Dec 13

Farewell Japan: 16 games as unofficial football world champions

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Tuesday’s title match defeat for the Blue Samurai saw Japan lose the UFWC title, and saw North Korea crowned the new Unofficial Football World Champions. We’ll be dedicating plenty of time to the new champions over the next few days, but first we’re taking a look back over Japan’s exciting and memorable reign as champions.

New to the UFWC? Read our Beginner’s Guide.

Few sets of supporters have embraced the UFWC as wholeheartedly as the Japanese. 2011 was an incredibly difficult year for Japan, and will of course be remembered in history for the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the nation in March. Several national team matches were cancelled and the league programme was suspended as a result. Japan were forced to pull out of the Copa America, which could have pushed their UFWC reign in an entirely different direction. However, Japan was quick to return to football, and this is how the past year or so eventually played out:

The Blue Samurai held the UFWC title for 16 matches, spanning more than 12 months, from October 2010 to November 2011. Of those 16 matches, Japan won 11 and drew 5, scoring 33 goals along the way. In terms of longevity, it doesn’t quite match the Netherlands’ recent record-breaking run of 21 matches as champions from November 2008 to July 2010, but it’s still a very impressive reign.

Japan took the UFWC title in October 2010 with a 1-0 win over previous champions Argentina – Messi, Tevez, Milito and all. At the Asian Cup in Qatar in January, Japan thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0, beat the hosts in a 3-2 thriller courtesy of a last minute goal, and then played out an amazing semi-final match against South Korea. The score was 1-1 after 90 minutes, and 2-2 after extra time, before Japan won 3-0 on penalties.

Then came the Asian Cup final against Australia, another epic match, settled by an extra-time goal from Tadanari Lee. Japan were AFC champions as well as UFWC champions. Among the other highlights of the reign have been a 3-0 win over South Korea in August, and two huge wins over Tajikistan – 8-0 and 4-0 – in October and November of this year.

Japan scored 33 goals in their 16 games as UFWC champions. Shinji Okasaki scored Japan’s winner against Argentina, and the fourth goal in the most recent game against Tajikistan – the first and last goals of the reign. He scored two in that Tajikistan game, and two in the previous game against the same opponents, and also scored a hat-trick against Saudi Arabia in January. His total of 9 goals makes Okasaki Japan’s top goalscorer in the UFWC. Japan’s UFWC goalscorers are:

Okazaki (9); Kagawa (6); Maeda (4); Honda (2); Yoshida (2); Havenaar (2), Lee (2); Hasebe; Hosogai; Inoha; Konno; Komano, Nakamura.

The full list of Japan’s results during their reign as UFWC champions is as follows (click for match reports):

08/10/10 JAPAN 1-0 ARGENTINA Friendly, Saitama

12/10/10 SOUTH KOREA 0-0 JAPAN Friendly, Seoul

09/01/11 JAPAN 1-1 JORDAN Asian Cup, Doha

13/01/11 SYRIA 1-2 JAPAN Asian Cup, Doha

17/01/11 SAUDI ARABIA 0-5 JAPAN Asian Cup, Al Rayyan

21/01/11 JAPAN 3-2 QATAR Asian Cup, Doha

25/01/11 JAPAN 2-2 SOUTH KOREA (JAPAN WIN ON PENS) Asian Cup, Doha

29/01/11 JAPAN 1-0 AUSTRALIA Asian Cup Final, Doha

01/06/11 JAPAN 0-0 PERU Friendly, Niigata

07/06/11 JAPAN 0-0 CZECH REPUBLIC Friendly, Kanagawa

10/08/11 JAPAN 3-0 SOUTH KOREA Friendly, Sapporo

02/09/11 JAPAN 1-0 NORTH KOREA World Cup Qualifier, Saitama

06/09/11 UZBEKISTAN 1-1 JAPAN World Cup Qualifier, Tashkent

07/10/11 JAPAN 1-0 VIETNAM FR Kobe

11/10/11 JAPAN 8-0 TAJIKISTAN WCQ Osaka

11/11/11 TAJIKISTAN 0-4 JAPAN WCQ Dushanbe

15/11/11 NORTH KOREA 1-0 JAPAN WCQ Pyongyang

Japan’s 11 UFWC title match wins translate to 11 UFWC ranking points (no points are awarded for draws). This means that, having been completely unranked just over a year ago, Japan has now climbed into the top 20 UFWC rankings, standing in 17th position, level on points with Chile and Greece. Japan have also risen to 17th place in the FIFA rankings, having been ranked 30th before their UFWC run. The all-time UFWC top 20 currently reads:

1 SCOTLAND 86

2 ENGLAND 73

3 ARGENTINA 51

4 NETHERLANDS 49

5 RUSSIA 41

6 BRAZIL 29

7 GERMANY 277 ITALY 27

9 SWEDEN 26

10 FRANCE 25

11 HUNGARY 17

11 SPAIN 17

13 URUGUAY 16

14 CZECH REP 1515 AUSTRIA 12

15 WALES 12

17 CHILE 11

17 GREECE 11

17 JAPAN 11

20 SWITZERLAND 10

So Japan’s run as UFWC champions is over, for now. With the title still in Asia, there is always the chance that the Blue Samurai will get the opportunity to become unofficial champions once again in the near future. It’s to be hoped that Japanese fans have enjoyed their team’s run, and will continue to follow the UFWC.

So farewell and good luck to Japan. North Korea’s time has come, and we will take a closer look at the new unofficial football champions over the next few days.

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