In the run-up to game between Liechtenstein and Spain, we’re looking at a classic UFWC title mismatch involving a footballing minnow…
CLASSIC UFWC TITLE MATCH:
Faroe Islands 2-5 Russia, 6 September 1995
European Championships Qualifier, Svangaskaro Stadium, Toftir
Scorers: Jarnskor, Jónsson (Faroe Islands); Mostovoi, Kiriakov, Kolyvanov, Tsymbalar, Shalimov (Russia)
Russia took the UFWC title from Yugoslavia in May 1995, and jumped straight into a European Championships qualifying campaign that saw them thrash San Marino 7-0 and Finland 6-0 before coming up against the Faroe Islands.
This was a UFWC debut for ‘the land of the sheep’, a tiny group of islands located halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The Faroes have a population of less than 50,000, compared to Russia’s 140 million. Few were betting their Faroese Krona on a home win.
However, the Faroes had a couple of secret weapons, namely the Svangaskaro Stadium and a goalkeeper named Jens Martin Knudsen. The stadium, with one stand that doubled as a bed and breakfast chalet, and a pitch that would shame most Sunday league teams, was battered by swirling winds that swept in from the fjords, making it a less-than-ideal venue for attractive football. And fork-lift truck driver Knudsen, well-known for wearing a white bobble hat, had become a cult figure after his goalkeeping heroics helped his country to an improbable win over Austria.
But the Russians, featuring temperamental Celta Vigo playmaker Aleksandr Mostovoi and Manchester United winger Andrei Kanchelskis among their stars, were a formidable proposition. And there were few surprises when Russia took the lead through a 9th minute Mostovoi penalty kick. But, just 3 minutes later, Henning Jarnskor shocked the Russians, and the 3,000 spectators, with an improbable equaliser.
Knudsen and his defence worked tirelessly to keep the opposition at bay, and the score remained 1-1 at half-time. Then, ten minutes into the first half, Todi Jónsson, regarded as the Islands’ best ever footballer, raced half the length of the pitch to score a remarkable goal and put the Faroes ahead.
But the celebrations of the home fans were to be short-lived. The Russians recovered, hitting four more goals to, in the end, comfortably see of their plucky opponents. It was no great surprise that Russia went on to qualify for the European Championships. The Faroe Islands, sadly, did not.