The Unofficial Football World Championships resumes this week with the first title match of 2016, as current UFWC champions Uruguay face Brazil in a World Cup qualifier in Recife. The match sees the second- and third-placed CONMEBOL teams go head-to-head, and should also see the return to international football of Uruguay’s Luis Suarez following a nine-match ban. The game kicks off at 21:45 this Friday 25 March local time (00:45 Saturday 26 March UK time).

Uruguay became Unofficial Football World Champions in November, following a comprehensive 3-0 win over Chile, with Diego Godin, Alvaro Pereira and Martin Caceres scoring the goals. Oscar Tabarez’s team have won three of their four WC qualifiers, and are second in the CONMEBOL qualification table, three points behind leaders Ecuador. As a reminder, the ten CONMEBOL teams are competing in a round-robin league, from which the top four will qualify for the 2018 World Cup, while the fifth-placed team will go into the inter-continental play-offs.

Luis Suarez, Uruguay’s all-time top-scorer, returns after a nine-match competitive international ban for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup. Suarez has of course continued to star for Barcelona during his ban. At the time of writing, he has scored a remarkable 43 goals in 42 games for Barca so far this season. A relatively less familiar name in the Uruguay squad is Guillermo Varela, the 22-year-old right back who has made only a handful of appearances for his club, Manchester United.

Brazil were UFWC champions as recently as June 2015, following a nine-match winning run that began in the wake of their World Cup disappointment with a 2-0 win over Argentina, then saw them beat Japan, Turkey, Austria, France, Chile, Mexico, Honduras and Peru, before losing to Colombia. Dunga’s side are third in the WC qualifying table, two points behind Uruguay. Crucially, Brazil have Luis Suarez’s Barcelona team-mate Neymar available. The Brazil captain recently served his own four-match ban.

Of the last five matches between the two sides, Uruguay won one, Brazil won three, and one was a draw. The last UFWC title match between the two was back in January 1981, when Uruguay won 2-1. Uruguay are currently ranked 11th in the all-time UFWC rankings with 21 title match wins, while Brazil are in 6th place with 38 wins. Brazil are favourites at 11/20, while the Suarez factor makes Uruguay’s 19/4 look more tempting. The draw is 3/1. Our correct score punt is Brazil 1-2 Uruguay at 16-1.

The venue is the 46,000-capacity Arena Pernambuco, the 2014 World Cup stadium in Recife, in the north east of Brazil. To avoid confusion, the match, which was originally scheduled to be played on Thursday 24 March, will now kick off at 21:45 on Friday 25 March in Recife, which is 00:45 on Saturday 26 March in the UK…

Depending on the result, the next UFWC title match will either be Uruguay vs Peru, or Paraguay vs Brazil, both of which will be played next Tuesday, 29 March. Both Peru and Paraguay played title matches in 2015 without taking the title. Peru lost to then-champions Chile and Brazil, and drew with Argentina. Paraguay lost to Chile and Argentina. Neither Peru nor Paraguay have won a UFWC title match in more than 30 years. Peru last held the title in 1982, and Paraguay in 1979.

Brazil vs Uruguay will be streamed live and free by [link expired].

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About Paul Brown

Paul is a freelance journalist and author. He created the UFWC in 2003, and subsequently wrote the Unofficial Football World Champions book. He can be found on Twitter @paulbrownUK.

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