Unofficial Football World Champions Brazil play two Copa America warm-up matches this week, against Mexico and Honduras. The Seleção face Mexico in Sao Paolo on Sunday 7 June, and then Honduras in Porto Alegre on Wednesday 10 June, before travelling to Chile for the Copa. The Mexico game is a UFWC title match and, should Brazil retain the title, the Honduras match will be, too.
Brazil have been unofficial champions since October, when they took the UFWC title from Argentina. They’ve won six consecutive title matches, and scored 16 goals. In fact, Brazil have won every match they’ve played since last summer’s World Cup under the management of returning coach Dunga. In the UFWC’s all-time record books, Brazil have won 35 title matches and are ranked sixth.
Neymar has scored eight goals in eight games for his country since the World Cup, but he won’t play against Mexico, as he will have played for Barcelona in the Champions League final against Juventus on the previous day. Luiz Gustavo is also out, and will miss the Copa America, due to injury. Dunga has replaced Luiz Gustavo with 22-year-old Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred (not to be confused with the 31-year-old Fluminense striker and World Cup flop of the same name!).
Mexico are one of the UFWC’s great underachievers, having won just one out of 13 title matches. That win came against Czechoslovakia way back in 1962. They lost the title in their next match – arguably the biggest upset in UFWC history – a 2-1 defeat to the Dutch Antilles. Mexico are ranked joint-last out of 48 nations in the all-time UFWC rankings. But if they win this match, they will take the UFWC title into the Copa America.
El Tricolor will compete at the Copa America as a guest nation, but coach Miguel Herrera has openly stated that his priority is the following month’s Gold Cup, which he believes his team have a realistic chance of winning. As a result, Mexico’s squad is somewhat lightweight, and mostly made up of domestic league players. The likes of Chicharito Hernandez, Andres Guardado, Guillermo Ochoa, Hector Moreno, Hector Herrera and Carlos Vela are all rested for the Copa America and will not play against Brazil. In a friendly against Peru this week, Mexico’s new-look team struggled to a 1-1 draw, salvaged by a goal from Topo Valenzuela.
So Brazil are without their highly influential captain and top goalscorer Neymar for the first time since the World Cup, but Mexico are without at least half of their usual first-choice eleven. Those factors add an extra dose of unpredictability to this contest, but Brazil are still clear favourites to win the match and retain the UFWC title.
Should Brazil win or draw against Mexico, they will retain the UFWC title and be required to defend it three days later against Honduras. Something of an unknown quantity in UFWC terms, Honduras have only ever competed in one title match, back in 1963, which they lost to Costa Rica. So they’ve never held the title, and have no UFWC ranking position. Honduras do, however, have a FIFA ranking of 75 – some 70 places below Brazil’s ranking of 5.
Honduras lost all three of their matches at the 2014 World Cup Finals, and have won only four out of 13 subsequent games (and those four victories were all against low standard opposition). Their last match was a 2-0 win over El Salvador, during which striker Anthony Lozano scored and was sent off within the first half. The most recognisable figure in coach Jorge Luis Pinto’s squad is likely to be defender Maynor Figueroa, who was recently relegated from the English Premier League with his team Hull City. The majority of the squad play domestic league football, including goalkeeper and captain Noel Valladares and goalscoring midfielder Mario Martinez.
Whether or not Brazil manage to retain the UFWC title against Mexico and Honduras, they will begin their Copa America campaign against Peru on 14 June. Mexico kick off against Bolivia on 12 June. Honduras aren’t at the Copa, and their next match sees them play Mexico in a pre-Gold Cup friendly on 1 July. So there are various interesting permutations for the UFWC to consider depending on the next few results. Will the UFWC title be contested at the Copa America and/or the Gold Cup? And will it be held by a CONMEBOL or CONCACAF team?
Brazil vs Mexico kicks off at Allianz Parque in Sao Paulo on Sunday 7 June at 17:00 local time, 21:00 UK time. And Brazil vs Honduras follows at the Estádio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre on Wednesday 10 June at 22:00 local, which is Thursday morning at 02:00 in the UK.