Unofficial Football World Championships

Last updated

Current Champions
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands
Title Gained
16 November 20182–0 vs Flag of France.svg  France
2018–19 UEFA Nations League
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Title Defences
19 November 20182–2 vs Flag of Germany.svg  Germany
2018–19 UEFA Nations League
Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Next Defence
21 March 2019vs Flag of Belarus.svg  Belarus
UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers
Rotterdam, Netherlands
1 goal
Memphis Depay
Quincy Promes
Virgil van Dijk
Georgino Wijnaldum

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 professional boxing. [1] The UFWC was formalized and published by English journalist Paul Brown in 2003. [2] The title is currently held by Netherlands, who won it from France on 16 November 2018.



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". [3] [4] [5]

In 2003 freelance journalist Paul Brown defined the rules of the UFWC, traced its lineage and wrote an article in football magazine FourFourTwo . [2] In 2011 Brown authored a book on the subject. [6] Brown also created 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 international football in his role as FA secretary. [7]


Tracking the Championship

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. A comprehensive list of results since 1872 is recorded by UFWC. [10]

Early international football

The first ever international match was a 0–0 draw between England and Scotland, on 30 November 1872 at Hamilton Crescent. [11] 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. [12]

Early international football was almost entirely confined to the British Isles. Wales entered the UFWC 'competition' in 1876 — holding it for the first time in 1907, and Ireland (the team representing the Belfast-based Irish Football Association, subsequently known as Northern Ireland) in 1882 — first recording a UFWC victory in 1927. The UFWC title swapped between the Home Nations teams several times in this period, and was first competed by a non-British Isles team in 1909, when England defeated Hungary in Budapest. [13]

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 in their third attempt with a 5–0 victory over Scotland. [14] They held the title until 7 December 1932 when they lost 4–3 to England at Stamford Bridge, [15] 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; it was the first venture of the title onto the Americas, [16] where it remained for all but one of the following 16 years.

FIFA's divisions World Map FIFA.svg
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. They lost the championship in the semi-final to West Germany, who lost the final to England. [18] The following year, 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. [19] With West Germany's victory over Netherlands in the 1974 World Cup Final, West Germany became the first team to hold the World Cup, European Championship and the UFWC at the same time. [3] 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. [20] 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, [21] before it worked its way through several South American nations, back through Europe and to its first Asian holders, South Korea, who defeated Colombia in the 1995 Carlsberg Cup semi-final. [22] 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. [23] England took the title for the last time to date at UEFA Euro 2000. [24] [25] 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 a Euro 2004 qualifier 3–1 to the Czech Republic. [26]


The Czechs defended their title a few times, before losing it to the Republic of Ireland in a friendly via a last-minute winner by Robbie Keane. [27] [28] The title then went to an African nation for the first time, as they lost it to Nigeria. [29] 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), [3] [30] who held the title for six months before Nigeria re-gained it in October 2005. Nigeria were beaten by Romania, [31] who lost it to Uruguay within six months. [32] 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. [33]

The title was brought back to Europe by Georgia on 15 November 2006, with both goals scored by Levan Kobiashvili in a 2–0 victory. [34] 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. [35] Just four days later, Scotland conceded the title 2–0 to FIFA World Cup holders Italy, [36] [37] and the title passed through the hands of Hungary twice, Turkey, Greece and Sweden before being claimed by the Netherlands, [38] who eventually lost the title to Spain in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final after a run that saw more successful defences than any other reign with 21. [39] [40]


The European sojourn of the title was brought to an end when Argentina beat Spain 4–1 in a September 2010 friendly, [24] [41] and after beating the Argentines in a friendly, [24] 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, [42] [43] 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, [44] Tajikistan, [45] India, [46] Palestine, [47] and Turkmenistan challenged, the last of whom almost pulled off a major upset. [48] [49] North Korea's reign was memorable for the fact that so many low-ranking teams challenged to become holders of the crown – as well as the aforementioned AFC Challenge Cup, low ranking nations competing in the 2013 EAFF East Asian Cup second preliminary round such as Kuwait, [50] Indonesia, [51] Chinese Taipei, [52] Guam, [53] and Hong Kong [54] all unsuccessfully attempted to take 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. [N 3] [55] In a friendly in February, Sweden were beaten by Argentina who took the title to South America. [56] In October, Argentina lost a FIFA World Cup qualifier to Uruguay.

Uruguay took the UFWC into Group D of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. During the group-stage an already-eliminated England challenged Costa Rica for the UFWC in their third group-stage game and the UFWC was mooted as a potential consolation prize in the British press, [57] however the match was drawn and Costa Rica took the UFWC into the knockout phase. The UFWC and World Cup were "unified", with Germany securing both in the final.

Shortly after the World Cup, the runners-up Argentina beat Germany in a friendly to claim the UFWC title. This reign ended one match later, when Brazil won the UFWC title after winning 2014 Superclásico de las Américas.

Brazil held onto the title to take it into Copa América 2015, where it ended up with tournament winners Chile. Chile lost the title to Uruguay who took it into the Copa América Centenario, but regained it before winning the tournament. The UFWC was exchanged between CONMEBOL sides during 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification, and remained in South America despite being contested by outside teams during Chile's successful 2017 China Cup campaign. Ultimately it was Peru took the Championship into the 2018 World Cup where the title ended with tournament victors France.

France held the title for four subsequent matches after the World Cup, going unbeaten against Germany, Netherlands, Iceland and Germany again, before being defeated 2–0 in a UEFA Nations League match by the Netherlands in November 2018.

All-time rankings

The UFWC website maintains an all-time ranking table of teams, sorting by number of championship matches won. Owing mostly to their successes in the early years of international football, where competition was almost entirely limited to the British Isles, the top ranked team is Scotland, followed by England. [58] [59]

All-time UFWC rankings, as of 19 November 2018
RankingTeamUFWC matches playedUFWC matches wonUFWC last held
1Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 1498628 March 2007
2Flag of England.svg  England 1457320 June 2000
3Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 1056228 March 2017
4Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 8551Current Holders
5Flag of Russia.svg  Russia [lower-alpha 1] 644123 February 2000
6Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 713817 June 2015
7Flag of France.svg  France 592816 November 2018
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany [lower-alpha 2] 653 September 2014
Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden 466 February 2013
10Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 562722 August 2007
11Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 652615 November 2016
12Flag of Chile.svg  Chile 492123 March 2017
13Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary 471710 September 2008
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 317 September 2010
15Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czech Republic [lower-alpha 3] 371531 March 2004
16Flag of Peru (state).svg  Peru 421416 June 2018
17Flag of Austria.svg  Austria 351216 June 1968
Flag of Wales (1959–present).svg  Wales 6914 September 1988
19Flag of Greece.svg  Greece 241124 May 2008
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan 2315 November 2011
21Flag of North Korea.svg  North Korea 161023 January 2013
Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 3326 June 1994
23Flag of Colombia.svg  Colombia 32926 June 2015
24Flag of Bolivia (state).svg  Bolivia 18831 August 2017
Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica 135 July 2014
Flag of Paraguay.svg  Paraguay 316 September 2016
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania 2523 May 2006
28Flag of Angola.svg  Angola 10727 March 2005
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe 118 October 2005
30Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria 2064 September 1985
31Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 18517 January 1990
Ulster Banner.svg  Northern Ireland [lower-alpha 4] 2614 October 1933
Flag of Serbia.svg  Serbia [lower-alpha 5] 1831 May 1995
34Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark 2141 July 2018
Flag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria 716 November 2005
Flag of Poland.svg  Poland 187 May 1989
37Flag of Croatia.svg  Croatia 11315 July 2018
Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico 1818 June 2016
Flag of Ireland.svg  Republic of Ireland 929 May 2004
40Flag of Ecuador.svg  Ecuador 15222 August 1965
Flag of Georgia.svg  Georgia 424 March 2007
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 224 June 1992
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 814 June 1992
44Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 6118 June 1992
Flag of Curaçao.svg  Curaçao [lower-alpha 6] 328 March 1963
Flag of Israel.svg  Israel 726 April 2000
Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea 64 February 1995
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 717 October 2007
Flag of Venezuela (state).svg  Venezuela 618 October 2006
  1. Russia's statistics include figures for the Soviet Union before 1992.
  2. Germany's statistics include figures for West Germany between 1949–1990.
  3. Czech Republic's statistics include figures for Czechoslovakia before 1994.
  4. Northern Ireland's statistics include figures for Ireland before 1953.
  5. Serbia's statistics include figures for Yugoslavia before 1992 and Serbia and Montenegro 1994–2006
  6. Curaçao's statistics include figures for Netherlands Antilles before 2011

UFWC at major championships

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

YearHolders going into competitionHolders at end of competitionHolders absent from competition
N/AN/AFlag of England.svg  England
1934 N/AN/AFlag of Wales (1959–present).svg  Wales
1938 N/AN/AFlag of Scotland.svg  Scotland
1950 Flag of England.svg  England Flag of Chile.svg  Chile N/A
1954 N/AN/AFlag of Paraguay (1954-1988).svg  Paraguay
1958 Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina Flag of Brazil (1889–1960).svg  Brazil N/A
1962 Flag of Spain (1945–1977).svg  Spain Flag of Mexico (1934-1968).svg  Mexico N/A
1966 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union Flag of England.svg  England N/A
1970 N/AN/AFlag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland
1974 Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands Flag of Germany.svg  West Germany N/A
1978 Flag of France.svg  France Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina N/A
1982 Flag of Peru (state).svg  Peru Flag of Italy.svg  Italy N/A
1986 Flag of Germany.svg  West Germany Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina N/A
1990 N/AN/AFlag of Greece.svg  Greece
1994 Flag of Romania.svg  Romania Flag of Colombia.svg  Colombia N/A
1998 Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina Flag of France.svg  France N/A
2002 N/AN/AFlag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands
2006 N/AN/AFlag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay
2010 Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands Flag of Spain.svg  Spain N/A
2014 Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay Flag of Germany.svg  Germany N/A
2018 Flag of Peru (state).svg  Peru Flag of France.svg  France N/A

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 changed hands four times during the tournament.

By necessity, each time the UFWC holder makes it to the knockout stage of a FIFA World Cup, a reunion of the two titles occurs, since the knockout format ensures that the UFWC trophy will be handed on throughout the games into the final. There it will be won by the team which also wins the World Cup. It is, however, possible that the UFWC holder is eliminated in the group stage of the World Cup and leaves the tournament as reigning UFWC champion, in which case no reunion occurs; this happened to Chile in 1950, Mexico in 1962 and Colombia in 1994.

Confederations Cup

YearHolders going into competitionHolders at end of competition
1992 Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina Flag of Argentina.svg  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

YearHolders going into competitionHolders at end of competition
1976 Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia
1984 Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg  Yugoslavia Flag of France.svg  France
1996 Flag of Russia.svg  Russia Flag of Germany.svg  Germany
2000 Flag of Germany.svg  Germany Flag of France.svg  France

South American Championship/Copa América

YearHolders going into competitionHolders at end of competition
1953 Flag of Brazil (1889–1960).svg  Brazil Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay
1955 Flag of Paraguay (1954-1988).svg  Paraguay Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina
1956 * Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina Flag of Brazil (1889–1960).svg  Brazil
1957 Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina Flag of Peru (state).svg  Peru
1959 Flag of Brazil (1889–1960).svg  Brazil Flag of Brazil (1889–1960).svg  Brazil
1959 * Flag of Brazil (1889–1960).svg  Brazil Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay
1979 Flag of Paraguay (1954-1988).svg  Paraguay Flag of Chile.svg  Chile
1993 Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina
2015 Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil Flag of Chile.svg  Chile
2016 Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay Flag of Chile.svg  Chile

^* "Extra" tournaments in which no cup was presented, but now regarded as official championships by CONMEBOL.

CONCACAF Championship/Gold Cup

YearHolders going into competitionHolders at end of competition
1963 Flag of Mexico (1934-1968).svg  Mexico Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica

Asian Cup

YearHolders going into competitionHolders at end of competition
2011 Flag of Japan.svg  Japan Flag of Japan.svg  Japan


Unofficial Football World Champions
Unofficial Football World Championships.jpg
AuthorPaul Brown
Publisher Superelastic
Publication date
4 January 2011
Media typePrint (paperback)
ISBN 9780956227027

Freelance journalist Paul Brown, who wrote the original FourFourTwo article on the UFWC and created the UFWC website, [2] wrote a book on the championship which was published by Superelastic in 2011. [6] [60] Written in English, it has also been translated into Japanese. [6] As of 2018, four editions of the book have been published, with the latest UFWC developments added to each. [61]

Similar concepts

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

The online community at the UFWC website keeps track of UFWC-like linages confined to each FIFA confederation. A Women's Unofficial Football World Championships can be traced back either to the first FIFA-recognised women's international in 1971 (a 4–0 victory for France over The Netherlands) or to earlier internationals that are not FIFA recognised. [62] [63]

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. [64]

Pound for Pound World Championship

Another similar competition, the Pound for Pound World Championship (PPWC), [65] was created by 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.


  1. Where the FIFA-accredited status of a match is in question, as was the case for 2013 King's Cup matches in January 2013, title matches must meet the FIFA definition of 'A' matches included in the UFWC rules: "an international 'A' match shall be a match that been arranged between two national A associations affiliated to the Federation and for which both Associations field their first national representative team."
  2. 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.
  3. If the result of the match between North Korea and Sweden in 2013 is deemed unofficial, then the UFWC stays in Asia for much longer. For instance, North Korea extends its reign until 6 September 2013 when they lost 1–2 to Kuwait in a friendly. Then Kuwait retains the crown until 3 March 2014 when they lost 2–3 to Iran in a qualifying match for the 2015 Asian Cup. Iran in turn keeps the trophy until the 2014 FIFA World Cup group stage matches, when they lost 0–1 to Argentina. And Argentina kept the UFWC title until the defeat in the World Cup final by 0–1 to Germany. From then on, both paths tracking the UFWC reunite.


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  64. (in French)
  65. "Pound for Pound World Championships" . Retrieved 21 February 2012.