Who’s been enjoying the Football World Cup in Brazil? Perhaps you haven’t been enjoying it that much if you are an English supporter, or an Italian supporter or a Spanish supporter… but I’m pretty sure that the rest of us have all been enjoying it very much. The public broadcaster down here in NZ has even got the rights to air about a third of the games free-to-air which has been great to watch over breakfast (although I have to admit that I haven’t got up at 3am to watch the earlier fixtures yet!)  Anyway, I thought it was a good time to shoehorn the World Cup into a demography article.

We often hear about how popular football is, and looking at the nations that make up the last 16 (or did, sorry Uruguay, Mexico, Chile and Greece) we get an idea at why it is the most popular sport on Earth.  According to the Washington Post, the nations that make up the last 16 (I like the term “octo-finals”) are made up of about 1.1 billion people! Of course, that is a huge potential fan base.  (And some “back-of-the-envelope” calculations have revealed that the 32 teams at the start of the tournament represented 1.74 billion people.)

The USA is the largest nation in the last 16 (319 million) and Uruguay is (was) the smallest (3.3 million).  The smallest match up was this morning’s match between Greece and Costa Rica with 15.5 million people represented by those two countries.  This matchup is also the closest in terms of the population difference between the two teams at the octo-final stage, with Greece having only six million more people than Costa Rica.  The largest match up in terms of population is Belgium vs USA with about 330 million fans interested in the outcome in those two countries.  This match also has the largest population difference with 308 million more people in the USA to will their team to victory.

PS A bit of pub quiz trivia for you to Google: which team was the only undefeated team in the 2010 Football World Cup? The answer may surprise you!

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...