Brazil — Clint Dempsey may have scored the go-ahead goal for the United States in what would ultimately be a gut-wrenching tie with Portugal in Sunday’s World Cup game. But on social media, Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo was three times as popular as the American striker.
Ronaldo, considered the best soccer player in the world by some, was mentioned on Twitter 1.5 million times during the United States-Portugal match, compared to 465,000 mentions for Dempsey.
Of course, the word “popular” is probably relative to most Americans, after Ronaldo lobbed a perfect crossing pass to help create the last-minute goal that prevented the U.S. from advancing to the Cup’s next round, at least for now.
“I feel like someone (@Cristiano) just punched me and my babies in the gut!” New York Jets placekicker Nick Folk wrote.
“What a match. 30 seconds away from advancing! Still, we control our own destiny… #IBelieve,” tweeted pop star Justin Timberlake.
Sunday’s match was a high point in a World Cup that’s already shattering social-media records.
Facebook says 10 million people had 20 million interactions during the U.S.-Portugal match. According to Twitter Data, there were 8 million tweets about the match while it was happening.
By itself, that’s no match for the 24.9 million tweets during this year’s Super Bowl (including pregame, halftime and postgame). But, taken as a whole, the World Cup, bolstered by its massive international appeal and growing popularity in the U.S., is becoming the biggest social-media event in the medium’s short history.
The Cup’s opening match, between host country Brazil and Croatia, spurred 12.2 million tweets alone — possibly not surprising when you consider that soccer-crazy Brazil has the fifth-most Twitter users in the world, behind the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
The tournament’s first week, June 12 to 18, spurred 459 million posts, likes and comments on Facebook, according to the company. Compare that to 185 million interactions about the Super Bowl, 120 million for the Sochi Winter Olympics and 25.4 million for the Academy Awards in March, and you realize the World Cup inspired more activity than the other three combined.
“Sporting events always drive a massive amount of conversation on Facebook, but what we’ve seen so far during the World Cup has been extraordinary,” a Facebook spokesman said in an e-mail.
“Facebook and the World Cup are both fundamentally global, and we knew that Facebook would become a global, mobile stadium where people connect and engage during the tournament. It turned out to be a unique moment for us, and one that has seen the highest level of conversation for any event Facebook has ever measured.”
Both Facebook and Twitter saw the deluge of soccer-related activity coming and launched tools to encourage it.
In addition to letting users choose their favorite nation’s flag as their avatar, Twitter has created a dedicated #WorldCup feed featuring tweets from selected clubs, media outlets, players and even FIFA, the international soccer governing body.
It has also added “hashflags.” When a user tweets the hashtag for a World Cup team — #USA or #MEX, for example — the nation’s flag will appear as an image beside it.
Faceook has created a similar one-stop home for the tournament, Trending World Cup. In addition to top posts, your friends’ updates about the World Cup also will appear in the feed.