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World Cup fails to score at work

BERLIN — Told they couldn't watch the World Cup on the job, Italian autoworkers went on strike — conveniently, a half-hour before game time. German companies set up office viewing areas to keep employees from defecting on game days.

And Brazil? Brazil basically shuts down when its team plays, with businesses and schools closed and elective surgery put off so people can be in front of a TV.

The soccer tournament is the world's most watched sporting event, and the fact that it comes around only once every four years is probably fortunate for anyone trying to get some work done.

One study suggests the German economy, Europe's largest, loses more than $8 billion in productivity, about 0.27 percent of gross domestic product, during the monthlong tournament.

Some workplaces — particularly government ones — are strictly watching that employees aren't rooting when they should be working.

Many other bosses seem only too happy to allow the World Cup into the workplace — perhaps because they share their subordinates' football obsession. In the Netherlands, whose team will play today in the finals, the entire country's quitting time was unofficially moved forward to 1 p.m. on the Friday of its quarterfinals match with Brazil so fans could watch the game.

Researchers at Germany's Hohenheim University estimate that the average German will devote 15 minutes of work time daily to the World Cup through the tournament. That includes watching games, checking scores on the Internet and taking part in office betting pools.

The U.S. is not as swept by football fever as the rest of the world, but the time difference with South Africa means all matches are taking place during America's normal work hours.

Nearly 15 million Americans tuned in to ABC for the team's 2-1 loss to Ghana in extra time.

The World Cup is the fourth-biggest "top productivity sapper” in the U.S. The NCAA men's basketball tournament ranked No. 1 and was followed by NFL fantasy football pools and the Super Bowl.

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