After a short summer break the UFWC is back, with current Unofficial Football World Champions Chile facing latest challengers Paraguay. The match, this Saturday 5 September, is a warm-up ahead of the World Cup qualifiers. It’s the first match Chile have played since winning the Copa America in July – when they took the UFWC title from Argentina in a penalty shoot-out final win.
Chile will be without Arturo Vidal for this UFWC title defence. The Bayern Munich midfielder did link up with the international squad, but has been allowed to return to Germany for personal reasons. Alexis Sanchez, Gary Medel, Mauricio Pinilla and Matias Fernandez are all available for the friendly. However, goalkeeper and captain Claudio Bravo has been allowed to remain in Spain with Barcelona, while striker Eduardo Vargas stays in Germany with Hoffenheim. Back-up goalkeeper Paulo Garces is injured, as is midfielder Charles Aranguiz. Johnny Herrera and Cristopher Toselli will compete for the goalkeeper’s jersey.
Paraguay also have a somewhat depleted squad, without captain Roque Santa Cruz, who has just re-joined Malaga on loan from Cruz Azul. Also missing are veteran goalkeeper Justo Villar, midfielder Víctor Cáceres and striker Nelson Valdez, who recently joined Seattle Sounders. Coach Ramon Diaz is left with a relatively inexperienced set of players, and will look to the likes of defender Miguel Samudio and midfielders Nestor Ortigoza and Hernan Perez to provide leadership. Goals may be harder to come by, with 24-year-old Federico Santander of Copenhagen in line to lead the attack.
Chile have now won 12 UFWC title matches, and are ranked 15th. Paraguay have won 7 title matches and are ranked 25th. Paraguay’s last UFWC title match win was against Chile, but that was 36 years ago, in 1979. Since then, they’ve played nine times without success, most recently at the semi-final stage of the Copa America, when they were comfortably beaten 6-1 by then-UFWC champions Argentina.
After this friendly, both Chile and Paraguay will begin to focus on the World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign. The CONMEBOL section is contested as a ten-team league, with the top four teams qualifying, and the fifth-placed team progressing to an inter-continental play-off. Qualifier matchday one is 8 October 2015. Chile’s first opponents are Brazil, in Santiago, while Paraguay travel to Venezuela. Brazil were UFWC champions as recently as June and ranked 6th in the all-time rankings, but they will be without their suspended captain Neymar. Venezuela, meanwhile, are ranked joint-42nd in the UFWC rankings with just one title match win.
Matchday two, in the following week, sees Chile go to Peru and Paraguay host Argentina. Qualifying matches continue until 10 October 2017, so the UFWC title could remain in South America for the next couple of years. As a reminder, the ten competing CONMEBOL teams are:
First up, however, is Chile vs Paraguay, this Saturday 5 September. Kick off is 18:00 local time (22:00 in the UK) at the Estadio Nacional Julio Martinez Pradanos in Santiago. You can keep up to date with all things UFWC by following us on Twitter or Facebook.