Peru v Croatia
23 March 2018, 20:00 local (24 March, 00:00 UK)
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami
The UFWC gets back underway on Friday evening, as Unofficial Football World Champions Peru begin their World Cup warm-up campaign with a match against fellow WC qualifiers Croatia. The match is being played in the United States, at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, home to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. It’s the first of two US-based friendlies for Peru. They play Iceland next Tuesday, at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. It’s the start of a series of matches that could see the UFWC title change hands several times, and perhaps be contested at Russia 2018.
Peru have been UFWC champions since August, when they defeated Bolivia 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier. They are currently 20th in the all-time UFWC rankings. Croatia, however, have never held the UFWC title, and have no UFWC ranking. They’ve been a little unlucky – they’ve played in six title matches, lost three of them 1-0, drawn two of them 1-1, and lost the most recent one, against Chile in January 2017, on penalties after another 1-1 draw.
Peru are still without captain and record goalscorer Paolo Guerrero, who is suspended until 3 May after failing a drugs test. Instead, they’ll be looking for goals from Jefferson Farfan, with support from the likes of Cristian Benavente and Roberto Siucho in midfield. Croatia will be without two defenders, Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren and Club Brugge’s Matej Mitrović, due to injury. But they will have star names such as Ivan Rakitić, Luka Modrić and Mario Mandžukić. UFWC followers might see in-form champions Peru as a decent bet for this game. The bookies have Peru as 5/1 outsiders, with Croatia at 4/5.
Should Peru win, the next UFWC title match will see them play Iceland just four days later. FIFA have confirmed that both of these games will be ‘A’ internationals, and are therefore eligible to be UFWC title matches. Iceland, like Croatia, have never won a UFWC title match. They’ve played in seven, losing six and drawing one. Again like Croatia, their most recent title match was a defeat to Chile in January 2017. Of course, if Croatia beat Peru they will take the UFWC title, and the next title match will be Croatia v Mexico, also just four days later, at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on 27 March.
Following the matches against Croatia and Iceland, Peru will play Scotland, Sweden and Saudi Arabia in World Cup warm-ups. After playing Peru and Mexico, Croatia will play Brazil and Senegal before Russia 2018. So the UFWC title could take many different paths before the World Cup gets underway – and there is no guarantee that the UFWC will be contested in Russia.
But if Peru do manage to hold on to the UFWC title through to Russia 2018 (or if Croatia or another WC qualifier takes the title) it will be the 13th time the unofficial title has been contested at an official World Cup tournament. Peru are in Group C, which also contains France, Australia and Denmark:
Peru FIFA rank: 11; UFWC rank: 20
France FIFA rank: 9; UFWC rank: 11
Australia FIFA rank: 36; UFWC rank: 43
Denmark FIFA rank: 12; UFWC rank: 36
Group C Fixtures:
16 June 2018, France v Australia, Kazan Arena, Kazan
16 June 2018, Peru v Denmark, Mordovia Arena, Saransk
21 June 2018, Denmark v Australia, Cosmos Arena, Samara
21 June 2018, France v Peru, Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg
26 June 2018, Denmark v France, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
26 June 2018, Australia v Peru, Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
For those who are new to the UFWC, the Unofficial Football World Championships is an international football competition contested in a simple boxing-style title system. Winners of title matches become title holders and Unofficial Football World Champions. A draw means the current holder retains the title. UFWC lineage goes back to the very first international match in 1872. Any ‘A’ international can be a UFWC title match, including friendlies. UFWC champions are ranked by their number of title match victories. You can read more about the UFWC in the new 2018 edition of the Unofficial Football World Champions book.
Note that Peru v Croatia kicks off at 20:00 on 23 March in Miami, which is 00:00 (midnight) on 24 March in the UK.
New for 2018, the latest edition of the official UFWC book, Unofficial Football World Champions by Paul Brown, is out now. This is the fourth edition of the book that has been published in every World Cup year since 2006.
Expanded and updated to include new matches, teams, players and statistics, it’s a complete guide to the UFWC, including all 936 title matches played since 1872, and all 48 unofficial football world champions.
It’s available exclusively from Amazon stores worldwide, priced at £9.99 or $13.95 – click here.