It has been 32 years since Wales were crowned Unofficial Football World Champions last time and tonight (20/06/2021) “Cymru” will have the next chance to conquer the Unofficial World Championship Crown – enough reasons for our guest author Paul Godding to dive into Wales’ exciting UFWC history!

Wales was the 3rd nation to come on board when they started playing international football in 1876; Wales’ first UFWC match ended in a 1-1 draw with England in 1895. It wasn’t until Wales’ 13th UFWC attempt in 1907 that they became Champions. Up until the beginning of World War 2, Wales held the title on 12 occasions, either winning it from another team or by defending it successfully (through a win or draw) in the next game as reigning Champions.

Wales has played for the title 69 times, mostly in the early days of football as very few other teams played the home nations. As UFWC holders going into the 1934 World Cup, the Welsh were still World Champions after the tournament as none of the British teams took part, even though Italy had just won the World Cup!

The golden generation of Welsh football was undoubtedly the 1930’s (not 1958 or 2016 sadly) when Wales won the British Championship four times. In fact, the last silverware won was the British Championship outright in 1937.

During the 1920’s and 30’s, Wales had been UFWC holders nine times. It was only because the subversive FAW had followed the English into leaving FIFA for political reasons that they didn’t take part in the first three World Cups of 1930, 1934 and 1938. Thankfully the FAW has since grown some teeth and are now an independent body and very professional in their current thinking.

Could Wales have won the World Cup in the 1930’s? Absolutely, but we’ll never know for sure!

More UFWC history to read on:

Scotland: a UFWC history
England: a UFWC history
France: a UFWC history
Germany: a UFWC history
Netherlands: a UFWC history

Wales’ record since 1945

Since those heady days, and mainly because of the growth in the number of countries taking part in the international game, Wales has only played six UFWC matches in total. Defeats in 1948, 1949 and 1966 to England, Scotland and England again was followed by a 2-2 draw against England at Wembley in 1975, David Johnson denying Wales the honour of becoming newly-crowned ‘World Champions’ with a late equaliser.

Wales’ crowning glory came in June 1988 when an Ian Rush strike beat Italy in Brescia, a remarkable result as the Azzurri was preparing for the Euros and Wales had failed to qualify. Italy had been UFWC holders for nine games at that point, having beaten 1986 World Cup winners, Argentina, and then going on an eight-game unbeaten run. Therefore, the UFWC title was not up for grabs the summer of the 1988 European Championships as the UFWC holders (Wales) hadn’t qualified, a similar situation to 1934!

In Wales’ next game – their first and only defence of the title since the war – they lost 1-0 to the Netherlands in a World Cup Qualifier in September 1988, Ruud Gullit scoring the only goal.

Wales’ UFWC Record

As mentioned earlier, Wales has taken part in a total of 69 UWFC games where the title has been on the line. 13 of those games have seen Wales either win the title (T) or retain it with a win/draw (r).

Those 13 games are listed here, winning 12 and drawing 1. You will read later that Wales is ranked 17th in the UFWC table as a result of these 12 wins.

Game 104/03/1907Wales 1 Scotland 0(T)
Game 218/03/1907England 1 Wales 1(r)lost to Scotland next game
Game 301/03/1909Wales 3 Scotland 2(T)lost to England next game
Game 404/02/1922Wales 2 Scotland 1(T)lost to England next game
Game 516/02/1924Wales 2 Scotland 0(T)
Game 603/03/1924England 1 Wales 2(r)
Game 715/03/1924N.Ireland 0 Wales 2(r)lost to Scotland next game
Game 804/02/1928N.Ireland 1 Wales 2(T)lost to Scotland next game
Game 915/11/1933England 1 Wales 2(T)lost to England next game
Game 1002/12/1936Scotland 1 Wales 2(T)
Game 1117/03/1937Wales 4 N.Ireland 1(r)
Game 1230/10/1937Wales 2 Scotland 1(r)lost to England next game
Game 1304/06/1988Italy 0 Wales 1(T)lost to Netherlands next game

… and Wales has never taken part in a UFWC game since that Dutch defeat in September 1988.

The World Rankings

Looking in from a Welsh angle in the UFWC competition, Cymru are currently joint 17th in the Rankings, with Austria, another giant of the game in the 1930’s. The Wunderteam finished 4th in the 1934 World Cup and runners-up in the 1936 Olympics, losing to Italy both times. They never fulfilled their potential as they were forced to ‘unite’ with Germany for the 1938 World Cup! As in 1934, Wales never took part in 1938; could the wonderful Tîm Cymru have ruled the world perhaps?

Could Wales become champions again?

With the Azzurri being the current holders, it so happens that Wales have been drawn in the same Group A, along with Switzerland and Italy.

On Sunday 20th June, Wales has the chance to become champions again! And who did Wales beat to become champions in 1988? Italy!!

Paul Godding is not only the biggest UFWC expert in Wales, he also works as a Math Tutor. His Articles about Wales’ UFWC history have been also published in the International Wales Fanzine (Issue 17) and on his own blog.