wakra before boarding the staff coach for the airport.
Jude Bellingham signed autographs for fans before stepping into the main players coach. Flanked by police, the two coaches headed for Doha Airport at 12.35pm local time to catch a flight to Birmingham.
Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham was among the staff coaches, having expressed pride in the team’s efforts.
“Like all England supporters, we feel the pain of losing a quarter-final, with the coaches, players and support team suffering this morning,” he said in a statement.
“Gareth and Steve (Holland) prepared the team exceptionally well throughout the tournament. The players were keen to win the trophy and were led very well by Harry Kane.
“But the sport can have good margins and on D-Day, against the current world champions, it was not the case.
“They are a very exciting young English team and, despite the intense disappointment last night, they should be very proud of their performance in Qatar.
“We are incredibly proud of Gareth, the players, the coaches and the support team and appreciate all the hard work they have put in.”