France are the official world champions of football having won the 2018 World Cup in Russia but, should they have to put the title on the line every time there’s a contest, new unofficial global kings of the beautiful game would be crowned.
It’s a unique concept that we keep close watch on here. That got us thinking about some of the most unlikely unofficial football world champions of the 2010s, so let’s take a look at four of them from this decade.
The Danes are one of those football nations that have the capacity to surprise. Drafted into Euro ’92 at the last minute when Yugoslavia were suspended from taking part due to war, they went on to win it.
While those heights are something they’ve never recaptured since, Denmark took the unofficial world title during the World Cup group stage in Russia. They would then lose it to Croatia when eliminated from the tournament in the first knockout round on penalties.
Any team containing Christian Eriksen has a classy player on their hands but this Scandinavian side is more functional than flair. The latest Premiership betting with Betfair have his club Tottenham as 14/1 chances to win the English league title this season, with playmaker Eriksen expected to play a big part after reaching double figures for goals in three of the last four seasons across all competitions and almost single-handedly firing Denmark to the World Cup.
Coming into the 2018 World Cup as unofficial champions were Peru, despite the fact that is was the first global tournament they had qualified for since 1982. It’s hard to believe the Incas, who are invariably also-rans in qualifying and at the Copa America, could be designated thus.
Their current crop of players is shorn of modern greats such as Claudio Pizarro and Nolberto “Nobby” Solano. Such absences didn’t prevent an 11-match streak starting in the summer 0f 2017 that brought Peru to Russia as unofficially the team to beat.
They were of course by Eriksen’s Denmark but you’re probably wondering how the official global crown came to rest on Inca shoulders in the first place. Peru took the title off an even more unlikely champion though…
Landlocked Bolivia lies in the heart of the Andes Mountains that form the backbone of South America. At high altitude, it is a unique place to play football in and, given the challenges those conditions pose to visiting players, it’s no surprise to learn their home record in La Paz is very strong.
They have qualified for just three World Cups – the most recent in 1994. When the mighty Argentina came to La Paz in March 2017, however, the high altitude pitch was a great leveller and Bolivia beat them 2-0.
With that victory came the kudos of being unofficial world champions as Argentina had finally bested neighbours Chile, who had done for them at the previous two editions of the Copa America. Bolivia’s unofficial reign as world champs was to be short-lived, however, as Peru took the title off them in Lima.
Surely the best story of unofficial world champions in football in recent times happened during the previous World Cup in 2014 in Brazil. Central American nation Costa Rica were supposed to be the whipping boys of their group which contained Uruguay, Italy and England, but things were turned completely on their head.
They stunned Copa America holders Uruguay in their opening game to unofficially become the team to beat, then bettered Italy and held England to a goalless draw to finish top of the pool. As if that wasn’t shocking enough, Costa Rica continued to tear up the script by beating Greece on penalties and forcing the mighty Netherlands – finalists at the previous World Cup – to a shootout as well in the quarter-finals.