Unofficial Football World Champions Chile open 2017 with a defence of their UFWC title at the inaugural China Cup competition in Nanning, Southern China. The four-team friendly tournament involves Croatia and Iceland alongside Chile and China, and Chile’s opening match, on 11 January, will be against Croatia. However, there is one important caveat…
In order to be classified as a UFWC title match, Chile v Croatia must be classified as an international ‘A’ match. According to FIFA, ‘an international A match shall be a match that has been arranged between two national A associations affiliated to the Federation and for which both Associations field their first national representative team.’
It could be argued that neither Chile nor Croatia will be able to field their first team due to European club commitments. Chile will be without Alexis Sanchez, Claudio Bravo, Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal. For Croatia, Luca Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic will all be missing. In fact, no Croatian who played at last year’s Euro 2016 tournament in France will be involved in China.
FIFA do currently list Chile v Croatia as an A match on their website. However, FIFA have retrospectively removed A match classification from UFWC matches in the past, notably in 2013 with a couple of King’s Cup matches played in Thailand involving Sweden, causing something of a controversy among UFWC followers.
As it stands, FIFA list Chile v Croatia as a full international on their website and, even without the star players named above, the match should meet the definition of an A match. It is possible that FIFA may retrospectively change the classification again, but as long as Chile v Croatia is classified as an A match at the time it is played it will be regarded as a UFWC title match.
Now onto the match! Chile v Croatia will be played at the 60,000-capacity Guangxi Sports Center in Nanning on Thursday, 11 January 2017. The Chile team won’t be entirely unfamiliar, with the likes of Eduardo Vargas and Jean Beausejour getting a runout, but it’s very difficult to predict whether they will be able to retain the UFWC title in such an unusual game. Chile are currently ranked 12th in the UFWC all-time rankings. Croatia, meanwhile, have played in five UFWC title matches, but have never won one, so are unranked.
Kick off is 19:35 local time (11:35 GMT). As a reminder, extra time and penalty shoot-outs do count for UFWC purposes in knock-out matches, so we can’t have a draw. The winners of the match will, of course, be unofficial football world champions, and will progress to the China Cup final, against either China or Iceland, at the same venue on Sunday, 15 January. [UPDATE: Iceland defeated China to reach the final.]
In the meantime, if you’re new to the Unofficial Football World Championships you can find out all about the UFWC here. And you can keep up to date with all things UFWC by following us on Twitter or Facebook.