Chile’s penalty shoot-out win over Argentina in the Copa America final ended the nation’s 115-year wait for a major football honour. La Roja played their first international match back in 1910 – also against Argentina – but had never won an official tournament until now. They had, however, won the unofficial tournament several times – and now they have done so again. Because the Copa America final was also a UFWC title match, and Chile are the new Unofficial Football World Champions.
Brazil were the UFWC champions going into the Copa America tournament, and they beat Peru in their opening game, but then lost 1-0 to Colombia, who took the UFWC title. A draw with Peru saw Colombia squeeze into the quarter finals, where they lost to Argentina on penalties. Taking up the UFWC baton, Argentina thrashed Paraguay 6-1 in the semis to book their place in the final.
Tournament hosts Chile, meanwhile, made their way to the final in a blaze of goals – orchestrated by Argentinian coach Jorge Sampaoli. La Roja put two past Ecuador, three past Mexico, then five past Bolivia in the group stage. A 1-0 win over Uruguay in the quarters was followed by a 2-1 win over Peru in the semis. Surely goals were guaranteed in the final?
The atmosphere was feverous. Santiago’s Estadio Nacional was swathed in red, packed with rabid home fans, giving way only to tiny sections of brave Argentina fans, and one symbolically empty block, left as a reminder of events in 1973, when the stadium was used as a prison camp following Augusto Pinochet’s brutal coup. Unfortunately, as so often happens in major finals, the match did not live up to the occasion.
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Chile had the tournament’s top scorer in Eduardo Vargas, plus serious attacking threat from the likes of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez. Argentina had Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and – looking for his first senior national honour – Lionel Messi. Yet both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances. Chile, dogged and tough in the tackle, managed to shackle Messi – by fair means and foul. And Argentina were struck a blow when Di Maria limped off with an injury midway through the first half.
As full-time approached, Sanchez came close for Chile, volleying just past the post. Then, in the 90th minute, Argentina almost nicked it when Gonzalo Higuain fired into the side netting. 30 minutes of extra time followed, but there were still no goals. The match would be decided by a penalty shoot-out.
In the end, Chile walked the shoot-out. Only Messi scored for Argentina, with Higuain blazing ridiculously over the bar, and Ever Banega tapping a weak effort at keeper Claudio Bravo. Matias Fernandez, Vidal and Charles Aranguiz all scored for Chile, before Sanchez netted the decider, making the shoot-out score 4-1 to Chile. La Roja were Copa America winners and UFWC champions.
It was Chile’s 12th UFWC title match win overall, and their first since 1982. It was also the first time Chile have beaten Argentina in five UFWC title matches. La Roja are now 15th in the all-time UFWC rankings, alongside Austria and Wales.
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This is the first time the CONMEBOL Copa America and UFWC titles have been unified since 1993 – when Argentina achieved that feat. The UFWC title has been contested at eight Copa America tournaments – in 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1979, 1993 and now 2015.
When contested at major tournaments, the UFWC title does not always end up in the hands of the eventual tournament winner. In this case, Colombia could easily have been eliminated from the group stage while remaining UFWC champions if other results had gone against them. In fact, that did happen to Colombia in 1994. But on this occasion, the title did reach the knock-out stages, and the CONMEBOL and UFWC titles were destined to be unified.
As an aside, running concurrently to the Copa America was the Women’s World Cup in Canada. USA took the Women’s UFWC title into the tournament, remained unbeaten throughout, and eventually beat Japan in the final to unify the women’s official and unofficial titles and become FIFA and (W)UFWC champions. There’s a full list of Women’s UFWC results in the UFWC forum.
What next for the men’s UFWC title? Chile don’t currently have any matches fixtured, but CONMEBOL qualifying for the 2018 World Cup begins on 5 October 2015, and we can expect La Roja to play a warm-up friendly or two before then. Chile played ten friendlies on either side of the World Cup in 2014. Remember that most friendly matches do count for UFWC purposes.
You can keep up to date with UFWC news and fixtures by following us on Twitter or Facebook. If you’d like to read more about the UFWC, check out the Unofficial Football World Champions book. And if you enjoy the UFWC, please do tell your friends so they can be onboard for the next round of title matches.