Dec 14

The Netherlands: a UFWC history

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Ahead of the Netherlands versus England title match on 12 August we’ll look at both nations’ histories in the UFWC. First up, it’s the Oranje.

The Netherlands have won 37 UFWC title matches, and had nine separate reigns as Unofficial Football World Champions over the years. They are ranked fifth in the all-time UFWC rankings and, of course, are the current UFWC champions. But amazingly the UFWC was more than 100 years old before the Dutch first won the title.

The Netherlands’ first UFWC clash was against Scotland in June 1929. They were beaten 2-0 in Amsterdam by the all-time UFWC champions. Nine years later, in May 1938, the Dutch were again beaten by two goals in Amsterdam by the Scots, this time 3-1. In fact, the tiny Netherlands Antilles islands won the UFWC title (in 1963 against Mexico) long before the country that owns them!

Finally, in May 1973, the Netherlands enjoyed UFWC success, taking the title from Spain in a 3-2 win in Amsterdam. Johan Cruyff scored a 90th-minute winner for the Dutch. That win began an amazing 15-game run as UFWC champions, leading all the way to the 1974 World Cup final, beating world champions Brazil 2-0 on the way. But hosts West Germany proved too strong in the final, winning the World Cup and depriving the Netherlands of the UFWC title.

The Dutch lost a UFWC match to Czechoslovakia in 1976, but then won the UFWC title from Italy at the World Cup in 1978. Again, however, the Dutch were beaten in the World Cup final by the hosts, this time losing 3-1 to Argentina. A 1979 “friendly rematch” saw Argentina win on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

In September 1985, the Dutch reclaimed the UFWC title, defeating Bulgaria 1-0 in Heerenveen. Rob de Wit scored the only goal of the game, a year before a cerebral hemorrhage tragically cut short his exciting career. Belgium took the title in October, only for the Dutch to reclaim it in November, with de Wit scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory. They held the title for three games before losing 3-1 to West Germany in April 1986.

The Dutch took the title from Wales in 1988 and held it for two matches, then took it from Greece in 1990 and held it for eight. Next up was World Cup revenge against Argentina in 1998, winning 2-1 in the quarter final with goals from Patrick Kluivert and Dennis Bergkamp. But, in the semi final, the Dutch lost on penalties to Brazil.

A European Championships loss on penalties to Italy was another missed opportunity to take the UFWC title. But in March 2002, the Dutch beat Spain 1-0 courtesy of a Frank de Boer goal and retained the title for 13 games before losing out to the Czech Republic in September 2003. And it would be five long years before the Dutch had another crack at the UFWC title.

Then, in November 2008, the Netherlands beat Sweden 3-1. They have subsequently seen off Tunisia, Scotland, Macedonia, Iceland and Norway. And next up are England.

By the time they take on England, the Dutch will have held the title for 266 consecutive days, and 1,966 days overall since the UFWC began. Can they extend their reign? Keep it here to find out.

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