Unofficial Football World Championships

Current Champions
Netherlands
Title Gained
19 November 2008: 3–1 vs Sweden, International Friendly,
Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Title Defences
11 February 2009: 1–1 vs Tunisia, International Friendly,
Stade 7 November, Rades, Tunisia
28 March 2009: 3–0 vs Scotland, World Cup qualifier,
Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, Netherlands
1 April 2009: 4–0 vs Macedonia, World Cup qualifier,
Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, Netherlands
6 June 2009: 2–1 vs Iceland, World Cup qualifier,
Laugardalsvöllur, Reykjavík, Iceland
10 June 2009: 2–0 vs Norway, World Cup qualifier,
Feijenoord Stadion, Rotterdam, Netherlands
12 August 2009: 2–2 vs England, International Friendly,
Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, Netherlands
5 September 2009: 3–0 vs Japan, International Friendly,
De Grolsch Veste, Enschede, Netherlands
9 September 2009: 1–0 vs Scotland, World Cup qualifier,
Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland
10 October 2009: 0–0 vs Australia, International Friendly,
Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney, Australia
14 November 2009: 0–0 vs Italy, International Friendly,
Stadio Adriatico, Pescara, Italy
18 November 2009: 0-0 vs Paraguay, International Friendly,
Abe Lenstra Stadion, Heerenveen, Netherlands
3 March 2010: 2–1 vs United States, International Friendly,
Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, Netherlands
26 May 2010: 2-1 vs Mexico, International Friendly,
Dreisamstadion, Freiburg, Germany
1 June 2010: 4-1 vs Ghana, International Friendly,
De Kuip, Rotterdam, Netherlands
5 June 2010: 6-1 vs Hungary, International Friendly,
Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, Netherlands
14 June 2010: 2-0 vs Denmark, World Cup group match,
Soccer City, Johannesburg, South Africa
19 June 2010: 1-0 vs Japan, World Cup group match,
Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, South Africa
24 June 2010: 2-1 vs Cameroon, World Cup group match,
Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town, South Africa
28 June 2010: 2–1 vs Slovakia, World Cup second round match,
Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, South Africa
2 July 2010: 2–1 vs Brazil, World Cup quarter final,
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
6 July 2010: 3–2 vs Uruguay, World Cup semi final,
Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town, South Africa
Next Title Match
11 July 2010: vs Spain, World Cup final,
Soccer City, Johannesburg, South Africa

The Unofficial Football World Championships (UFWC) is a way of calculating the world’s best football team, using a knock-out title system similar to that used in boxing and wrestling. The title is currently held by Netherlands, and will next be contested in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final on 11 July 2010, when the two titles will be temporarily united.

The idea stemmed originally from some Scotland fans jokingly asserting that as they beat England (who had won the 1966 World Cup) in a British Home Championship match on 15 April 1967 – England’s first loss after their World Cup victory – they were the Unofficial World Champions.

Many years later, a website was created to show results of research triggered by this idea. The website received extra publicity when it was featured in football magazine FourFourTwo. The FourFourTwo feature also suggested the compilation of an unofficial clubs’ world championship.

The UFWC is not FIFA-sanctioned, nor does it have any sort of official backing.

History

Early days

The first ever international match was a 0–0 draw between England and Scotland, on 30 November 1872 at Hamilton Crescent. The Unofficial World Championship thus remained vacant until the same two teams met again at the Kennington Oval on 8 March 1873. England won 4–2, and so are regarded as having become the first ever Unofficial Football World Champions. Wales entered the ‘competition’ in 1876, and Ireland in 1882. The Championship however, continued to swap between Scotland and England until March 1903, when Ireland beat Scotland 2–0. Wales won the title for the first time in March 1907, beating Scotland 1–0.

Scotland regained the Championship the following year, which saw England playing internationally. Scotland however, didn’t do the same and so retained the title. By the end of 1909, England had taken the title and defended it outside of the British Isles for the first time.

Ireland won the title for the first time in 1927, beating England 2–0: of the two teams using the name Ireland at that time, this was the team representing the Belfast-based Irish Football Association, subsequently known as Northern Ireland.

The fact that none of the Home Nations teams competed in the 1930, 1934 or 1938 World Cups kept the title from travelling too far abroad, and the First and Second World Wars hindered football’s globalisation process further.

1930s-2000

It was 1931 when the title was first passed outside the British Isles, to Austria. It was back with the home nations within four months, and for all but the last few months of the decade it was held by those four teams. In the 1940s the title was held by continental teams, notably those representing the Axis powers and countries neutral during World War II, but was recaptured by England in time for the 1950 World Cup. Here, in a shock result, they lost to the United States in one of the biggest upsets ever. This was the first venture of the title onto the Americas, where it remained for all but one of the following 16 years.

FIFA’s divisions

This time included the reign of the Netherlands Antilles, who beat Mexico 2–1 in a CONCACAF Championship match to become the smallest country ever to hold the title. The UFWC returned to Europe in time for the 1966 FIFA World Cup with the Soviet Union. As it happened, the England v Scotland match of 1967, which first gave rise to the idea of an unofficial world championship, really was a UFWC title match. The title stayed in Europe until 1978, when it was taken by Argentina’s 1978 World Cup winning side. It remained in South America until the 1982 World Cup where Peru lost to Poland. The UFWC remained in Europe for the next ten years, except for a one year tenure by Argentina.

In 1992, the title returned to the United States and then was held for one match by Australia, and then worked its way through several South American nations, back through Europe and to its first Asian holders, South Korea. The Koreans lost the title to Yugoslavia at the first time of asking, and the UFWC remained in Europe until March 1998 when Germany lost it to Brazil in a friendly. Argentina then defeated Brazil in a friendly to carry the UFWC into the 1998 World Cup.

France repeated Argentina’s 1978 feat by taking the title as they won the World Cup on home turf, beating Brazil. England took the title for the last time to date at UEFA Euro 2000. France and Spain enjoyed spells as champions before the Netherlands won the title in March 2002. As the Dutch had failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, the UFWC was, unusually, not at stake at the official World Cup. The Netherlands retained the title until 10 September 2003, when they lost 3–1 to the Czech Republic.

Full globalisation

The Czechs defended their title a few times, before losing it to the Republic of Ireland in a friendly. The title then went to an African nation for the first time, as they lost it to Nigeria. Minnows Angola won and kept this title through late 2004 and early 2005. They were then beaten by Zimbabwe, who held the title for six months before Nigeria re-gained it in October 2005. Nigeria were beaten by Romania who lost it to Uruguay within six months. Uruguay became the highest ranked team to hold the title since 2004, but their failure to qualify for the World Cup finals meant that, for the second time in succession, the unofficial title was not available at the official championships.

Return to Europe

The title was brought back to Europe by Georgia on 15 November 2006. They lost the title to the highest ranked team in the UWFC of all time, Scotland, on 24 March 2007, nearly forty years since Scotland had last gained the title, in the game against England at Wembley that had inspired the concept of the UFWC. Just four days later, Scotland conceded the title to FIFA World Cup holders Italy, and the title passed through the hands of Hungary twice, Turkey, Greece and Sweden before being claimed by the Netherlands, who currently hold the title in a run which has seen more successful defences than any other reign. The Netherlands qualified unbeaten from their first-stage group at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, meaning that the eventual winners of the World Cup will also leave the tournament as UFWC holders.

Rankings table

Because of the unofficial nature of the title, there are no authoritative criteria for ranking the historical holders of the title. The UFWC website sorts teams by how many championship deciding matches they have won: others have used cumulative length of time holding the title, a points system for matches won, drawn and lost, or other methods.

This table ranks the teams according to the number of matches that they have started as title holders, and in the event of a tie, uses cumulative days as title holder and then length of time since the title was last held as second and third criteria.

Rank↓ Country↓ Matches as
champion↓
Days as
champion↓
Reigns as
champion↓
Title matches
won*↓
Title last held↓
1 Scotland 103 13,003 20 86 2007-03-28 28 March 2007
2 England 88 7,506 21 74 2000-06-20 20 June 2000
3 Netherlands 65 2,296†[1] 9 49 current champions
4 Argentina 61 2,443 10 50 1998-07-04 4 July 1998
5 Russia[2] 50 1,580 6 41 2000-02-23 23 February 2000
6 Brazil 37 1,251 7 29 1998-07-12 12 July 1998
7 Germany[3] 36 1,198 9 27 2000-06-17 17 June 2000
8 France 34 1,333 6 25 2001-03-28 28 March 2001
9 Italy 30 1,002 9 27 2007-08-22 22 August 2007
10 Sweden 28 1,505 6 26 2008-11-19 19 November 2008
11 Hungary 27 1,138 7 17 2008-09-10 10 September 2008
12 Czech Republic[4] 23 648 5 15 2004-03-31 31 March 2004
13 Spain 21 1,198 4 15 2002-03-27 27 March 2002
14 Uruguay 20 1,031 6 16 2006-11-15 15 November 2006
15 Switzerland 14 1,124 7 9 1994-06-26 26 June 1994
16 Austria 14 816 2 12 1968-06-16 16 June 1968
17 Wales 13 1,821 8 12 1988-09-14 14 September 1988
18 Colombia 13 1,109 3 8 1995-01-31 31 January 1995
19 Chile 13 1,066 4 11 1982-03-30 30 March 1982
20 Greece 12 528 2 11 2008-05-24 24 May 2008
21 Paraguay 11 452 2 7 1979-12-05 5 December 1979
22 Peru 11 308 4 7 1982-06-22 22 June 1982
23 Romania 10 269 4 8 2006-05-23 23 May 2006
24 Bulgaria 9 422 3 6 1985-09-04 4 September 1985
25 Northern Ireland[5] 8 2,709 4 5 1933-10-14 14 October 1933
26 Angola 8 280 1 7 2005-03-27 27 March 2005
27 Zimbabwe 8 195 1 7 2005-10-08 8 October 2005
28 Belgium 7 188 4 5 1990-01-17 17 January 1990
29 Costa Rica 6 160 1 5 1963-09-04 4 September 1963
30 Yugoslavia[6] 5 144 3 5 1995-05-31 31 May 1995
31 Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland 5 122 2 3 2004-05-29 29 May 2004
32 Bolivia 5 55 3 5 1994-04-20 20 April 1994
33 Poland 5 41 2 4 1989-05-077 May 1989
34 Nigeria 4 61 2 4 2005-11-16 16 November 2005
35 Portugal 3 314 2 2 1992-06-04 4 June 1992
36 Denmark 3 75 2 3 1989-08-23 23 August 1989
37 Ecuador 3 63 1 2 1965-08-22 22 August 1965
38 United States 3 13 2 2 1992-06-14 14 June 1992
39 Georgia 2 129 1 2 2007-03-24 24 March 2007
40 Israel 2 63 1 1 2000-04-26 26 April 2000
41 Turkey 2 35 1 1 2007-10-17 17 October 2007
42 Mexico 1 290 1 1 1963-03-24 24 March 1963
43 Venezuela 1 21 1 1 2006-10-18 18 October 2006
44 Korea Republic 1 4 1 1 1995-02-04 4 February 1995
45 Australia 1 4 1 1 1992-06-18 18 June 1992
46 Netherlands Antilles 1 4 1 1 1963-03-28 28 March 1963

*: Including matches won on extra time and penalties.

† As of 8 July 2010

Rules

  • The first team to win an international football match were declared first ever Unofficial Football World Champions. This was England who defeated Scotland 4–2 in 1873 in the second international match, the first having been draw between the same two nations.
  • The next FIFA accredited international ‘A’ match involving a title holder is considered a title match, with the winners taking the title.
    • In the event of a title match being a draw, the current holders of the title remain champions. UFWC title matches are decided by their ultimate outcome, including extra time and penalties.
  • Title matches are contested under the rules of the governing body which they are sanctioned by.

UFWC at major championships

World Cup finals

Year UFWC contested? Holders going into competition Holders at end of competition Holders absent from competition
1930 No England
1934 No England
1938 No Scotland
1950 Yes England Chile
1954 No Paraguay
1958 Yes Argentina Brazil
1962 Yes Spain Mexico
1966 Yes Soviet Union England
1970 No Switzerland
1974 Yes Netherlands West Germany
1978 Yes France Argentina
1982 Yes Peru Italy
1986 Yes West Germany Argentina
1990 No Greece
1994 Yes Romania Colombia
1998 Yes Argentina France
2002 No Netherlands
2006 No Uruguay
2010 Yes Netherlands

Chile in 1950, Mexico in 1962 and Colombia in 1994 were eliminated in the group stage but left the World Cup as unofficial world champions.

The championships of each of the continental championships are only listed when the title was contested during the tournament.

European Championships

Year Holders going into competition Holders at end of competition
1976 Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia
1984 Yugoslavia France
1996 Russia Germany
2000 Germany France

South American Championships/Copa América

Year Holders going into competition Holders at end of competition
1953 Brazil Uruguay
1955 Paraguay Argentina
1956* Argentina Brazil
1957 Argentina Peru
1959 Brazil Brazil
1959* Argentina Peru
1979 Paraguay Chile
1993 Argentina Argentina

*: “Extra” tournaments in which no cup was presented, but now regarded as official championships by CONMEBOL

CONCACAF Championships

Year Holders going into competition Holders at end of competition
1963 Mexico Costa Rica

The continental championships of Africa, Asia and Oceania have not yet seen competition for this title.

Nasazzi’s Baton

A similar virtual title, Nasazzi‘s Baton, traces the “championship” from the first World Cup winners Uruguay, after whose captain it is named. Nasazzi’s Baton follows the same rules as the UFWC, except that it treats all matches according to their result after 90 minutes. The Netherlands are the current holders of this title as well as the UFWC, the two titles having most recently been united when the Netherlands, the UFWC holders, beat Nasazzi’s baton champions Norway 1–0 in Oslo in a friendly on 21 August 2002.

Virtual World Championship

Another virtual title, the Virtual World Championship, operates along the same boxing-style lines but only counts matches in FIFA-recognised championships and their qualifying stages. This is to circumvent the criticism of the UFWC that because countries do not always play their strongest teams in non-competitive matches, the honour could be unwittingly lost by a sub-strength team. This title is traced from the 1908 Olympic final. Olympic competitions since 1936 are not considered, as full international teams ceased to take part after that tournament. The honour is currently held by Colombia, who won it from Paraguay in a 2010 World cup qualifier on 14 October 2009, and will next be defended in the 2011 Copa América. The Virtual World Championship treats all matches according to their result after 90 minutes. It most recently separated from the UFWC when Nigeria lost the latter title to Romania in a friendly on 16 November 2005.

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