Tomorrow, Tuesday 17 May, sees the return of the Women’s Unofficial Football World Championships (WUFWC) , and it’s a big moment for England. They take on Sweden at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford, in their first match as women’s UFWC champions since June 1987 when, ominously, they lost to Sweden. Following that defeat, they made 13 unsuccessful attempts to regain the title. Six weeks ago, they finally regained the title after a 24-year wait, and in some style too.
The opponents on the day were the United States, who had won seven and drawn one of their previous eight matches against England. They had scored 29 goals in those matches, compared to England’s two. England’s previous win over the Americans was way back in 1988. Jess Clarke and Rachel Yankey put England 2-0 up at Leyton Orient, before Megan Rapinoe responded for the Americans. England won 2-1 to take the WUFWC title.
However, defending the title won’t be easy for England, as Sweden are another of the world’s top teams. England currently lie in equal seventh place on the all-time UFWC women’s rankings, with 13 wins in title matches. Sweden lie third with 47 wins. The only countries ahead of them are Germany (55 wins) and the United States (121 wins).
Sweden’s last spell as UFWC champions came much more recently than England’s. In 2009, they beat champions the USA on penalties. They followed that up with wins over Brazil, China and Finland, before losing 1-0 to neighbours Norway.
England (who are 10th in the FIFA women’s rankings, five places below Sweden) will have to make do without two of their key players – Faye White (the England captain) and Fara Williams, both of whom are injured. However, there is plenty of talent still available. Kelly Smith, who plays club football in America, has 43 goals for her country, whilst the likes of Rachel Yankey and Sue Smith in midfield, as well as Rachel Brown in goal, have plenty of experience. None, however, has as much experience as midfielder Therese Sjogran, who, with over 150 caps, is Sweden’s most capped player of all-time.
Strangely, it appears that regardless of which team wins, their next defence of the title will be against Mexico. England have no more matches scheduled before they begin their Women’s World Cup campaign; they play Mexico in Wolfsburg in 27th June. Sweden, on the other hand, do have two more friendlies scheduled, the first of which is against the Mexicans on 16th June in Gothenburg.
You can follow the WUFWC, and other UFWC spin-offs, over at the UFWC forum.