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Who wins the World Cup of internet usage?


Who wins the World Cup of internet usage?

At 3:00pm today, the 32 countries competing at next year’s World Cup in Russia will find out who and where they will be playing, in what is sure to be the sort of elaborate and overcomplicated event that only FIFA can manage.

For many followers of football, the World Cup begins with this event six months beforehand, as fans start swotting up on Panama’s weakness at right back, or that up and coming Iranian holding midfielder. Fans planning to make their way to the event will no doubt be online tonight looking for flights and accommodation to unfamiliar Russian cities like Saransk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod.

Football in recent years, however, has shown us that the sport now exists as much online as it does on the pitches. A generation has grown up following football primarily on the internet, with Twitter perfect for short updates and brief reactions to what’s happening at games. For a global event that dominates the airwaves like the World Cup does, Twitter is ideal, and indeed the 2014 tournament was deemed Twitter’s “biggest event yet”.

It makes sense, then, to look at which countries are likely to be the most active online next June and July. Here they are in order of their percentage of internet users, according to InternetLiveStats.com:

Iceland – 100%
Denmark – 96.3%
Sweden – 93.1%
England (UK) – 92.6%
Japan – 91.1%
Belgium – 88.5%
Germany – 88%
Switzerland – 87.2%
France – 86.4%
South Korea – 85.7%
Australia – 85.1%
Spain – 82.2%
Croatia – 74.2%
Poland – 72.4%
Russia – 71.3%
Argentina – 69.2%
Portugal – 67.3%
Brazil – 66.4%
Uruguay – 65%
Saudi Arabia – 64.7%
Morocco – 57.6%
Colombia – 56.9%
Costa Rica – 56.4%
Serbia – 54%
Iran – 48.9%
Tunisia – 48.1%
Nigeria – 46.1%
Panama – 45.2%
Mexico – 45.1%
Peru – 41%
Egypt – 33%
Senegal – 23.4%

As we’ve mentioned before, Iceland has an incredible 100% of its population classed as “internet users” and is theoretically the country that will do more searching, tweeting and posting related to the World Cup than any other. However, with an estimated 8% of passionate Icelanders actually at last year’s European Championships in France, maybe we’re less likely to see them in front of computers and more likely to see them in Russia wearing Viking hats, performing their “thunderclap” chant and beating England 2-1.

Scandinavian internet dominance continues with Denmark and Sweden second and third respectively, and making up the final four is England, which is something we’re unlikely to be saying in July. England is also the only World Cup nation with no specific international stats, so we have to take the UK’s.

It’s not a surprise to see African countries as the least connected, with Senegal at the bottom of the list by some distance, and Egypt also having only one in three online. I didn’t expect Mexico to be so far down the list, and Portugal’s figure seems low for a developed European nation. I’m also surprised to see Saudi Arabia that high in light of its poor human rights and heavy censorship.

So, it seems like next summer, you’re a lot more likely to get in a Twitter football argument with a Scandinavian than a Senegalese, but the encouraging thing for countries with a high offline presence is that their digital states are growing fast. Senegal had a 11.4% jump in internet users between 2015 and 2016 – a bigger percentage than anyone else in the World Cup.

John Murray

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