The UFWC title is going to the World Cup, in the hands of Unofficial Football World Champions Uruguay. The WC tournament begins in Brazil this Thursday, 12 June, and the UFWC action begins on Saturday, 14 June, when Uruguay play Costa Rica in Group D. Also in Group D are England and Italy, both likely to be involved in UFWC title matches over the next couple of weeks. Depending on results, the unofficial title may then be contested in the knock-out stages, which would mean UFWC title matches all the way to the WC Final.
First, for those who are new to the UFWC, here’s a very brief catch-up: The Unofficial Football World Championships is an international football competition contested in a simple boxing-style title system. Winners of title matches become title holders and Unofficial Football World Champions. A draw means the current holder retains the title. UFWC lineage goes back to the very first international match in 1872. Any ‘A’ international can be a UFWC title match, including friendlies – and of course World Cup games. It’s worth mentioning at this point – as it is likely to come up over the next few weeks – extra time and penalty shoot outs DO count for UFWC purposes. You can find more information about the UFWC here.
This is the 12th time the unofficial title has been contested at an official World Cup tournament. The unofficial and official titles have been ‘unified’ at 8 of them. You can read more about the crossover history of the UFWC and World Cup here.
Uruguay are the current Unofficial Football World Champions, having taken the UFWC title from Argentina back in October. Since then, they’ve made five successful defences of the title. Uruguay have won the World Cup twice, in 1930 and 1950. They are one of only eight sides to have held both the official and unofficial titles simultaneously. Their first UFWC win came in March 1953. Overall, Uruguay have won 20 UFWC title matches, and are ranked 11th in the UFWC All-Time Rankings.
As UFWC champions, Uruguay have shown themselves to be a solid and experienced side, with a first-choice front pairing that’s as good as any in the world. However, recent knee surgery means that Liverpool man Luis Suarez may miss some or all of Uruguay’s games. In his absence, Edinson Cavani is likely to be paired with 35-year-old Diego Forlan, with attacking support coming from Christian Stuani in a wide right position. Coach Oscar Tabarez, El Maestro, is likely to play a 442 formation, with Walter Gargano and Egidio Arevalo in central midfield, and Cristian Rodriguez on the left. A back four of Martin Caceres, Maxi Pereira, Diego Godin and captain Diego Lugano will aim to protect keeper Fernando Muslera.
Uruguay will need to defend the UFWC title in Group D, a tough group that also includes Costa Rica, England and Italy. Current FIFA rankings suggest Uruguay and Italy should be favourites to qualify from the group stage, while the UFWC rankings suggest England might edge out Uruguay. Remember that the UFWC rankings take into account the entire history of international football, dating back to 1872, while the FIFA rankings began in 1993. The bookies, meanwhile, are going for Italy and Uruguay to qualify.
Uruguay FIFA rank: 7; UFWC rank: 11; Betting odds: 4/7
Costa Rica FIFA rank: 28; UFWC rank: 29; Betting odds: 10/1
England FIFA rank: 10; UFWC rank: 2; Betting odds: 8/13
Italy FIFA rank: 9; UFWC rank: 8; Betting odds: 4/9
The Group D fixtures show how the UFWC title could change hands over the first ten days of the tournament. Uruguay will be expected to beat Costa Rica, and then draws against England and Italy would be enough to retain the title, and should be enough to secure qualification. The Unofficial Football World Champions would then take their title into the knock-out stages. Of course a loss in any of these games would see the title change hands, and a new champion would need to defend the title. Depending on results, five of the six Group D fixtures could potentially be UFWC title matches.
Group D Fixtures:
14 June, Fortaleza: Uruguay vs Costa Rica
15 June, Manaus: England vs Italy
19 June, Sao Paulo: Uruguay vs England
20 June, Recife: Italy vs Costa Rica
24 June, Natal: Italy vs Uruguay
24 June, Belo Horizonte: Costa Rica vs England
The first confirmed UFWC challengers will be Costa Rica, who have actually been Unofficial Football World Champions in the past. They won five UFWC title matches way back in 1963, and haven’t made a challenge since then. Coached by Jorge Luis Pinto, and with captain Bryan Ruiz as their star player, the Ticos are major outsiders at Brazil 2014. They qualified for the World Cup from a fairly hum-drum group, below the US, but ahead of Honduras and Mexico. Since qualifying, they’ve played five friendly matches, beating Paraguay, but losing to Australia, Japan, South Korea and Chile – the latter match by a 0-4 scoreline.
Costa Rica’s chances have been hampered by a trio of injuries to key players Bryan Oviedo, Rodney Wallace and Alvaro Saborio. All will miss the World Cup. That’s not to say Costa Rica don’t pose a threat. Aside from Bryan Ruiz in his ‘number 10’ role, midfielder Celso Borges of AIK is a man to watch, and can get forward to score goals. And up front, Arsenal youngster Joel Campbell, recently on loan at Olympiacos, could cause problems for opposition defenders. But Coata Rica’s key man is likely to be their highly-rated goalkeeper, Levante’s Keylor Navas.
With seemingly little to separate Uruguay, Italy and England, it may be the respective results against Costa Rica that determine which sides progress from this group. A slip-up against Costa Rica could mean elimination. So Uruguay, notoriously slow starters, will need to hit the ground running for their first match in Brazil. And, according to our World Cup wallchart, if Uruguay do progress, they are likely to face Spain or Brazil in the quarter finals…
Whatever happens, we’ll bring you all the previews, reports and features you need to keep track of the UFWC’s progress through the World Cup, beginning with an exclusive report from Brazil. If you can’t wait, check out our series of UFWC World Cup Classics. You can keep up to date throughout the tournament by following us on on Twitter or Facebook.
If you haven’t already got it, there’s still chance to grab the official UFWC handbook, Unofficial Football World Champions, which contains a complete history of the unofficial competition. The 2014 edition, updated for the World Cup, is out now.
Who will win the World Cup? Can current Unofficial Football World Champions Uruguay win the official tournament for the third time in the country’s history? Or do you fancy another team’s chances? [link expired] are currently running a money back offer on World Cup outright bets if Brazil or Argentina win the tournament. So if you bet on Uruguay and they don’t win you can get your money back. T&Cs apply, see the [link expired].