England’s World Cup players came home from Qatar on Sunday as it was revealed that an average audience of 20.4 million viewers watched their heartbreaking loss to the world champions. France in a highly successful quarter-final clash.
They landed at Birmingham airport on Sunday night after being knocked out of the tournament.
The World Cup match on ITV, which saw harry kane missing a late penalty in a 2-1 quarter-final elimination was the most-watched program on all television channels this year, the broadcaster said.
ITV said the game drew the highest average television audience of the tournament, surpassing England’s round of 16 match against Senegal, which was watched by an average of 18.4 million with 13.4 million watching all coverage.
An average of 20.4 million people watched the match across all viewing devices, with 15.8 million watching all coverage.
By comparison, England’s group stage match against USA was watched on ITV by an average of 15.1 million people, with 11.9 million watching all coverage.
Having reached the semi-finals in 2018 and finished as runner-up at last year’s European Championships, England they expected to fight Morocco in the semifinals.
The game saw England fall behind for the first time in Qatar after Aurelien Tchouameni’s early lightning strike, only for Kane to equalize from the spot and equal Wayne Rooney’s all-time record of 53 goals for the national team.
France’s all-time top scorer Olivier Giroud restored the lead to Les Bleus, who turned out to be the winner after Harry Kane missed a late penalty which ended in a 2–1 quarter-final elimination.
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England began their journey home on Sunday morning. Jack Grealish, Harry Maguire, Phil Foden and Trent Alexander-Arnold were among the first seen leaving 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 bus for the airport.
Jude Bellingham signed autographs for the fans before climbing into the lead players’ coach. Flanked by police, the two coaches proceeded to Doha airport at 12:35 p.m. local time to catch a flight to Birmingham.
Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham was among the staff coaches and expressed his pride in the team’s efforts.
“Like all England fans, we feel the pain of losing a quarter-final, along with the managers, players and support team who are suffering this morning,” he said in a statement.
“Gareth and Steve (Netherlands) prepared the team exceptionally well throughout the tournament. The players were committed to winning the trophy and were very well led by Harry Kane.
“But the sport can have thin margins and on the day, against the reigning world champions, it couldn’t be.
“This is a very exciting young English team and despite the intense disappointment last night they should be very proud of their performances in Qatar.
“We are incredibly proud of Gareth, the players, the coaches and the support team and we appreciate all the hard work they put in.” .