Blooper Turns to Buzz for English Soccer Goalkeeper, Fires Up U.S. World Cup Interest

Blooper Turns to Buzz for English Soccer Goalkeeper, Fires Up U.S. World Cup Interest

Thanks to a goalkeeping blunder in the 40th minute, the United States escaped with a 1-1 draw versus England on Saturday. The player responsible for the mistake, England’s Robert Green, was not only pulled from relative obscurity into the social media spotlight, but his error has helped to fan the flames of World Cup fever in the US.

According to a Nielsen analysis of online messages surrounding all U.S. and English national team players in the week ending Monday, June 14, Green garnered 11.4% of the total buzz, the most of any man from either squad. Nielsen’s study also found that his name was seven times more likely to appear in a World Cup message in the last week than in the prior seven-day period. It was the second most dramatic week-over-week change behind U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, whose gutsy performance earned him “Man of the Match” status. His buzz levels soared more than 750% week-over-week.

“Nielsen’s analysis illustrates just how much the online community discusses these games,” said Pete Blackshaw, VP of digital insights at Nielsen. “Moments of greatness – or even the briefest of errors – can thrust any of these players’ names under the social media microscope for hours and days at a time and can have an effect that spreads far beyond the 90 minutes of game time.”

The contrasting week-over-week change in overall buzz levels for each of the two squads highlights the effect the game’s result had in each country. Social media discussions around the England squad dropped by 21%, reflecting the disappointment and subdued reaction to the game in England. In stark contrast, buzz levels around the US squad increased by over 250%, highlighting the delight with the result in the USA.

Blackshaw observes, “What’s happening in social media indicates that the error could help fan the flames of World Cup fever in the US and help the sport gain a mass share of mind it’s not previously enjoyed for a tournament held outside its own shores. If Green hadn’t made the blunder, the US would have lost their most anticipated match (it was the most watched first round game ever in the U.S.) and interest could have dwindled before it had a chance to really start going.”

USA and England Soccer Player Buzz Rankings

(Week ending Monday, June 14)

Rank Player Buzz Share*

(week ending 6/14/10)

% Change in Overall Buzz Levels


1 Robert Green (England) 11.4% 608%
2 Wayne Rooney (England) 9.1% 76%
3 Tim Howard (USA) 6.7% 765%
4 Clint Dempsey (USA) 5.0% 528%
5 Steven Gerrard (England) 5.0% 32%
6 Landon Donovan (USA) 4.8% 224%
7 David Beckham (England) 4.2% 28%
8 Joe Cole (England) 3.1% -29%
9 Jozy Altidore (USA) 3.0% 127%
10 Rio Ferdinand (England) 2.9% -73%
Source: The Nielsen Company

*Share of online buzz, in English-language social media messages, among all USA and England players related to the 2010 World Cup squads

Despite a somewhat muted performance, English star Wayne Rooney still managed to receive the second highest levels of buzz last week among the teams’ players with a 9.1% share. Howard finished third overall with a 6.7% share, while the game’s goal scorers Clint Dempsey and Steven Gerrard rounded out the top five with 5% each.

It was also notable that David Beckham, who isn’t playing in the tournament, still managed to feature amongst the most buzzed players. It seems the obsession with the star plays out in social media just as it did with the TV cameras, which frequently cut to slow-motion clips of Beckham’s reaction to events during the course of the game.

There was one positive for England’s Green: the buzz levels for England’s backup goalkeepers, David James and Joe Hart, actually decreased in the last week – suggesting that even if fans are unsatisfied with Green, they weren’t eager to discuss the need for a replacement.

Nielsen’s latest study, conducted the week ending Monday, June 14, 2010, looked at English language World Cup-related messages on blogs, message boards, groups, video and image sites – including Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter – that mentioned at least one of the players related to the 2010 US and England Team Squads.