June 19, 2006

Spain 3, Tunisia 1: In what was the best game of a day marked by match-ups between countries with hitherto no connection with each other, Spain scored three goals in the final twenty minutes to rally past a determined Tunisian squad, and thereby advanced to the second round. Tunisia must beat Ukraine on Friday to remain alive.

Ratings so far for the 2006 World Cup have improved dramatically over 2002, which is not surprising considering the last Cup took place mainly in the wee hours of the morning in America. But the U.S.-Italy war on Saturday got the highest ratings for any soccer game in this country since the '98 Final, almost doubling the numbers for the third round of the U.S. Open and the sixth game of the Stanley Cup Finals, and nearly matching the numbers the same network got the following night for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Today's games will be the true test of the number of soccer fanatics in America: it's one thing to get sports fans to watch the home country on a weekend, and quite another to tune into Switzerland and Togo at 6 in the morning.

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