Croatia 2-2 Russia (Croatia win 4-3 on penalties)
7 July 2018
Fisht Stadium, Sochi

The UFWC title reached the quarter finals stage of 2018 World Cup in the hands of Unofficial Football World Champions Croatia, who faced hosts Russia. Croatia took the title from Denmark in a penalty shootout win in the round of 16. It was Croatia’s first ever UFWC victory. Russia are one of the most successful sides in UFWC history, with 41 UFWC title match victories. After just three more matches, the UFWC and FIFA unofficial and official titles will be unified, and one nation will be crowned as the undisputed football world champions. Could Croatia hold on, or would Russia take the title into the semi finals?

After a pretty even opening half-hour, Russia took the initiative through a brilliant goal from the excellent Denis Cheryshev, who played a one-two with Artem Dzyuba, then whacked a left-foot screamer into the top corner of the net from 20 yards. But Croatia were level before half-time, when Andrej Kramaric stooped to head home Mario Mandzukic’s cross from close range.

Croatia came closest to winning the game in regulation time, when Ivan Perisic’s shot hit the inside of the post. But, with the score 1-1 after 90 minutes, extra time was required.

The clock had hit the 100-minute mark when Croatia took the lead, through Domagoj Vida’s header from a corner. But Russia weren’t finished yet. Immediately following the change of ends, in the 115th minute, Russia’s Brazil-born right back Mário Fernandes rose highest to score with his head from a free kick. At the end of extra time the score was 2-2, and that meant – for a second consecutive UFWC title match – penalties would be required.

Unfortunately for Russia, Fyodor Smolov saw his opening penalty saved, and Fernandes dragged his spot-kick wide. Mateo Kovacic’s pen was saved by Russia keeper Igor Akinfeev, but when Ivan Rakitic scored the tenth and final penalty it was all over – 4-3 on penalties to Croatia.

11 July 2018
World Cup semi final
Croatia v England

15 July 2018
World Cup final
Croatia or England v France or Belgium

So Croatia retain the UFWC title and progress to the World Cup semi finals, where they will play England. While Croatia have won ever only two title matches – both at Russia 2018 – England are the second highest ranked team in UFWC history with 73 wins. The match will be played on Wednesday 11 July at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. We’ll have a full preview of this huge UFWC / WC clash coming soon.

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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.

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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