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U.S.-Portugal sets ESPN viewing record for non-football game

US soccer fans react Portugal's tie-goal near end game as they watch game between US Portugal Richmond Va. Sunday June

US soccer fans react to Portugal's tie-goal near the end of the game as they watch the game between US and Portugal in Richmond, Va., on Sunday, June 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Daniel Sangjib Min) (

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The United States’ 2-2 draw Sunday against Portugal ranked as the most-watched non-football telecast in ESPN history.

The Nielsen Co. said Monday an average of 18.2 million viewers, including a peak of 23 million between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Chicago time, watched the game on ESPN. Coupled with Spanish-language viewers on Univision, the game had a total of 24.7 million viewers in the United States, tying it with the 2010 World Cup final as the most-watched soccer game in the
United States.

Many factors were in place to make the game so popular: It was an exciting game, interest in the U.S. team was high because of its opening victory against Ghana and World Cup viewing in general has been high. The time slot also meant many Americans were available to watch the game.

‘‘It indicates that a large group in our audience is really following the story of the World Cup, which is really terrific,’’ ESPN senior vice president of programming Scott Guglielmino said.

Netherlands takes Group B

Leroy Fer scored in the 77th minute — a minute after coming on as a substitute — to break a deadlock and help the Netherlands earn a 2-0 victory against Chile in Sao Paulo in the battle for the top spot Group B. The Netherlands, which won all three of its group-stage games, will play Mexico in the knockout stage; Chile will face host Brazil.

Fer had just replaced Wesley Sneijder when he rose almost unmarked in the penalty area to put the Netherlands ahead with a powerful header. Another sub, Memphis Depay, then tapped in a cross from Arjen Robben in stoppage time to double the lead.

Brazil captures Group A

Neymar scored twice in the first half, then Fred and Fernandinho broke the game open in the second as Brazil dominated Cameroon 4-1 in Brasilia to finish at the top of Group A. Brazil, which will play Chile in the knockout stage, and Mexico each finished with seven points in the group, but Brazil won it based on goal differential.

Spain goes out in style

David Villa scored in the 36th minute, Fernando Torres in the 69th and Juan Mata in the 82nd as defending champion Spain salvaged some pride after dropping its first two games with a convincing 3-0 victory against Australia in a Group B game in Curitiba.

Sun-Times wires

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