As the 2018 World Cup heads towards the quarter finals stage we know that, 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. Croatia are the current Unofficial Football World Champions, having taken the UFWC title from Denmark in a penalty shootout win in the round of 16. Denmark had taken the title from Peru in the group stage, and Peru had begun the tournament as UFWC champions. Croatia v Russia is the next UFWC title match, with only eight teams left in the tournament. Ahead of that quarter final, let’s catch up and see where the UFWC stands.
First up, a quick primer for those who are new to the Unofficial Football World Championships (UFWC). What is the UFWC? Basically it’s an alternative way of working out the best team in the world. It works in a continuous boxing-style title match system, where winners of title matches become title holders and champions, and move up the rankings. The UFWC goes right back to the very first international match in 1872, 58 years before the first World Cup. Every international “A” match counts in the UFWC, including friendlies. To date there have been 945 UFWC title matches. For more on the history and background of the UFWC see the About section and the FAQ.
So far, 49 teams have won the UFWC title. This includes most major European and South American teams, plus some unlikely champions such as Angola, North Korea and the tiny (now dissolved) Netherlands Antilles. The UFWC operates an all-time ranking system. Currently, Scotland top the rankings table, some way ahead of second-placed England. That’s because in the early years the UFWC, and football in general, was dominated by British sides, of which Scotland won most title matches. You can see where your country stands on the rankings page.
The UFWC is so simple it requires very few rules. In summary, a UFWC title match is any international “A” match involving the current UFWC title-holder, and the winner of any UFWC title match is declared the UFWC champion. Teams are awarded one ranking point for winning a UFWC title match, either as holder or challenger. (No points are awarded for drawing a title match.) You can read more on the rules page.
One “rule” that regularly needs clarification during knockout tournaments is that extra time and penalty shoot-outs do count where they are used to decide the result of a title match. This isn’t really a UFWC rule – it’s a football rule. Croatia beat Denmark to proceed to the quarter finals and to take the UFWC title. The fact that they won the match on penalties doesn’t matter – it’s the final result that counts. (Extra time and penalty shoot-outs that are not used to decide the result of a title match – for example where they are used to decide the result of two-legged ties – do not count.)
Now we come to unification. As we know, the UFWC and FIFA titles will be unified for the 17th time at the 2018 World Cup Final. That’s because, now that we are in the knockout stages, the UFWC title will be passed between match winners through to the final. This doesn’t always happen at World Cup tournaments. In fact, the titles have only been unified at nine out of 20 World Cups – 1958, 1966, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1998, 2010 and 2014.
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. 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.
Undisputed UFWC and WC champions:
Italy 1939, 1982, 2007
Germany 1958*, 1974*, 2014
Brazil 1958, 1998, 1998**
Argentina 1978, 1986
France 1998, 2000
*As West Germany
**Brazil lost and regained the undisputed title in 1998
So where does the UFWC stand right now? As previously mentioned, Peru went into the World Cup as longstanding UFWC champions, having taken the unofficial title in August 2017. They hadn’t actually lost a match since 2016, and the return of captain and star striker Paolo Guerrero following the suspension of his suspension meant high hopes for La Blanquirroja. But Guerrero wasn’t deemed fit enough to start and, although Peru created numerous chances, they couldn’t convert. Kasper Schmeichel made a series of saves in the Denmark goal, and Yussuf Poulsen scored for the Danes in the 59th minute, from Christian Eriksen’s through-ball. 1-0 to Denmark, who took the UFWC title for the first time in almost 30 years.
To draws followed – against Australia and France – meaning Denmark retained the title, and took it into the knockout stage, where they faced Croatia. The round of 16 game exploded into life with two goals in the first four minutes, with Mathias Jorgensen scoring for Denmark and Mario Mandzukic equalising for Croatia. But things quickly settled down, and there was little between the two sides, and there were relatively few chances. Extra time ended in high drama as Jorgensen conceded a late penalty, but Kasper Schmeichel saved Luka Modric’s spot kick. Schmeichel saved two more penalties in the shoot-out, but Danijel Subasic saved three to win the match and the UFWC title for Croatia. It was Croatia’s first ever title match victory.
The next UFWC title match is the Croatia v Russia quarter final on 7 July at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi. While Croatia have only just won their first title match, Russia are one of the most successful sides in UFWC history, sitting 5th in the all-time rankings with 41 title match victories. (Point totals have been combined for Russia and the Soviet Union/USSR as they have officially played under different names and are recognised as doing so by FIFA.)
So who will become unified champions at the 2018 World Cup? There are only eight teams left in the tournament and, with Croatia as the current holders, this is the path the UFWC title will take:
World Cup quarter final
Croatia v Russia
11 July 2018
World Cup semi final
Croatia or Russia v Sweden or England
15 July 2018
World Cup final
Croatia or Russia or Sweden or England
v Uruguay or France or Brazil or Belgium
So there are just three UFWC title matches left at this World Cup. The good news is that the UFWC continues outside of major tournaments, so there’ll be the no four-year wait for the next title match. But who will be the UFWC / FIFA champion, and how long will they hold that undisputed title? 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.