Fifa on Sunday announced that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has already proven to be a grand success with record attendances witnessed during the group stage.
The tournament in Qatar set a record as teams from all continents advanced to the round of 16 for the first time ever. Also for the first time, three teams from the Asian Football Confederation (Australia, Japan and South Korea) reached the knockout stages.
The biggest positive was the number of fans who witnessed matches at the eight venues in and around Doha. Fifa said the cumulative attendance of over 2.45 million spectators - which translated into 96 per cent occupancy - for the first 48 matches of the group stage was the second highest after the 1994 tournament in the United States.
The tournament also saw the highest attendance in a game since the 1994 final, with 88,966 fans witnessing Argentina beating Mexico 2-0 at the Lusail Stadium.
The 1994 World Cup final between Brazil and Italy was watched by 94,194 spectators at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, US.
"The outcome of the group stage shows the extent to which more countries have acquired the tools to compete at the highest level," Arsene Wenger, Fifa's chief of global football development, said.
"This is the result of better preparation and analysis of the opponents, which is also a reflection of a more equal access to technology. It is very much in line with FIFA's efforts to increase football's competitiveness on a global scale."