Unofficial Football World Championships

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Current Champions
 Uruguay (7th reign)
Title Gained
15 October 2013 3–2 vs  Argentina[1][2]
2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Estadio Centenario, Montevideo, Uruguay
Title Defences
13 November 2013 5–0 vs  Jordan[3][4]
2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier: Playoff - First Leg
King Abdullah Stadium, Amman, Jordan
20 November 2013 0–0 vs  Jordan[5][6]
2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier: Playoff - Second Leg
Estadio Centenario, Montevideo, Uruguay
5 March 2014 1–1 vs  Austria[7][8]
International Friendly
Wörthersee Stadion, Klagenfurt, Austria
Next Defence
30 May 2014  Northern Ireland
International Friendly
2 goals Edison Cavani, Cristian Rodriguez
1 goal Nicolas Lodeiro, Álvaro Pereira, Maxi Pereira,
Cristian Stuani, Luis Suárez

The Unofficial Football World Championships (UFWC) is an informal way of calculating the world's 'best' international association football team, using a knock-out title system similar to that used in boxing and wrestling. The title is currently held by Uruguay, having been won from Argentina in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier on 15 October 2013.

The idea stemmed originally from some Scotland fans and sections of the media 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 FIFA World Cup victory – they were the "Unofficial World Champions".[9][10] [11]

In 2003 freelance journalist Paul Brown defined the rules of the UFWC, traced its lineage and wrote an article in football magazine FourFourTwo.[12] In 2011 Brown authored a book on the subject.[13] Brown also created and maintains the championship's website which tracks its progression.

The Unofficial Football World Championships is not sanctioned by FIFA, nor does it have any sort of official backing. The winner is awarded a virtual trophy - the CW Alcock Cup, named after him as he was a major instigator in the development of both international football in his role as FA secretary.[14]


  • 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 a draw between the same two nations.[15]
  • The next full international (now defined by the standards of a FIFA-accredited international 'A' match) involving the title holder is considered a title match, with the winners taking the title.[16]
    • 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.
    • An exception to this rule is if the second leg of a two-legged playoff goes into extra time because it is tied on aggregate goals and away goals. Since the purpose of the extra time (and penalty kicks if necessary) is to determine the winner of the playoff, not the individual match, it is not included.[1]
  • Title matches are contested under the rules of the governing body which they are sanctioned by.

Tracking the Championship[edit]

While the tracking of the Unofficial Football World Champions is a relatively recent phenomenon, the rules are such that results are analysed retrospectively to determine the championship's theoretical lineage from the very first international matches.

Early days[edit]

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 inaugural 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 third 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.


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 four day reign of Netherlands Antilles, who beat Mexico 2–1 in a CONCACAF Championship match to become the smallest country ever to hold the title.[17]

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. With Germany's victory over Netherlands in the 1974 World Cup Final, Germany became the first team to hold the World Cup, European Championship and the UFWC at the same time.[9] The title stayed in Europe until 1978, when it was taken by Argentina, the winners of the 1978 World Cup. 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, before it 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 in their next match, 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 3-0 in the final. England took the title for the last time to date at UEFA Euro 2000.[18] 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[edit]

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. Angola won and kept this title through late 2004 and early 2005. They were then beaten by Zimbabwe (in a match that tripled as a World Cup qualifier and an African Nations qualifier),[9] 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.[19]

Return to Europe[edit]

The title was brought back to Europe by Georgia on 15 November 2006. They lost the title to the highest ranked team in the UFWC of all time, Scotland, on 24 March 2007, nearly forty years since Scotland had last gained the title. 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 lost the title to Spain in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final after a run that saw more successful defences than any other reign.[20]

First Asian Cup matches[edit]

The European sojourn of the title was brought to an end when Argentina beat Spain 4-1 in a September 2010 friendly,[18][21] and after beating the Argentines in a friendly,[18] Japan brought the title to the Asian Cup for the first time in 2011, and remained unbeaten throughout the tournament. Scheduled defences of the title were cancelled after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and they held the title for over a year before relinquishing it to North Korea,[22][23] ranked 124th in the world by FIFA, the lowest ranking of a UFWC champion since the rankings were introduced in 1993. North Korea continued to hold title through their successful campaign in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, where low-ranked nations Philippines, Tajikistan, India, Palestine, Turkmenistan challenged, the latter of whom almost pulled off a major upset. North Korea's reign was memorable for the fact that so many low-ranking teams challenged to become holders of the crown - nations such as Kuwait, Chinese Taipei, Guam, Indonesia and the aforementioned AFC Challenge Cup competitors all tried to prise the title away from North Korea.


The title was finally taken from North Korea by Sweden in the 2013 King's Cup, a result not recorded as a full international by FIFA, but nevertheless considered valid by the UFWC website. In a friendly in February, Sweden were beaten by Argentina who took the title to South America. In October, Argentina lost a FIFA World Cup qualifier to Uruguay.

Rankings table[edit]

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 shorter length of time since the title was last held as second and third criteria.

† As of 20 April 2014

Rank Country Matches
Title last held
1  Scotland 103 13,003 20 86 2007-03-28 28 March 2007
2  England 88 7,506 21 73 2000-06-20 20 June 2000
3  Argentina 70 2,725 12 57 2013-10-15 15 October 2013
4  Netherlands 65 2,299 9 49 2010-07-11 11 July 2010
5  Russia1 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  Germany2 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  Sweden 30 1,519 7 28 2013-02-06 6 February 2013
10  Italy 30 1,002 9 27 2007-08-22 22 August 2007
11  Hungary 27 1,138 7 17 2008-09-10 10 September 2008
12  Spain 24 1,256 5 17 2010-09-07 7 September 2010
13  Uruguay 23 1,218 7 18 2013-10-15 Current champions
14  Czech Republic3 23 648 5 15 2004-03-31 31 March 2004
15  Austria 16 816 2 12 1968-06-16 16 June 1968
16  Japan 16 403 1 11 2011-11-15 15 November 2011
17   Switzerland 14 1,124 7 10 1994-06-26 26 June 1994
18  Wales 13 1,821 8 12 1988-09-14 14 September 1988
19  Colombia 13 1,109 3 8 1995-01-31 31 January 1995
20  Chile 13 1,066 4 11 1982-03-30 30 March 1982
21  North Korea 13 435 1 10 2013-01-23 23 January 2013
22  Greece 12 528 2 11 2008-05-24 24 May 2008
23  Paraguay 11 452 2 7 1979-12-05 5 December 1979
24  Peru 11 308 4 7 1982-06-22 22 June 1982
25  Romania 10 269 4 8 2006-05-23 23 May 2006
26  Bulgaria 9 422 3 6 1985-09-04 4 September 1985
27  Northern Ireland4 8 2,709 4 5 1933-10-14 14 October 1933
28  Angola 8 280 1 7 2005-03-27 27 March 2005
29  Zimbabwe 8 195 1 7 2005-10-08 8 October 2005
30  Belgium 7 188 4 5 1990-01-17 17 January 1990
31  Costa Rica 6 160 1 5 1963-09-04 4 September 1963
32  Yugoslavia5 5 144 3 5 1995-05-31 31 May 1995
33  Republic of Ireland 5 122 2 3 2004-05-29 29 May 2004
34  Bolivia 5 55 3 5 1994-04-20 20 April 1994
35  Poland 5 41 2 4 1989-05-07 7 May 1989
36  Nigeria 4 61 2 4 2005-11-16 16 November 2005
37  Portugal 3 314 2 2 1992-06-04 4 June 1992
38  Denmark 3 75 2 3 1989-08-23 23 August 1989
39  Ecuador 3 63 1 2 1965-08-22 22 August 1965
40  United States 3 13 2 2 1992-06-14 14 June 1992
41  Georgia 2 129 1 2 2007-03-24 24 March 2007
42  Israel 2 63 1 1 2000-04-26 26 April 2000
43  Turkey 2 35 1 1 2007-10-17 17 October 2007
44  Mexico 1 290 1 1 1963-03-24 24 March 1963
45  Venezuela 1 21 1 1 2006-10-18 18 October 2006
46  South Korea 1 4 1 1 1995-02-04 4 February 1995
47  Australia 1 4 1 1 1992-06-18 18 June 1992
48  Netherlands Antilles6 1 4 1 1 1963-03-28 28 March 1963

* Including matches won on extra time and penalties.

1. ^ Russia's statistics include figures for the Soviet Union before 1992.
2. ^ Germany's statistics include figures for West Germany 1945–1990.
3. ^ Czech Republic's statistics include figures for Czechoslovakia before 1994.
4. ^ Northern Ireland's statistics include figures for Ireland before 1921.
5. ^ FR Yugoslavia (holders in 1995) were credited by FIFA with the records of the national teams of Kingdom of Yugoslavia (title holders in 1939) and SFR Yugoslavia (holders in 1984) until they in turn had their record assumed by Serbia.
6. ^ After the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in 2010, FIFA credited the records of its national team to Curaçao in 2011.

UFWC at major championships[edit]

Due to the nature of group stages, a team may win or retain the UFWC without qualifying for the knock-out stages of a competition. However, if an UFWC-holding side reaches a knock-out stage, the eventual tournament champions are guaranteed to also be Unofficial World Champions.


World Cup finals[edit]

Year Holders going into competition Holders at end of competition Holders absent from competition
1930 - -  England
1934 - -  Wales
1938 - -  Scotland
1950  England  Chile -
1954 - -  Paraguay
1958  Argentina  Brazil -
1962  Spain  Mexico -
1966  Soviet Union  England -
1970 - -   Switzerland
1974  Netherlands  West Germany -
1978  France  Argentina -
1982  Peru  Italy -
1986  West Germany  Argentina -
1990 - -  Greece
1994  Romania  Colombia -
1998  Argentina  France -
2002 - -  Netherlands
2006 - -  Uruguay
2010  Netherlands  Spain -

No team has ever successfully defended the unofficial world championship title through a World Cup Finals. The Netherlands have come closest, remaining unbeaten in both the 1974 and 2010 competitions right up until the final, where they lost to West Germany and Spain respectively. West Germany were also beaten finalists in 1986, but the title exchanged hands four times during the tournament.

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.

Confederations Cup[edit]

Year Holders going into competition Holders at end of competition
1992  Argentina  Argentina


The championships of each of the continental championships are only listed when the UFWC was contested during the tournament. The continental championships of Africa and Oceania have not yet seen competition for this title.

European Championship[edit]

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

South American Championship/Copa América[edit]

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 Championship[edit]

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

Asian Cup[edit]

Year Holders going into competition Holders at end of competition
2011  Japan  Japan

Similar concepts[edit]

The concept of such a title is not unique to the UFWC, similar concepts, with different rules and therefore different lineages, are discussed below.

UFWC Spin-offs[edit]

The online community at the UFWC website keeps track of UFWC-like linages confined to each FIFA confederation, as well as one for women's international football.[24]

Nasazzi's Baton[edit]

A similar virtual title, Nasazzi's Baton,[25] 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.

Pound for Pound World Championship[edit]

Another similar competition, the Pound for Pound World Championship (PPWC),[26] was created by a Scottish football magazine The Away End. This title only recognises competitive games, although it recognises many unofficial tournaments which are considered to be friendlies by FIFA. As with the UFWC, extra time and penalties are taken into account in defining the winner of a match. It only counts games from as far back as the first FIFA World Cup in 1930, and states that no matter who holds the title of Pound for Pound World Champion they must relinquish the crown at the beginning of every World Cup finals. At the end of the tournament the World Cup winners are crowned the new Pound for Pound World Champions. Therefore the tournament is "reset" every four years.

The current holders are Brazil after they defeated Spain 3-0 in the Confederations Cup final on June 30, 2013.

Media coverage[edit]

Unofficial Football World Champions
Author Paul Brown
Country UK
Language English
Genre Sports
Publisher Superelastic
Publication date
4 January 2011
Media type Print (paperback)
Pages 186
ISBN 9780956227027

Freelance journalist Paul Brown, who wrote the original FourFourTwo article on the UFWC and maintains the UFWC website,[12] wrote a book on the championship which was published by Superelastic in 2011.[13][27] Written in English, it has also been translated into Japanese.[13]

The UFWC has drawn occasional media attention as deciding matches have approached.[18][28][29][30][31][32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Brown, Paul (16 October 2013). "Uruguay defeat Argentina to become UFWC champions". UFWC. 
  2. ^ "Uruguay finish fifth, face play-off". ESPN. 16 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Brown, Paul (13 November 2013). "Jordan 0-5 Uruguay". UFWC. 
  4. ^ Wilson, Jonathan (13 November 2013). "Jordan panic after Maxi Pereira goal sets up emphatic Uruguay victory". The Guardian. 
  5. ^ Brown, Paul (20 November 2013). "Uruguay 0-0 Jordan". UFWC. 
  6. ^ Brown, Paul (20 November 2013). "World Cup 2014: Uruguay clinch final spot with Jordan win". BBC. 
  7. ^ Brown, Paul (5 March 2014). "Austria 1-1 Uruguay". UFWC. 
  8. ^ Hytner, David (5 March 2014). "Luis Suárez shines again but Uruguay are held to draw by Austria". The Guardian. 
  9. ^ a b c Coyle, Andy (27 March 2011). "Scotland: (unofficially) the greatest international side in history". STV. 
  10. ^ Lines, Oliver (13 August 2013). "Five classic clashes". Sky Sports. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  11. ^ Knight, Simon (21 June 2013). "Arsenal 'world champions', Wolves rule the world and more spurious 'world titles'". TalkSport. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Brown, Paul. "Unoffical Football World Championships – FAQ #4". Unoffical Football World Championships. Retrieved 4 December 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c Brown, Paul. "Unoffical Football World Championships >> Book". UFWC. Retrieved 4 December 2012. 
  14. ^ Brown, Pauln. "Trophy". UFWC. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  15. ^ Hesse-Lichtenberger, Uli (4 November 2008). "Undisputed champions of the world". ESPN. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  16. ^ Where the 'A' status of a match is in question, as was the case for 2013 King's Cup matches in January 2013, whether or not the match is considered a title match is at organiser Paul Brown's discretion.
  17. ^ Brown, Paul; Holden, David (18 February 2011). "Netherlands Antilles, we hardly knew ye". In Bed With Maradona. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  18. ^ a b c d Gledhill, Ben (14 November 2011). "England aren’t the ‘Unofficial World Champions’, Japan are – and North Korea could be next". Independent. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  19. ^ Bandini, Paolo; Dart, James (8 June 2006). "The Unofficial World Champions Reprise". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  20. ^ Ashdown, John (2 June 2010). "The real world champions". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  21. ^ Markham, Rob (3 February 2011). "Unofficial Football World Champions". ESPN. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  22. ^ Raynor, Dominic (19 November 2011). "Irish ball bag blag, Korea conquer world". ESPN. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  23. ^ Gledhill, Ben (15 November 2011). "North Korea claim Unofficial World Champions title". Independent. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  24. ^ Waring, Peter (14 January 2013). "UFWC spin-offs update 2013". UFWC. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  25. ^ "Le BATON DE NASAZZI" (in French). Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  26. ^ "Pound for Pound World Championships". Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  27. ^ "Unofficial Football World Champions". Superelastic. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  28. ^ Forsyth, Roddy (25 March 2007). "Tartan Army still celebrating". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  29. ^ "Another World Championship". 25 June 2006. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  30. ^ "Scots face Italians in battle of world champs, Blogs navigation". 27 March 2007. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  31. ^ Crucial Services Ltd. "ΠΟΛΙΤΗΣ sports – Πρωταθλήτρια κόσμου η Ελλάδα!". Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  32. ^ "Nu kan Sverige bli 'världsmästare' igen" (in Swedish). Aftonbladet. 18 January 2013. 

External links[edit]