The UFWC title has reached the knockout stage of the Copa America tournament in the hands of Colombia, the reigning Unofficial Football World Champions. Colombia took the UFWC title from Brazil in a 2-1 group-stage win, then drew with Peru to retain the title and scrape through into the Copa quarter finals – where they’ll face UFWC giants Argentina.
The 2015 Copa America began with a seemingly-invincible Brazil holding the UFWC title. An opening 2-1 win over Peru was Brazil’s 11th consecutive win since the 2014 World Cup, and their ninth consecutive UFWC title match win. But the win did highlight the reliance Dunga’s team has on captain and talisman Neymar. Peru took an early lead, only for Neymar to head home a swift equaliser, and then create a last-minute winner for Douglas Costa. But in their next match, Brazil lost the UFWC title to Colombia – and then lost Neymar.
Colombia had only previously beaten Brazil twice in 27 attempts, and their Copa America tournament got off to an inglorious start with a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Venezuela. They last won a UFWC title match at the 1994 World Cup. The last meeting between Colombia and Brazil, in the quarter finals of the 2014 World Cup, was a brutally bad-tempered affair that ended 2-1 to Brazil. There was ill-feeling between these two sides, and Colombia exacted revenge.
Inter central defender Jeison Murillo was Colombia’s UFWC hero, sweeping home a first-half goal with his left foot after Brazil failed to clear a free kick. Los Cafeteros bettered the Selecao for much of the game, although Neymar went close to grabbing an equaliser with a header, then tried to steer the rebound in with his hand – receiving a second yellow card of the tournament. James Rodriguez almost scored a second for Colombia with a last-minute shot that just went past the post. But Colombia had done enough to win 1-0 and become Unofficial Football World Champions. It was the country’s ninth UFWC title match win.
There were unwanted scenes after the final whistle, with Neymar blasting the ball at Colombia’s Pedro Armero, then headbutting goalscorer Murillo. A pushing-and-shoving fracas followed, and Neymar and Colombian sub Carlos Bacca were both shown the red card. Combined with his previous yellows, that meant a four-match ban for Neymar, ruling him out of the rest of the tournament.
Next up for new unofficial champions Colombia was a UFWC title match and final group match against Peru. Both sides needed a win to be sure of qualification. Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez all missed chances as Colombia dominated, but the game ended 0-0. That meant Colombia retained the UFWC title and, after Brazil beat Venezuela later that evening, qualified as one of the best-placed third-placed teams. The tournament format made it fairly difficult to be eliminated, but Colombia very nearly managed it.
UFWC/Copa America results (click + for match reports and video highlights):
Upcoming quarter finals:
24 June 2015 Chile vs Uruguay
25 June 2015 Bolivia vs Peru
26 June 2015 Argentina vs Colombia
27 June 2015 Brazil vs Paraguay
The winners of the first two quarter finals will meet in a semi final on 29 June, and the winners of the last two quarter finals will meet on 30 June. The final is on 4 July. If the score is level after 90 minutes, the quarter finals and semi finals will be decided by penalty shoot-outs, while the final will be decided by extra time and, if necessary, a penalty shoot-out. A reminder that extra time and penalties do count for UFWC purposes. And the fact that the UFWC title has now reached the knockout stages of the competition means the winner of the Copa America will also be Unofficial Football World Champions.
Argentina vs Colombia kicks off at 20:30 on Friday 26 June (00:30 UK time) at the Estadio Sausalito in Vina del Mar. Argentina held the UFWC title as recently as October last year, when they lost to Brazil. They’ve won 59 UFWC title matches, and are ranked third in the all-time rankings. Sergio Aguero has been Argentina’s stand-out star so far during the Copa, scoring in a 2-2 draw with Paraguay, and then scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Uruguay. Gonzalo Higuain scored in another 1-0 win, over Jamaica, leaving Argentina top of their group. Argentina are now favourites to win the tournament, ahead of Chile, Brazil and Colombia.