Unofficial Football World Champions Sweden defeated neighbours Finland to retain the UFWC title, and win the 2013 King’s Cup. A comfortable 3-0 win improved Sweden’s record as one of the most successful nations in UFWC history, and set up an exciting forthcoming title match against Argentina.
Sweden coach Erik Hamrén had said that his team would not get carried away after taking the title from former champions North Korea on Wednesday, although he admitted he was “pretty damn happy” to be an unofficial world champion. His team would try to defend the title against Finland, he said. And they succeeded.
In addition to being a UFWC title match, this was the final of the King’s Cup, with two nations that share a border in Northern Europe playing in South East Asia – at the 700th Anniversary Stadium in Chaing Mai (in front of a tiny crowd). Hosts Thailand had played out a 2-2 draw with North Korea to share third place directly before this game. Kick-off in the final was delayed by 15 minutes due to the third-place match overrunning – and due to the fact that players and spectators were subjected to a very long pre-match speech.
Sweden lined up with Tobias Hysén leading the line, supported by Wednesday’s goalscorer Erton Fejzullahu. UFWC veteran Daniel Majstorovic again marshalled the defence. Mixu Paatelainen’s Finland team paired the familiar face of Mikael Forssel up front alongside Riku Riski. The experienced Teemu Tainio played in the heart of the Finnish midfield.
Fejzullahu powered an early header just wide for Sweden, but it was Finland who carved out the best early chance, only for Mika Ojala to drive his shot straight at Swedish keeper Pär Hansson – who had this week joked that he would boast about being world champion for a long time to come.
Sweden broke the deadlock after an impressive passage of play, which started with Jiloan Hamad having a shot parried by Lukas Hradecky. Finland failed to clear the ball, and Sweden eventually worked it out to the left and Erdin Demir, who beat his man and whipped in an excellent cross. Tobias Hysén was unmarked on the edge of the six yard box, and he coolly nodded the ball into the bottom corner of the net. 1-0 to Sweden with 23 minutes on the clock.
Hysén almost scored again, but his drive was saved by Hradecky. Then Finland enjoyed a period of possession, creating half chances for Riski and Forssel, neither of whom could score. Sweden led at half-time.
The second half saw Finland again have plenty of possession. Forsell went close a couple of times, and substitute Sebastian Mannström tried a long-range lob that sailed just over the Swedish crossbar. However, Sweden never looked uncomfortable, and a quick break caught their opponents off-guard, with sub Robin Quaison slipping the ball home from the edge of the penalty area to make the score 2-0 with 72 minutes played.
Finland refused to give up, and both sides had chances, but Sweden finally killed the game off in the 90th minute. Another quick break saw sub Christoffer Nyman race away from the defence and square the ball to Anders Svensson, who easily scored Sweden’s third. 3-0, and there was barely time to restart before the ref blew the final whistle.
The win was Sweden’s 28th in UFWC history. That remarkable record puts them in 7th place on the all-time rankings table, clear of Italy and Germany, and only one win behind the mighty Brazil.
Sweden’s next match is a home friendly against Lionel Messi and Argentina (3rd in the UFWC rankings) on 6 February. Following that they have another home game, against the Republic of Ireland.
We’ll bring you reaction to today’s game and previews of the next one over the next few days. Watch this space and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates. If you’re new to the UFWC, you might want to check out the official UFWC book. And Sweden fans might be interested to know that Sweden trophy and mascot T-shirts, plus many others, are available from the UFWC T-shirt store.