The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia this week, and the UFWC title is up for grabs. Russia 2018 will be the 13th World Cup tournament that the Unofficial Football World Championships title has been contested at. This means there’s a good chance the UFWC and FIFA unofficial and official titles will be unified, which has happened at nine previous World Cups. So there are an exciting few weeks ahead, and this is your UFWC World Cup preview.

Peru go into the World Cup as Unofficial Football World Champions. La Blanquirroja have held the title since August 2017, when they took it from Bolivia. That’s 11 consecutive games unbeaten as UFWC champions for Peru, including six wins. They’re 15th in the UFWC all-time rankings but, if you consider that five of the teams above them failed to qualify for the World Cup, they’re among the top ten ranked sides in Russia.

Outside of the UFWC, Peru are actually unbeaten since November 2016, when they were beaten by Brazil. Argentinian coach Ricardo Gareca, assisted by former Peru and Newcastle United favourite Nolberto Solano, has really turned around a struggling side since taking over in 2015. Peru are currently ranked 11th in the world by FIFA (up from 47th in 2015) but, again if you consider that one team above them (Chile) failed to qualify, they’re among the top ten at Russia 2018.

There’s no doubt about the man to watch in the Peru side, and that’s Paolo Guerrero. The 34 year old captain, who plays for Brazilian club Flamengo, is Peru’s all-time record goalscorer, having scored six more than the great Teófilo Cubillas. Guerrero, El Depredador (The Predator), will lead his country at the tournament following a dramatic last-minute reprieve after a ban for testing positive for a cocaine metabolite, which he claimed was due to drinking a tea infusion. An initial 14-month ban was halved, but then extended by Wada just weeks before the tournament. But another appeal in a Swiss court of arbitration has delayed the ban extension, allowing Guerrero to play for Peru, and possibly end his international career, at the World Cup.

Guerrero’s childhood friend Jefferson Farfan may miss out as a result, although Gareca played both up front in the recent friendly against Sweden. Behind Guerrero, Peru have a wealth of attacking midfield talent, including Christian Cueva, and wingers Edison Flores and Andre Carrillo. Defensively they’re supposedly not quite as strong, although they’ve only conceded four goals in their 11 UFWC title matches. The defence is led by another veteran, Alberto Rodriguez, with Pedro Gallese likely to play in goal.

Peru are in Group C, which looks like the most unpredictable group in the tournament, and perhaps the most difficult to progress from. France will expect to win the group, with Peru and Denmark hoping for second place ahead of Australia. But just one slip-up could easily turn this group’s table on its head.

World Cup Group C:
France
Denmark
PERU
Australia

Peru’s first match in Russia, and the next UFWC title match, is against Denmark in Saransk on Saturday, 16 June. Denmark have won the UFWC title matches, the last in 1989, and are ranked 36th. They haven’t played in a UFWC title match since the 2010 World Cup. They’re ranked 12th by FIFA, one place behind Peru. Spurs playmaker Christian Eriksen is Denmark’s star man, although there are also high hopes ahead of this tournament for the winger Pione Sisto. But Denmark may rely too much on Eriksen’s goals and set pieces. The Peru v Denmark game will be vital for both teams chances of qualification.

France are the big guns in Croup C, ranked 11th by the UFWC and 7th by FIFA. Antoine Griezmann is the danger man, although PSG’s 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe also poses a considerable goal threat. Paul Pogba can be frustratingly inconsistent, and France’s chances may be shaped by how well he plays in midfield. Manager Didier Deschamps knows exactly what it takes to win a World Cup, and France are likely the only team in Group C with a chance of doing that in Russia.

Also in Group C are Australia, ranked 43rd by the UFWC and 36th by FIFA. Recently-installed coach Bert van Marwijk has recalled 38-year-old Tim Cahill, which perhaps smacks of desperation, but Cahill has big tournament experience and knows where the goal is, and might be a key man from the bench. 19-year-old midfielder Daniel Arzani is one to watch, playing alongside Huddersfield’s Aaron Mooy and Celtic’s Tom Rogic.

The fixtures for Group C and knock-out rounds are below. France v Australia cannot be a UFWC title match, but any of the other games can. There is no guarantee that the UFWC title will reach the knock-out stage, as the winner of the final group game could fail to qualify. But if the title does reach the knock-out stage it is guaranteed to reach the final, where a combined and undisputed unofficial and official UFWC and FIFA world champion will be crowned. Remember that extra time and penalties, where used to decide the result of a match, always count for UFWC purposes (as, of course, they do for World Cup purposes, too).

World Cup Fixtures:
Sat 16 June France v Australia
Sat 16 June PERU v Denmark
Thu 21 June Denmark v Australia
Thu 21 June France v Peru
Tue 26 June Denmark v France
Tue 26 June Australia v Peru

Sat 30 June Winner GROUP C v Runner-up Group D (Argentina, Croatia, Nigeria, Iceland)
Sun 1 July Winner Group D v Runner-up GROUP C

Fri 6 & Sat 7 July Quarter finals
Tue 10 & Wed 11 July Semi finals
Sun 15 July Final

If the UFWC title does reach the knock-out stages, and therefore progresses to the final, the UFWC and FIFA titles will be unified for the 17th time. Eight different nations have held both the Unofficial Football World Championships title and the World Cup simultaneously, thus being able to claim to be football’s undisputed champions.

Unification matches aren’t confined to World Cup finals, and the undisputed title has been won at and away from the tournament on 16 occasions. Italy were the first side to achieve the feat, in 1939, courtesy of a 2-1 friendly win over Yugoslavia. In more recent times, Spain became undisputed champions by winning the 2010 World Cup final, and Germany became undisputed champions by winning the 2014 World Cup final.

Undisputed UFWC and WC champions:
Italy 1939, 1982, 2007
Uruguay 1954
Germany 1958*, 1974*, 2014
Brazil 1958, 1998, 1998**
England 1966
Argentina 1978, 1986
France 1998, 2000
Spain 2010

*As West Germany
**Brazil lost and regained the undisputed title in 1998

So we are ready for the World Cup to get underway on Wednesday and for the UFWC title to join in on Saturday. Peru v Denmark kicks off at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk at 19:00 local (17:00 UK) on Saturday, 16 June.

You can keep up to date with all things UFWC by following us on Twitter or Facebook. How are Scotland all-time unofficial champions? Read more here, or check out the brand new UFWC book.

New for 2018,the latest edition of the official UFWC book, Unofficial Football World Champions.
 
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.
 
Are you a football fan? If so, our new book is about YOU.
 
Savage Enthusiasm: A History of Football Fans
is the brand new book from UFWC creator Paul Brown, tracing the evolution of the fan from the earliest origins of the game through to the present day.
 
It’s available from Amazon stores worldwide at the sale price of £10 (RRP £12.99) or $13.95 – click here.
 

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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