England's World Cup heartbreak attracts 11.7 million viewers

London (AFP) –


England's dramatic women's World Cup semi-final defeat to the United States was the most watched television event of the year so far in the United Kingdom, attracting a peak audience of 11.7 million.

The Lionesses bowed out at the last four for the third consecutive major tournament after missing a late penalty and seeing a goal marginally ruled out for offside in a 2-1 loss to the world champions.

Viewing figures released by BBC showed that the match in Lyon grabbed a peak share of the TV audience of over 50 percent.

It was the fourth time this tournament that the record UK TV audience for a women's match had been broken.

"It's moved from being an interesting Olympic-type sport to an absolute mainstream sport," former Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn told the BBC.

"The importance of that is that adds attraction, it pulls girls and women into playing.

"At the top end, what will make the product of the Women's Super League more attractive is getting more exposure in the millions - so being on terrestrial TV is important - making sure the games are played in the elite stadiums that the men play in, and continuing to improve the quality of the football."

The England men's team's defeat to Croatia in the World Cup semi-final last year attracted a peak audience of 26.5 million.