Ahead of the North Korea vs Sweden UFWC title match, we’re taking one of our regular looks at the main UFWC “spin-offs” – the unofficial continental titles, the wooden spoons, and the women’s titles – as tracked over at the UFWC forum.
Disappointingly, the unofficial European title didn’t find its way to Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine last summer. It was non-qualifiers Romania who held the title until August before losing a friendly in Slovenia. The Slovenians duly lost their opening World Cup qualifier to Switzerland, who have seen off challenges from Albania, Norway and Iceland to bring the title into 2013.
The woeful San Marino were European wooden spooners throughout 2012. Even a home match against Malta couldn’t save them (they lost 3-2). At home to Moldova, hardly world-beaters themselves, they managed just two shots to Moldova’s 11, with the visitors winning the corner count 7-0. Several more years as European wooden spooners look likely.
Just one change of hands for the unofficial South American title in 2012. It came in September, when champions Uruguay were humbled 4-0 by a resurgent Colombia, who will hope their good form can continue through 2013, and earn them a first World Cup appearance since 1998.
2012 began with Bolivia as South American wooden spooners. They then beat Paraguay, the 2010 World Cup quarter-finalists and 2011 Copa America finalists, who had a terrible year. At least the Paraguayans managed to end the year free of the spoon, as they recorded a narrow 1-0 home win over current holders Peru.
There was huge controversy in the unofficial African championships in 2012, and it has yet to be settled conclusively. Things started well enough, with the Ivory Coast heading to the Cup of Nations as champions, then sailing through to the final, only to be upset by Zambia (on penalties). In June, Zambia lost a World Cup qualifier to Sudan. The title then passed to Libya, before ending the year with Algeria. Or did it? In October, FIFA announced that Sudan had fielded a player who was suspended, and overturned the result, awarding Zambia a default 3-0 win. However, FIFA’s results archive, which provides all results for the UFWC continental competitions, still records the match as a 2-0 win to Sudan. Attempts to contact FIFA on the matter have been unsuccessful! If we do indeed give the match to Zambia, the title then goes to Malawi, then Liberia, then Niger, then Ethiopia. As both potential holders are heading to the African Cup of Nations in January 2013, hopefully the two paths will merge soon.
Meanwhile, African wooden spooners Comoros did not even attempt to rid themselves of the burden during 2012. They didn’t play a match all year, and currently have no forthcoming fixtures arranged.
The 12 matches played by reigning UFWC champions North Korea during 2012 were all against Asian opposition, and so they still retain the unofficial Asian title as well as the world title.
Cambodia entered 2012 as wooden spooners, of both Asia and indeed the whole world. They played four matches, all in qualification for the AFF Suzuki Cup (a tournament for South-East Asian nations). Cambodia lost all four matches – to Timor-Leste, Laos, Brunei and hosts Myanmar. Every other nation won at least twice.
Regional powerhouses Mexico held the title until August 2012, when the United States visited the Azteca. It was the Americans’ 22nd away match against Mexico, and they had lost every single one of the previous 21. Not this time, though. Mike Orozco scored the only goal of an extraordinary match. The USA promptly lost in Jamaica, but luckily for them, the return match occurred just four days later, and they were able to reclaim the title in double-quick time.
Anguilla played three times in 2012, but lost every time, and still hold the CONCACAF wooden spoon. The low point was a 10-0 defeat to Trinidad & Tobago.
New Zealand, far and away the strongest team in the Oceania region, hadn’t had a look-in for the continental championship for some time. Surely they would win the 2012 OFC Cup, though? Amazingly, they lost to New Caledonia in the semi-final. It was Tahiti who went on to become official Oceanian champions, having already become unofficial champions earlier in the tournament with a win over New Caledonia. However, the advent of World Cup qualifying in September restored some order. Tahiti lost to the Solomon Islands, and four days later, New Zealand saw off the islanders to finally reclaim the title. They have since beaten Tahiti home and away.
No action for the Cook Islands this year; they retain the wooden spoon.
Japan, who became official and unofficial women’s world champions in 2011, began 2012 with three wins in a row, but then lost 4-3 in Faro to Germany. The Germans have been fairly imperious since, and have already defended their title eight times. They missed out on competing in the London Olympics, though, due to their shock early exit in the 2011 World Cup, which they had themselves hosted.
Luxembourg began the year as women’s world wooden spooners. They only played twice in 2012, but, even though their opposition came in the less-than-intimidating shape of Malta and the Faroe Islands, and despite home advantage both times, they still lost twice.
You can get regular updates and discuss the UFWC spin-off competitions at the UFWC forum.