England's football defeat by France in their opening game of Euro 2004 on Sunday was watched by an average of almost 15m people on the UK's ITV1.
The match's UK audience peaked at almost 20 million viewers
The game, which was shown from 1945BST (1845GMT) was watched by 14.8m, more than 59% of the audience share.
At its peak, more than 19.5m people watched the game, which France won 2-1 in added time.
Earlier in the day, BBC One's coverage of Switzerland's 0-0 draw with Croatia drew an average audience of 4.1m.
The figures did not include those who watched the game in pubs or clubs.
The peak figure, in the dying minutes of the game, came as the French scored two injury time goals to snatch the game away from England, who had been leading since the 38th minute.
TOP FIVE TV SPORTING EVENTS SINCE 1981
1. World Cup 98: England vs Argentina, 30 June 1998 - 23.78m (ITV)
2. World Cup 98: England vs Romania, 22 June 1998 - 19.48m (ITV)
3. World Cup 98: England vs Colombia, 26 June 1998 - 19.13m (BBC One)
4. World Featherweight Championship: Barry McGuigan vs Denilo Cabrera, 15 February 1986 - 18.3m (BBC One)
5. World Featherweight Championship: Barry McGuigan vs Eusebio Pedroza, 8 June 1985 - 18m (BBC One)
In October, England's crucial game against Turkey, which won them a place in the tournament, became the most-watched programme on satellite, digital or cable.
The game attracted 4.1m viewers, who saw England advance to Euro 2004 by keeping the Turks to a goalless draw.
The figures do not put Sunday's match in the top league of the most watched sports events of the last 25 years.
According to BBC research, the most popular sports event was England's game against Argentina in the 1998 football World Cup, seen by more than 23.7m people.
The next events were also 98 World Cup matches - England vs Romania (19.48m) and England vs Colombia (19.13m).
Audiences for the most recent World Cup in 2002 were lower than could have been expected because of morning kick-offs. The championship was held in Japan and South Korea.