KEIR RADNEDGE in DOHA: Critics of the World Cup award to Qatar who said no-one would turn up have been routed by the crowd statistics for the group stage of the first World Cup in the Arab world.

Opponents of the hosting claimed variously that fans would be put off by the heat, by the pre-Christmas timing, by the cost, by the human and workers’ rights controversies plus negative forecasts about adequate accommodation.

So much for the merchants of doom and gloom.

The official total stadium attendance in the 48 group matches added up to 2.45m spectators, an average of 51,042 per game.

This figure is based on tickets sold, which equals an average of 96pc occupancy, because there is no turnstile count. However it is decisively higher than 2.17m from the same stage at the last World Cup in Russia in 2018.

On both occasions, as with previous World Cups, some venues were not always full to capacity through the absences of fans who had bought a tickets package with only specific matches in mind.

The highest World Cup attendance since the 1994 final was recorded at the Lusail Iconic Stadium by the 88,966 fans who saw Argentina’s 2-0 win over Mexico.

On the pitch, for the first time, teams from all continents have advanced to the round of 16. Also, for the first time, three teams from the AFC (Australia, Japan and Korea Republic) reached the knockout stage. The previous best for the AFC representatives was two, in 2002 and 2010.

For the second time two African teams (Senegal and Morocco) have reached the knockout stages, the last time being in 2014.

History was also made by Stéphanie Frappart, who not only became the first woman to officiate a World Cup finals match, but also, together with Neuza Back and Karen Díaz Medina, formed the first all-female trio to take charge.

Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo achieved another milestone against Ghana on becoming the first player to score at five finals tournament.

Many matches have attracted the best television audiences of the year in their respective countries, with England v United States becoming the most watched men’s football match on American television ever.