Football at the Colosseum, Rome by chrisobayda / Flickr
Football at the Colosseum, Rome by chrisobayda / Flickr

Italy v Argentina
14 August 2013
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Stadio Olimpico, Rome

The UFWC resumes following a short summer break with a friendly match between Italy and current Unofficial Football World Champions Argentina. The match will be played at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Wednesday evening, and has been arranged in honour of Pope Francis, the Argentine pontiff. Both teams will have an audience with the Pope on Tuesday. Oddly, despite describing him as an avid football fan, the Vatican say there are no plans for the Pope to actually attend the match. Italy coach Cesare Prandelli – who had the initial idea for the match – has said that he will try to invite him, “if he has nothing else to do”.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella will be without the injured Sergio Aguero, but his squad does include fit-again captain Lionel Messi, new Napoli signing Gonzalo Higuain, and Inter midfielder Ricky Alvarez, plus late call-ups Maxi Rodriguez and Francisco Cerro. Juventus striker Carlos Tevez has again failed to make the squad. The English Premier League is represented by Fabricio Coloccini of Newcastle United and Pablo Zabaleta of Manchester City.

As for the Italy squad, Cesare Prandelli is being tipped to pick impressive young Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne. He is likely to be joined in the squad by Milan’s new signing Andrea Poli, Alessandro Florenzi of Roma, and Marco Verratti of Paris Saint-Germain. Of course, Mario Balotelli will be involved, too, and the audience with the Pope will be a special occasion for him. Prandelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “Balotelli is big-hearted enough and sensitive enough to be really moved by the meeting with the Pope.”

Italy last participated in the UFWC in November 2009, when they drew 1-1 with then-champions the Netherlands. The Italians last held the UFWC title in 2007. They defeated Scotland 2-0 to take the title, then beat the Faroe Islands and Lithuania, but then lost 3-1 to Hungary after only three games as unofficial champions. Italy are 9th in the UFWC ranking table, having won a total of 27 title matches.

This June, Italy finished in third place in the Confederations Cup tournament in Brazil. They lost to Spain on penalties in their semi-final, then beat Uruguay on penalties in the third-place match. The tournament was, of course, won by Brazil. Italy had lost to Brazil in the group stage. Italy have only lost two out of 11 matches in 2013, and are currently ranked 6th in the world by FIFA.

Argentina are ranked 4th by FIFA, and 3rd by the UFWC. They’ve won a massive 54 UFWC title matches. Only old-stagers Scotland and England have won more. Argentina’s last match was a 4-0 win in Guatemala, with Messi scoring a hat-trick. They’re unbeaten in 2013.

Can Italy beat Argentina to become Unofficial Football World Champions for the first time since 2007? Or can Argentina get the win or draw they need to retain the UFWC title? And will the Pope turn up? We shall find out on Wednesday, and as usual we’ll have full coverage right here. Kick off at the Stadio Olimpico is at 20:45 (19:45 BST). In the meantime, let us know who you think will win by voting in our poll.

 
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