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[FM20] - Experiment - Following the (Unofficial) World Champions

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If you ask most people who the current world champions are they’ll tell you it’s France, and they’d point at their 2018 World Cup final victory over Croatia as proof of this. But they’d be wrong.

A few people might say Portugal, because they’ve mixed up their competitions and are recalling the 2016 European Championships. So they’d be even more wrong.

Others might bring up the USA winning the 2019 Women’s World Cup, but there’s no women’s football in Football Manager, so obviously that doesn’t come into play here.

And some deluded Scousers will claim it’s Liverpool because of the 2019 Club World Cup, but as always, it’s probably best to just ignore them.

The more enlightened among us will know the truth. It is, of course, the Netherlands.

“How so?”, I hear you ask. Good question, and I’ll explain that now.

To start with, we have to go back to the very first international match, Scotland v England in 1872. They played out a 0-0 draw, so we’ll skip forward to the rematch in 1873. This time England ran out 4-2 winners, and in the process became the first ever country to win an international game of football.

Thus England were crowned the first ever Unofficial Football World Champions. This didn’t last long though, as Scotland gained revenge in 1874 with a 2-1 win to take the title north. And from then on the title has been defended like a boxing or wrestling belt. Win or draw the match and you keep the title, lose and it gets passed on.

For the first 50 years the title mostly bounced between the home nations. This gave them an advantage that still shows to this day, as England have the most reigns with 22 spells as champion, and Scotland are top of the rankings with 86 victories.

But as international football and tournaments came to prominence, the title has since been all around the world. Heavy hitters like Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, and Argentina are all high in the rankings, while much smaller nations like North Korea, Angola, Zimbabwe, and the Dutch Antilles have all held the gold at times as well.

And if you follow that lineage through to the current day, we have the Netherlands as the current champions, by virtue of their victory over Germany in September 2019.

Which brings us nicely to where this experiment will begin. As the FM20 game begins in summer 2019 this most recent title change will be stricken from the records, and we’ll start with Germany as the current UFWC champions.

Their next defence is against Estonia, and if they get past them then the match with the Netherlands takes place.

And after that, who knows? Will the big nations continue to dominate, or will a smaller side get their day in the sun again? And can Scotland ever be surpassed at the top of the rankings?

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GERMANY – 11th title reign, 3rd defence


Germany (Positive 4-1-2-3 DM Wide) – M. ter Stegen; L. Klostermann (65’ E. Can), J. Tah, N. Sule, N. Schulz; J. Kimmich; K. Havertz (85’ I. Gundogan), T. Kroos; S. Gnabry (65’ J. Draxler), J. Brandt; T. Werner

Estonia (Defensive 5-4-1 Diamond WB) – A. Vaikla, T. Teniste, J. Tamm, E. Jaager, R. Klavan, D. Kruglov; K. Mets, M. Kait, B. Lepistu (54’ G. Tunsov), R. Sappinen, S. Zenjov (79’ E. Sorga)

Straight from kick-off Germany showed their attacking intent, Brandt hitting the post in just the second minute before Werner couldn’t convert the rebound, his weak effort being cleared off the line. Another change was spurned by Werner in the 14th minute, but shortly after Germany got off the mark. Kroos’ free-kick was met by Brandt, rising highest in the box to head past Vaikla. And just like that, the score was doubled. Another free-kick by Kroos, this time from the left, and it evaded everyone for Werner to poke home at the far post.

On the half hour mark Klostermann put in a cross, and Werner was pushed over as he went for it. No doubt about it, the ref immediately pointed to the spot. Werner stepped up himself, and although Vaikla got a hand to it there was enough power on the shot to increase Germany’s lead.

If Estonia were told to tighten things up at half-time, they failed to put this into action. A cross into the area was poorly dealt with, only landing at the feet of Gnabry. His shot was saved, but fell into the lap of Werner, who had the easy task of netting from two yards to clinch his hat-trick. Gnabry was then involved again, his low cross finding Brandt who made it five.

Estonia’s big moment came in the 70th minute, but Zenjov’s tame effort was easily stopped by ter Stegen. That was the last real attack of the game, as Germany easily saw the out the remaining twenty minutes to record an easy title defence.

MOTM – T. Werner (9.6)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - Germany earn one point in the rankings for the win.

NEXT: I mentioned in my first post that the Netherlands would be coming soon, but a friendly has been arranged before then. The next challengers will be Peru.

Edited by DaneBramage
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GERMANY - 11th reign, 4th defence


Germany (Positive 4-1-2-3 DM Wide) – M. ter Stegen; J. Kimmich, A. Rudiger (65' N. Sule), J. Tah (65' M. Ginter), N. Schulz (65' R. Gosens); E. Can; K. Havertz, T. Kroos; J. Draxler (65' M. Reus), J. Brandt (45' S. Gnabry); T. Werner (78' I. Gundogan)

Peru (Cautious 4-2-3-1 Wide) - P. Gallese; L. Advincula, C. Zambrano, L. Abram, M. Trauco (67' N. Loyola); A. Fuentes (45' P. Aquino), ; C. Gonzales (45' Y. Yuton); R. Rudiaz (67' R. Sandoval), Y. Reyna (45' E. Flores, 90' S. Rivadeneyra), A. Carrillo; P. Guerrero

Germany had the better of the first half with 64% of the possession and should have gone in at the break at least 1-0 up, but Werner failed to make the most of two clear headers, putting one over the top and hitting the post with the other.

The second half was very much played at a friendly pace, with the number of substitutions at half-time failing to add excitement to proceedings. But the second batch of substitutions did have an effect. A corner was hit long into the Peru area, Sule headed it back towards goal, and  wonderkid Havertz pounced ahead of the keeper to turn in his first goal for Germany.

MOTM: K. Havertz (7.8)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - Germany earn one point in the rankings for the win.

NEXT: Back to the European qualifiers, Germany travel to the Netherlands.

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GERMANY - 11th reign, 5th defence


Netherlands (Cautious 4-1-2-3 DM) - J. Cillessen; H. Hateboer, V. van Dijk, M. de Ligt, D. Blind; M. de Roon (83' N. Ake); G. Wijnaldum (79' K. Strootman), F. de Jong; D. van de Beek (79' J. Toornstra), M. Depay, S. Bergwijn

Germany (4-1-2-3 DM Wide) - M. ter Stegen; L. Klotermann, J. Tah, N. Sule, N. Schulz; J. Kimmich; K. Havertz, T. Kroos; J. Draxler, M. Reus (73' S. Gnabry), T. Werner

The first half was a bit of a dull affair, as Germany had a lot of possession but failed to do much with it, as the Netherlands did well to keep then contained in non-dangerous areas. There was one good chance, but Kimmich's shot from a tight angle was tipped over.

Shortly after the break Klostermann and Tah were caught out passing the ball between them at the back, and after nicking the ball away from them Depay should have given the Netherlands the lead. Unfortunately, he scuffed his shot and it was easy for ter Stegen to claim.

In the 56th minute Havertz rattled the crossbar with a long range effort, and that was shortly followed by Bergwijn having an effort saved, but it took a substitute to open the scoring. Some intricate play on the left saw the ball come to Gnabry, and he cut inside to curl the ball past Cillessen. 

With five minutes to go the Germans wrapped the game up. Kroos chipped a ball over the defence, and Draxler drifted in behind to volley home.

MOTM: S. Gnabry (8.0)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - Germany earn one point in the rankings for the win.

NEXT: In less than a week Germany have another away European qualifier, this time against Northern Ireland.

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GERMANY - 11th reign, 6th defence


Northern Ireland (4-1-4-1): B. Peacock-Farrell; C, McLaughlin, C. Cathcart, J. Evans, J. Lewis; P. McNair; S. Dallas, S. Davis (77' J. Thompson), G. Saville, M. Kennedy (46' S. Ferguson); K. Lafferty (68' J. Magennis)

Germany (4-1-2-3 DM Wide): M. ter Stegen; L. Klostermann, J. Tah, M.Ginter, N. Schulz; T. Kroos; M. Dahoud (36' L. Goretzka), K. Havertz; S. Gnabry (64' J. Draxler), M. Reus, T. Werner

Northern Ireland came out with a plan to put a lot of men behind the ball to try and frustrate Germany, but it didn't really work. After a quarter hour had been played Kroos' corner was flicked on by Werner, and Tah beat Evans to the ball for a powerful header to open the scoring.

Lafferty did his best up top for Northern Ireland, but with his supply lacking his best chance was a long range effort that went nearer the corner flag than the goal.

Immediately after the break Germany doubled their lead, Reus getting on the end of Werner's through ball to slot past the keeper. Germany pushed for a third but their creativity was damaged in the 64th minute, when Gnabry went down under a crunching tackle from Cathcart. The Bayern man went off with potential ankle ligament damage, while the defender was lucky to only receive a booking.

MOTM: T. Werner (8.3)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - Germany earn one point in the rankings for the win.

NEXT: We return in November with Germany's final European qualifier, this time hosting Belarus. Having already qualified could we possibly see a weakened side, opening the door for an upset and a potential title change?

Edited by DaneBramage
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GERMANY - 11th reign, 7th defence


Germany (Positive 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): M. ter Stegen; J. Kimmich, N. Sule (84' J. Tah), M. Ginter (80' A. Rudiger), N. Schulz; E. Can (80' L. Klostermann); K. Havertz, T. Kroos; J. Draxler, J. Brandt, T. Werner

Belarus (Defensive 3-4-2-1 DM): D. Scherbitskiy; M. Sivakov, A. Martynovich, N . Naumov; A. Rios, I. Maevskiy, M. Korzun (67' R. Bressan), N. Zolotov; E. Berezkin (61' A. Putsila), S. Dragun; M. Gordeychuk (68' Laptev)

Despite having already qualified top Germany went with a strong team in their final group game. They had the first sight at goal, but after a bit of pinball in the Belarus area Can put his shot narrowly over. Germany dominated the first 45 minutes, with 11 shots (compared to none for Belarus) and 71% possession, but didn't really test Scherbitskiy in goal. 

The German midfield looked tired and frustrated as they failed to get past the nine man Belarussian defensive unit, but they had a stroke of luck midway through the second half. Brandt advanced into the area, Rios made what looked like a good tackle, but the referee pointed to the spot. Werner stepped up and made no mistake, sending the keeper the wrong way.

Having made the breakthrough Germany quickly doubled their lead. A crossfield ball from Kimmich found its way to Schulz, who cut inside and although his low shot was blocked, it only went as far as Draxler who had an easy tap-in.

Rios' day went from bad to worse in the final few minutes, when he was dismissed for a second yellow after tripping Brandt.

MOTM: J. Draxler (7.5)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - Germany earn one point in the rankings for the win.

NEXT: There's nothing currently arranged, but with Euro 2020 on the horizon there's bound to be a warm-up game or two before then.

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We started following the UFWC title with Germany as the reigning champions, and five games and five wins later they remain in possession of this honour. The goals have flowed, Timo Werner being top scorer with four strikes, but a lot of credit also has to go to Marc-Andre ter Stegen and the defence in front of him, not conceding once in this time.


With the five wins Germany pick up five points in the rankings, and they'll surely fancy their chances of overhauling Brazil in the coming year, with Russia possibly in their sights as well.


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25TH MARCH 2020

GERMANY - 11th reign, 8th defence


Portugal (Cautious 4-1-4-1 DM): R. Patricio (85' Lopes); N. Semedo (45' G. Guedes (90'+1 G. Martins)), R. Dias, Ferro, R. Guerreiro (74' W. Carvalho); D. Pereira (79' F. Luis); J. Cancelo, B. Silva, Gabriel (74' M. Rui), Rafa; C. Ronaldo

Germany (4-1-2-3 DM Wide): M. ter Stegen; L. Klostermann, T. Tah, T. Kehrer, N. Schulz; J. Kimmich (45' E. Can); K. Havertz (45' L. Goretzka), T. Kroos (45' J. Weigl); J. Draxler (61' S. Gnabry), L. Sane (45' M. Reus), T. Werner (61' M. Gotze)

Germany certainly didn't pick an easy opponent for their Euro 2020 warm-up, travelling to Portugal to take on the best player in the world and his compatriots.

Ronaldo barely got a kick of the ball in the first half though, as the bulk of this period was spent in and around the Portuguese penalty area. There weren't many good chances, but eventually one came. Portugal thought they had cleared after a corner, but Sane robbed Pereira of the ball then picked out Havertz with a brilliant pass, who hit a screamer past Patricio from 25 yards.

The equaliser very much came against the run of play. Guedes won possession in his own half, then stormed down the right wing. Gabriel kept pace with him, and was in the right place at the right time to turn in his cross at the near post. Both teams were apparently happy with a draw, as the last spell of the game saw a lot of subs taking place, and neither team put in more than 50% effort for the remainder of the tie.

MOTM: Gabriel (8.3)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - But no point gained for a draw.

NEXT: Another away friendly in just three days, this time in Romania.

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28TH MARCH 2020

GERMANY - 11th reign, 9th defence


Romania (Defensive 4-2-3-1 DM): C. Tatarusanu; C. Manea (45' R. Benzar), V. Chiriches, A. Tosca (45' V. Ghita), N. Bancu (45' L. Pantiru); A. Cicaldau, D. Nedelcu (45' L. Nedelcearu); D. Man (45' I. Hagi), R. Marin, A. Paun; F. Andone (45' G. Puscas)

Germany (4-1-2-3 DM Wide): M. ter Stegen; L. Klostermann (45' M. Ginter), N. Sule (45' J. Tah), T. Kehrer, R. Gosens; J. Kimmich (45' E. Can); K. Havertz (45' L. Goretzka), T. Kroos (45' J. Weigl); J. Draxler, L. Sane (45' M. Reus), T. Werner

A cagey opening spell suddenly burst into life in the 12th minute. Kroos' free-kick into the Romanian penalty area was easily dealt with by Tatarusanu, and quick as a flash he hit a long clearance out to Andone. The Galatasary loanee raced away towards the German goal, but when one-on-one with ter Stegen, he saw the headlines and lost his composure, scuffing his shot wide. Despite the poor finish in the end, that was still the best chance of the first half as Germany struggled to impose themselves on the game.

Both sides made six changes at half-time, and this kicked Germany on. First Draxler had a close range effort blocked, before Weigl skimmed the cross bar from 20 yards out. But after letting Romania off twice, Germany capitalised on the third attempt. Some nice one touch football from Gosens and Goretzka gave Reus the ball in plenty of space on the right, giving him loads of time to pick out the perfect through ball for Draxler to run on to and slot past the keeper's dive.

MOTM: M. Reus (7.4)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - Germany earn one point in the rankings for the win, and now sit just one point below Brazil.

NEXT: A home friendly in June against Greece.

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3RD JUNE 2020

GERMANY - 11th reign, 10th defence


Germany (Positive 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): M. ter Stegen; J. Kimmich (51' L. Klostermann), N. Sule (57' N. Schulz), J. Tah (63' M. Ginter), R. Gosens ; J. Weigl (63' E. Can); L. Goretzka (57' I. Gundogan), K. Havertz; J. Draxler (51' K. Volland), S. Gnabry, T. Werner

Greece (Cautious 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): O. Vlachodimos (77' V. Barkas); S. Papasthopoulos (63' D. Kourbelis), K. Manolas, K. Mavropanos, K. Tsimikas (71' D. Giannoulis); R. Petsos; Zeca, A. Samaris (71' P. Tachtsidis); D. Limnios, P. Mantalos (57' K. Fortounis), T. Donis (63' K. Mitroglou)

There's a re-shuffle in the German midfield caused by an injury to Toni Kroos. A broken foot means he misses not just this match, but also the upcoming Euros. Perhaps that explained Germany's early lack of cohesion in this match, which led to Greece having the first chance. A German free-kick was taken short on the outskirts of the Greek area, but Sule took too long to make a decision and had the ball nicked off him by Donis. The striker had managed double figures for Reims this season, but must have left his striking boots at home as he tamely dinked his shot into the keeper's waiting arms.

Germany then grew into the game and had a number of efforts towards the first half, but Tah's header went over and Gnabry had two shots blocked.

It looked like we were heading for a draw, with the usual avalanche of second half substitutions taking place, and players perhaps wary of giving it all their all with the Euros so soon. But then came the 88th minute...

Gundogan's corner was headed clear, and a number of players converged on the ball to try and win it. Kourbelis was first on it, and spread the play to Giannoulis on the left. A few quick passes saw Greece break up the pitch, until the ball ended up with Retsos on the right side of the German area. His cross was weighted perfectly, and Tachtsidis ghosted in between the defenders to snatch a late win.

MOTM: K. Manolas (7.4)


NEW CHAMPIONS! - In a big upset we have new champions, as Greece unseat Germany to take the UFWC gold. And it can't be said they didn't deserve it, they kept the Germans quiet for the most part then pounced when opportunity arose. This will be Greece's third reign as champions, and they earn a point for the win, to immediately jump from joint 19th to joint 17th, equal with Wales and Austria.

NEXT: Greece have their final pre-Euro 2020 friendly, and it's definitely a tough one. They're hosting Portugal, as the Iberians get their second crack at the title this year.

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6TH JUNE 2020

GREECE - 3rd reign, 1st defence


Greece (4-1-2-3 DM Wide): O. Vlachodimos (81' V. Barkas); P. Retsos (70' M. Bakakis), K. Manolas, S. Papasthopoulos, D. Giannoulis; D. Kourbelis; A. Samaris (81' P. Tachtsidis), Zeca; D. Limnios (90'+2 T. Baksetas), P. Mantalos (70' K. Fortounis), T. Donis (65' K. Mitroglou)

Portugal (Cautious 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): A. Lopes (76' C. Ramos); N. Semedo, R. Dias, Ferro, M. Rui (82' R. Guerreiro); D. Pereira; B. Fernandes, Gabriel ('56 Pizzi); B. Silva, Rafa (56' J. Felix), C. Ronaldo (76' G. Guedes)

Both teams have made the Euros, so whichever team leaves today as champion will defend the title in the tournament. 

This game was very slow to get going, nothing of note happening in the first half hour. Greece were happy just to keep possession in their own half and waiting for the right moment to attack. This came in the 32nd minute from a Giannoulis cross, but didn't come to anything as Mantalos headed over. Portugal needed a bit of inspiration to try and breakthrough, and when Fernandes picked out Ronaldo on the edge of the area the away fans got excited. The Juve man nutmegged a defender and jinked round the outside of him, but his shot curled away from goal, inches the wrong side of the upright.

On the brink of half-time Ronaldo had another chance, but will have been very disappointed with the outcome. He swept into the box and met Rui's cross at the far post, but could only divert the ball straight at the keeper.

When the goal finally came it was something special. In the build-up all ten outfield Portuguese players touched the ball, until it ended up with Rui on the left. He entered the box, danced past another defender, and his pinpoint pass along the six yard box gave Silva the easiest goal he'll ever score.

As the game approached its final stages Greece gave it a good go, but all attempts at an equaliser were thwarted by sub keeper Ramos.

MOTM: B. Silva (8.0)


NEW CHAMPIONS! - Greece lose the title at the first time of asking. Portugal begin their third reign as champions, and pick up one point for the win. This advances them from joint 40th to joint 37th in the rankings, equal with Mexico, Croatia, and the Republic of Ireland.

NEXT - We go into Euro 2020 with plenty of opportunities for Portugal to add to their tally, or for more quickfire title changes. Portugal are in Group B, alongside Turkey, Russia, and Switzerland.

Edited by DaneBramage
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13TH JUNE 2020

PORTUGAL - 3rd reign, 1st defence


Turkey (4-2-3-1 Wide): A. Bayindir; M. Muldur, M. Demiral, C. Soyuncu, Z. Celik; O. Yokuslu (83' O. Tufan), I. Kahveci; C. Under, Y. Yazici (77' E. Kilinc), H. Calhanoglu (83' C. Tosun); A. Kutucu

Portugal (Cautious 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): R. Patricio; N. Semedo, Pepe, Ferro, R. Guerreiro; D. Pereira; J. Moutinho (34' R. Vezo), B. Fernandes; B. Silva, C. Ronaldo (66' Rafa), J. Felix

Turkey came close to an early lead in the 6th minute, Kutucu outmuscling Ferro to get on the end of Bayindir's clearance and hitting a shot from the edge of the area, but Patricio made a good save to push it wide. Nothing came from the resulting corner, but less than ten minutes later, Portugal took the lead from a corner of their own.

Moutinho took it from the left, and Felix rose highest to head home. Both sides had chances following this without any luck, but in the 33rd minute came a potentially game-changing moment. Kutucu had the ball deep in the Portuguese half, there was no real danger, but he was upended by a hefty challenge from Pepe. The referee didn't like it at all and the Porto defender was given a straight red. 

Portugal retreated after this, not offering anything in an attacking sense and inviting Turkey to come at them. The defence stood up to this challenge well, but with 20 minutes left they were caught out. Celik picked out Calhanoglu, his effort could only be palmed away, and Under was on hand to knock in the rebound. Unfortunately for him, the offside flag went up immediately. A VAR consultation agreed with the decision, and the goal was ruled out. 

The Turkey players kept their heads up and kept going, with several good chances in the final few minutes, but Patricio made a great save from a Tufan header in the final minute to keep his clean sheet.

MOTM: Ferro (7.2)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - The early red card made it tougher that it needed to be, but Portugal did just about enough to hang on for the win. They earn a point in the rankings to rise from joint 37th to joint 34th.

NEXT - Portugal have their second match in the group stage, this time taking on Russia.

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18TH JUNE 2020

PORTUGAL - 3rd reign, 2nd defence


Portugal (Cautious 4-1-4-1 DM): R. Patricio; N. Semedo, R. Dias, Ferro, R. Guerreiro; D. Pereira; Pizzi (74' G. Martins), B. Fernandes (90'+1 J. Moutinho), B. Silva, G. Guedes; C. Ronaldo

Turkey (4-2-3-1 DM AM Wide): A. Lunev; V. Karavaev (84' D. Kuzyaev), I. Kutepov (84' A. Semenov), G. Djikia, Y. Zhirkov; D. Barinov, Y. Gazinskiy; Z. Bakaev, A. Golovin (58' Al. Miranchuk), An. Miranchuk; A. Dyzuba

Turkey worked a good move from kick-off but Miranchuk spurned his header, putting it just wide. Ronaldo scuffed a shot when one-on-one with the keeper, but when he had another chance midway through the first half he made no mistake. Guerreiro's throw-in found Ronaldo, and with one touch he controlled the ball and turned the defender, and with the second he curled the ball past the keeper into the far corner.

Portugal should have added to their lead; Ronaldo couldn't keep a header down, Guedes had a shot blocked, but in the end no further goal was needed. Russia couldn't manage any substantial effort of their own.

MOTM: R. Guerreiro (8.7)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - A dull game but Ronaldo showed up with a moment of brilliance to make the difference. Portugal earn a point for the win and rise from joint 34th to joint 31st in the rankings.

NEXT - The final group stage game against Switzerland. With six points so far Portugal don't have progression confirmed, but a draw would be enough to move on. Switzerland are equal on three points with Russia, so need to better their result, meaning a win has to be the aim.

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23RD JUNE 2020

PORTUGAL - 3rd reign, 3rd defence


Portugal (Cautious 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): R. Patricio; J. Cancelo (78' N. Semedo), R. Dias, Ferro, R. Guerreiro; D. Pereira, B. Fernandes, B. Silva; Rafa (73' G. Guedes), C. Ronaldo (61' J. Moutinho), J. Felix

Switzerland (4-1-2-3 DM Wide): Y. Sommer; S. Lichtsteiner (90' D. Oberlin), N. Elvedi, M. Akanji, R. Rodriguez; D. Zakaria; G. Xhaka, R. Freuler (81' D. Sow); B. Embolo, X. Shaqiri, A. Ajeti (73' H. Seferovic)

Ronaldo had two early chances, first putting a header just over before following up with a shot going inches wide. Switzerland took control of the game after this, bossing possession in the middle of the park, but when Embolo set Ajeti free he could only shoot straight at Patricio.

Portugal started the second half stronger, and pretty quickly gained a man advantage. Just minutes after he was first carded, Embolo needlessly bundled over Ronaldo on the halfway line to earn a second booking and his marching orders. From there it was all Portugal, but a combination of poor finishing and bad decision-making prevented them from getting a goal.

MOTM: R. Guerreiro (7.4)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - Portugal retain the title, though they don't earn any points for a draw.

NEXT - Portugal are through to the second round of Euro 2020, where they'll be taking on Iceland.

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28TH JUNE 2020

PORTUGAL - 3rd reign, 4th defence


Portugal (Cautious 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): R. Patricio; N. Semedo, R. Dias, Ferro R. Guerreiro; D. Pereira (79' Gabriel); B. Fernandes (83' J. Moutinho), B. Silva; Rafa (79' G. Guedes), C. Ronaldo (91' D. Jota), J. Felix

Iceland (Cautious 4-2-3-1 Wide): I. Jonsson; Diegui, H. Eyjolfsson (91' S. Ingason), H. Magnusson, B. Bodvarsson (91' J. Fjoluson); A. Gunnarsson, R. Sigurjonsson (80' V. Palsson); J. Gudmundsson, G. Sigurdsson, A. Traustason (80' W. Willumsson); A. Finnbogason

Iceland got away with one in the 8th minute. Sigurdsson tripped Rafa on the edge of the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. But VAR intervention overruled the decision, instead giving a free-kick. This came to nothing, as Ronaldo's free-kick hit the wall. Minutes later, Sigurdsson was involved again, this time for the right reasons. His long ball found Traustason on the left wing, and his first time cross was smashed in by Gudmundsson.

Portugal bombarded the Iceland goal and it didn't take long for them to get their rewards. Guerreiro's corner hit the first man and bounced back to him, the second cross was much better and found Rafa at the back post to knock in from close range. 

The Benfica man was in inspired form. The game had barely restarted before Rafa cut in to the area and squared the ball to Ronaldo. His effort rebounded off the post, but Rafa had continued his run and grabbed his second from the exact same spot as the first.

The game was turning into a goalfest. Another cross, this time from Diugei, and Finnbogason was heading in his 20th international goal to level the score at 2-2.

12 minutes into the second half and Iceland took the lead for the first time. Sigurdsson's free-kick from out wide was heading back across goal by Traustason, where Bodvarsson was unmarked to head in. Again, Portugal bombarded the Iceland goal, and just when it was looking like all hope was lost, Ronaldo showed up. Moutinho's corner came in from the left and nobody could get close to him as he sent the game to extra-time.

That would be Ronaldo's last action as he was subbed off for the extra 30 minutes, and his replacement made the difference. As the second period began an Icelandic attack broke down and the ball fell to Felix. He made a rampaging run up the pitch before offloading the ball to Moutinho, and his perfect through ball found Jota inside the box who expertly slotted away to get his first goal for his country.

With five minutes to go Portugal put the result out of doubt. Moutinho will be credited with a hat-trick of assists, but Silva will earn the plaudits for an excellent 30 yard strike.

MOTM: B. Silva (8.9)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - As the 90 minutes was running out it looked like Portugal were losing the title, but Moutinho's cameo saved the day. Portugal earn a  point for the win, rising from joint 31st to joint 30th.

NEXT - In the quarter-finals Portugal meet Belgium, fresh off a 1-0 victory over Italy.

(Feel free to drop predictions for the upcoming match).

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3RD JULY 2020

PORTUGAL - 3rd reign, 5th defence


Portugal (Cautious 4-1-4-1 DM): R. Patricio; J. Cancelo, R. Dias, Ferro, R. Guerreiro; D. Pereira; Pizzi (61' G. Martins), B. Fernandes (85' Gabriel), B. Silva (79' J. Moutinho), G. Guedes; C. Ronaldo

Belgium (3-4-3 Wide): T. Courtois; D. Boyata, T. Alderweireld, L. Dendoncker; T. Meunier, A. Witsel, Y. Tielemans (66' O. Mangala), T. Castagne (73' D. Praet); A. Januzaj (61' T. Hazard), E. Hazard, R. Lukaku

Portugal had plenty of shots in the first half, but they were half-chances at best, potshots from outside the area. It took an hour for the first decent chance to come along, and Ronaldo headed in from Guerreiro's deep free-kick, but VAR ruled it out for offside. 

Not long afterwards though they got the breakthrough for real. Patricio's goal-kick was headed on by Ronaldo, and for a second game in a row, Silva smashed one in from 30 yards.

With 10 minutes to go a goalmouth scramble in the Portugal area caused worry, but eventually Cancelo managed to get a foot on it and launch the ball into the stands to remove the danger and secure the victory.

MOTM: B. Silva (8.5)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - A pretty comfortable title defence for Portugal, as they were not challenged anywhere near as much as they should have been. A point is earned for the win, and Portugal rise from joint 30th to joint 28th.

NEXT - After having drawn with them in the group stage, Portugal now face a rematch with Switzerland in the semi-final. The Swiss have knocked out Germany and Ireland to earn this spot.

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7TH JULY 2020

PORTUGAL - 3rd reign, 6th defence


Switzerland (Cautious 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): Y. Sommer; N. Elvedi, L. Stergiou, M. Akanji, R. Rodriguez; D. Zakaria; G. Xhaka, R. Freuler; B. Embolo, X. Shaqiri, A. Ajeti (80' H. Seferovic)

Portugal (Cautious 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): R. Patricio; N. Semedo (77' J. Cancelo), R. Dias, Ferro, M. Rui; D. Pereira, J. Moutinho, Gabriel (57' Pizzi); Rafa, C. Ronaldo (62' D. Jota), J. Felix

Switzerland had a point to prove after failing to claim the title earlier this year, and made a great start to the match. Shaqiri's free-kick was headed down by Ajeti, and Xhaka was quickest to the ball and volleyed it in.

Ronaldo was subbed after a largely ineffective hour, but would have been devastated on the touchline minutes later as Portugal went two down. Elvedi's throw-in was collected by Embolo, who turned his defender and blasted a shot across Patricio into the far corner. A great way for the Monchengladbach forward to make up for his red card in the group stage encounter between these two teams.

15 minutes later and Embolo did it again. Zakaria's through ball gave him loads of time and space to pick his spot, and he picked out the top corner nicely. A few minutes later Ferro put the ball in the back of the Swiss net to reduce the deficit, reacting quickest after Moutinho's free-kick was stopped. Deep into injury-time Rafa got another goal back to at least make the score look a little respectable, but it was too little too late.

MOTM: Rafa (9.0)


NEW CHAMPIONS! - Portugal rested a number of key players due to tiredness, and this came back to bite them. Ronaldo was off the pace, and a leggy performance saw the Swiss run rings around them. Switzerland begin their 8th reign as UFWC champions, and the point they gain for the win moves them up from joint 21st to joint 19th in the rankings.

NEXT - Switzerland face Ukraine in the Euro 2020 Final. Not a match-up you'd have predicted at the start of the competition, but Ukraine have shown their mettle when it counts, knocking out Spain, France, and the Netherlands (the last two on penalties).

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12TH JULY 2020

SWITZERLAND - 8th reign, 1st defence


Switzerland (4-1-2-3 DM Wide): Y. Sommer; S. Lichtsteiner, F. Schar (63' N. Elvedi), L. Stergiou, R. Rodriguez; D. Zakaria; D. Sow, R. Freuler; B. Embolo (90' X. Shaqiri), R. Vargas (57' D. Oberlin), A. Ajeti (68' H. Seferovic)

Ukraine (Positive 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): A. Pyatov; O. Karavaev, D. Popov, M. Matvienko, O. Zinchenko (68' V. Mykolenko); T. Steparenko; M. Sharapenko (74' V. Shepelev), R. Malinovskyi; V. Tsygankov (81' E. Konoplyanka), I. Petryak, A. Besedin (90' J. Moraes)

The two teams appeared very evenly matched, as neither side could impose themselves in the first half. Ukraine had slightly more attempts on goal, but the best they could manage was a Malinovskyi long range effort that sailed harmlessly over.

The second half wasn't much better. Both sides had late chances to win it, but Embolo's header was straight at the keeper and Konoplyanka shot into the side netting. Extra-time beckoned.

But the extra 30 minutes were a non-event, as both teams seemed to accept that penalties were on the cards.

And Ukraine cracked under the pressure. Moraes put his penalty horribly wide, Shaqiri hit the post, Konoplyanka's effort was even more off target than Moraes'. A terrible end to a terrible game as Ukraine miss out on their chance at a first ever UFWC point.

MOTM: D. Zakaria (7.4)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - Not pretty by any means, but a win is a win and Switzerland earn a point. With this they rise from joint 19th to joint 17th.

NEXT - Nations League action in September, as Switzerland share a group with Sweden, Spain, and up first, Belgium.

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22 hours ago, corinthiano said:

Some unexpected results so far! My guess is either Belgium or Spain will take it away from them. Hope we get the reign out of Europe soon though :D

Agreed. It's definitely been very Euro-centric so far. And with six Nations League games to go between now and the end of the year it'll be staying that way for a while. But I think there'll be a few more title changes in that time.

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SWITZERLAND - 8th reign, 2nd defence


Belgium (Positive 3-4-3 DM Wide): T. Courtois; D. Boyata, T. Alderweireld, L. Dendoncker; T. Meunier, A. Witsel, Y. Tielemans, T. Castagne (61' A. Sambi Lokanga); A. Januzaj, K. De Bruyne (45' T. Hazard), D. Origi (73' M. Batshuayi)

Switzerland (Cautious 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): Y. Sommer; N. Elvedi, F. Schar, M. Akanji, R. Rodriguez; D. Zakaria; D. Sow, G. Xhaka (69' E. Fernandes); B. Embolo (69' R. Vargas), X. Shaqiri, A. Ajeti (74' H. Seferovic)

Belgium had the better of the first half and would have been diappointed to go in at the break with the game scoreless, Januzaj in particular squandering three decent chances.

They kept going and eventually the breakthrough came. Thorgen Hazard was the only member of his family in the squad, Eden not called up for these fixtures, and his corner was headed in by recent Arsenal acquisition Meunier.

With less than ten minutes to go the score was doubled. Tielemans skipped over a half-hearted challenge and neatly slotted past the keeper. And in injury-time an exclamation point was put on the victory, Dendoncker flicking on a corner for Alderweireld to lash home from close range.

MOTM: Y. Tielemans (9.0)


NEW CHAMPIONS! - An embarrassing showing for the Euro 2020 winners as they give up the UFWC title with barely a whimper. Belgium begin their fifth reign as champions, and with the point move from 32nd to joint 31st in the rankings.

NEXT: In three days time Belgium will travel to Spain for their first UFWC title defence.

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BELGIUM - 5th reign, 1st defence


Spain (Positive 4-2-3-1 Wide): D. De Gea; S. Roberto, U. Nunez, S. Ramos, J. Alba; S. Busquets (79' T. Alcantara), Koke (63' Saul); Suso, Isco, I. Williams (79' A. Morata); Rodrigo

Belgium (3-4-3 DM Wide): T. Courtois; L. Dendoncker, T. Alderweireld, J. Vertonghen; T. Meunier, A. Witsel, A. Sambi Lokonga, T. Castagne (10' O. Mangala (61' D. Boyata)); T. Hazard (67' Wanderson), D. Origi, D. Mertens

Courtois kept Belgium in the game in the opening 30 minutes, making a succession of good saves. He could do nothing to prevent Suso's strike though, as when the ball broke loose after a free-kick, he was unsighted by the mass of players inside the area. At the other end De Gea was barely involved, but he remained alert enough to stop a Mertens header just before the break.

Soon after the break the lead was doubled. Again Courtois could do nothing about it, rooted to the spot as Busquets' screamer arrowed into the top corner. 

With 20 minutes to go Belgium had an opportunity to get back in the game, Ramos hauling down Wanderson inside the area. Mertens stepped up and calmly put the ball to the keeper's left. But the hope didn't last long. Another long range effort beat Courtois, this time from Isco. And that wasn't it. Suso's corner fell to Williams on the edge of the area, and his volley hit Rodrigo and deflected past the keeper.

With five minutes to go another penalty was awarded, this time to Spain. Alba's long ball was collected by Rodrigo, and as he entered the box he was tripped by Dendoncker. Courtois went the right way, but Ramos' penalty was far enough into the corner to beat him.

MOTM: Suso (9.1)


NEW CHAMPIONS! - Belgium got absolutely hammered to lose the title at the first hurdle. Spain sit 13th in the rankings, and begin their sixth reign as UFWC champions.

NEXT - A home Nations League game against Switzerland, who will be hoping to win back the title they only recently lost.

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SPAIN - 6th reign, 1st defence


Spain (Positive 4-2-3-1 DM Wide): D. De Gea; D. Carvajal (57' C. Azpilicueta), U. Nunez, S. Ramos, Saul (64' I. Williams (71' A. Grimaldo)); S. Busquets, Koke; Suso, Isco, J. Alba; Rodrigo

Switzerland (4-1-2-3 DM Wide): Y. Sommer; S. Hefti, N. Elvedi, M. Aknaji, R. Rodriguez; D. Zakaria; D. Sow, R. Freuler; B. Embolo (57' R. Steffen), X. Shaqiri (67' A. Mehmedi), A. Ajeti (63'  H. Seferovic)

A very dull first half finally saw some action on the stroke of half-time. A long ball out of defence by Koke was run on to by Rodrigo, and he shrugged off the challenge of Elvedi to slot past Sommer.

The second half was almost identical. Nothing going on for 45 minutes, then Rodrigo released Grimaldo and he raced down the left before cutting inside and smashing in his first international goal.

MOTM: Rodrigo (8.3)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - An easy victory and point earned for Spain.

NEXT - Another Nations League game, this time hosting Sweden.

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SPAIN - 6th reign, 2nd defence


Spain (Positive 4-2-3-1 DM Wide): D. De Gea; A. Odriozola, S. Ramos, M. Hermoso,  A. Grimaldo; S. Busquets, Saul (64' D. Parejo); I. Williams, M. Oyarzabal (58' Fabian), J. Alba (70' Rodrigo); A. Morata

Sweden (Cautious 4-4-2): I. Pettersson; J. Andersson, V. Lindelof, P. Jansson, L. Augustinsson; V. Claesson (76' M. Svanberg), K. Olsson (70' N. Hult), D. Kulusevski, E. Forsberg; R. Quaison, A. Isak (56' S. Andersson)

Spain invited Sweden forward from the start, playing lots of short passes between De Gea, Ramos, and Hermoso. Sweden fell for this and gave up loads of space at the back, and this was quickly exploited. De Gea hit a longer ball to Saul, who then picked out Morata who had an easy finish past Pettersson. Morata should have got his second just before the break, but his miss will be seen on blooper videos for years to come, ballooning the ball over from a yard out after Alba had already done all the hard work.

The game was incredibly one-sided, but Spain were content to retain just a one goal lead. Sweden had other plans. Kulusevski received the ball just inside the Spanish half, went past Fabian as if he wasn't there, left Ramos and Hermoso in his wake, then hit an unstoppable effort past De Gea. An excellent goal.

Spain had to respond, and they did so in style. Rodrigo won a corner, and when this was cleared it only went as far as Fabian a few yards outside the area. One touch to control the ball, then the second sent the ball whistling into the top corner. Another cracking goal. In injury-time the game was wrapped up, Fabian getting his second, heading past the keeper from Parejo's free-kick.

MOTM: Fabian (8.6)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - It looked like Spain were going to miss out on a UFWC point, but they fought back to earn this, bringing them up to 20 points.

NEXT - November brings us the fifth match in the Nations League. Spain travel to Belgium, the country they won the title from.

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SPAIN - 6th reign, 3rd defence


Belgium (3-4-3 DM Wide): T. Courtois; V. Kompany, T. Alderweireld, L. Dendoncker; T. Meunier (79' D. Mertens), A. Witsel (79' A. Sambi Lokonga), Y. Tielemans, B. Bolingoli; K. De Bruyne, D. Origi (61' T. Hazard), R. Lukaku

Spain (4-2-3-1 Wide): D. De Gea; S. Roberto, U. Nunez, S. Ramos, C. Azpilicueta; S. Busquets, Saul (90'+3 A. Grimaldo); M. Oyarzabal (59' Suso, 61' I. Williams), Isco, Koke; A. Morata

We have a rematch from September, when Spain won the title with a 5-1 victory.

It took less than two minutes for Spain to take the lead. Koke's ball from the left was taken down by Saul, then hit into the top corner. Halfway through the first-half Belgium equalised. Witsel won the ball in midfield and played it to Bolingoli out left. The recent £11.75 million signing for Leverkusen put in a pinpoint cross for a rare headed goal by De Bruyne. Spain should have gone ahead just before the break, but Morata perhaps hadn't anticipated the ball was going to be played through to him, and he miskicked straight at Courtois.

Isco took over in the second half. In the 53rd minute he hit a great 30 yarder, and Belgium didn't learn from leaving him so much space, as he then repeated this trick five minutes later.

In injury-time Belgium really pushed forward, and Alderweireld hit the crossbar with a header. They kept going and did get one back in the 95th minute, Lukaku slotting past De Gea at the second time of asking, after his initial effort was only parried back to him.

MOTM: Isco (9.0)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - The late goal makes this look closer than it actually was, Spain were never really challenged after Isco's goals killed the game off. Spain earn a point in the UFWC rankings to go equal 12th with Chile.

NEXT - The final Nations League group match, as Spain defend again against Switzerland.

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SPAIN - 6th reign, 4th defence


Switzerland (4-1-2-3 DM Wide): R. Burki; K. Mbabu, L. Stergiou, M. Akanji, R. Rodriguez; D. Zakaria (56' G. Xhaka); D. Sow, R. Freuler; B. Embolo (46' R. Steffen), X. Shaqiri (67' A. Mehmedi), A. Ajeti

Spain (Cautious 4-2-3-1 DM Wide): D. De Gea; D. Carvajal, Nacho, M. Hermoso, A. Grimaldo; T. Alcantara (61' S. Busquets), Koke; M. Oyarzabal (61' S. Roberto), Fabian, I. Williams (64' Isco); D. Costa

This is Switzerland's second title shot against Spain, as they aim to win back the title they lost in September.

The Swiss started off on the wrong foot though, going one down in just the third minute. Koke's free-kick was half-cleared, but only as far as the lurking Fabian who smashed in from just outside the penalty area. Not long later Spain went two up, Grimaldo's cross being met by Oyarzabal who headed back across goal to find the far corner. And just like that it was three, Koke's corner being met by his Atletico team-mate Costa.

Before the break it was four, another Oyarzabal header from a Grimaldo cross, almost a carbon copy of the second goal.

In the second half Switzerland should have got a goal back, Freuler steering his shot wide when Mehmedi's cross had given him nearly the whole game to aim at, but it would have been no more than a consolation strike anyway.

MOTM - M. Oyarzabal (9.2)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - An easy win for Spain, Switzerland were no challenge at all for them. Spain gain a point for the win, and go clear of Chile to take 12th place in the rankings for themselves.

NEXT - The 2020 year in review.

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We've had a jam-packed year in the UFWC with 17 matches taking place in 2020, and 11 different nations getting a crack at the title. Despite this, not a single country from outside Europe has been involved, with the majority of the year featuring European Championship and UEFA Nations League action.

Germany began the year as champions but they couldn't continue their all-conquering form of 2019. A couple of successful defences were achieved without playing well, but when they came across Greece they fell victim to a late smash and grab. The Greek reign lasted just three days though, as they lost the title to Portugal in their very next outing.

Ronaldo and his men had a strong run as champions, making five successful defences during Euro 2020, but this came to an end in the semi-finals when they were thoroughly outclassed by Switzerland. The Swiss needed penalties to beat Ukraine in the Euro 2020 final to earn a UFWC point, but that would be the only one of this reign. Next time out, they got battered 3-0 and Belgium took the crown.

But in their first title defence, the Belgians got an absolute thrashing. Spain dominated them 5-1 to take the title. And the Spaniards ended the year as champions, with four fairly convincing defences (including over former champions Belgium and Switzerland (twice)) leaving them in good stead going into 2021.


Germany's run ended with them one point off of Brazil in 6th place. Switzerland and Greece both had a small rise in the rankings to see them go up to joint 17th, while Belgium also saw a small jump further down.

The big movers though were Portugal, with a strong run through Euro 2020 moving them up 12 places to 28th in the all-time table. Most recently our current champions Spain have gained two places to move up to 12th, and with a good 2021 could be set to crack the top ten.



NEXT - World Cup qualifiers begin in March, and Spain travel to Bosnia & Herzegovina.

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I think realistically the title will remain in Europe until at least the WC, unless some high profile friendlies are played between a big European Nation and Brazil/Argentina. Can see them at least closing the gap on Sweden/France/Italy and Uruguay, if not overtaking them.

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25TH MARCH 2021

SPAIN - 6th reign, 5th defence


Bosnia & Herzegovina (4-4-2): A. Murminovic; D. Todorovic, O. Vranjes, N. Katic, S. Kolasinac; E. Visca, M. Besic (59' G. Cimirot), S. Prcic (64' A. Gojak), E. Civic; E. Demirovic (69' M. Djuric), E. Dzeko

Spain (4-2-3-1 DM Wide): D. De Gea; S. Roberto, S. Ramos, M. Hermoso, A. Grimaldo; S. Busquets, Saul (84' Koke); Suso (79' Rodrigo), Isco, I. Williams (59' J. Alba); M. Oyarzabal

Bosnia & Herzegovina are competing to earn their first ever UFWC point, but their opportunity couldn't have got off to a worse start. Some nice play on the edge of the area from Isco and Oyarzabal freed up space for Grimaldo, and he slipped in from the left to slot home. Three minutes later and Grimaldo was heavily involved again. He received the ball from De Gea and stormed up the wing, before cutting into the box. He aimed to pull the ball back to Oyzarzabal, but Katic stuck out a leg, inadvertently steering the ball past his own keeper.

Spain should have been running away with it by half-time, but Murminovic made a couple of good saves and Isco hit the post.

Bosnia came out for the second half with a bang. The game had barely re-started before they were back in it, Dzeko acrobatically volleying home from a Todorovic cross. A few minutes later the ball was past De Gea again, but Katic was obviously offside as the free-kick came in and it was correctly ruled out. After that Spain had the better chances, Oyarzabal in particular thundering a header over when he really should have scored, but there were no more goals.

MOTM: A. Grimaldo (8.8)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - Despite the scare at the start of the second half, this was a relatively easy win for Spain, as the dominant first half and opening six minute onslaught was enough to secure another UFWC point.

NEXT - We get to see UFWC royalty in action, as all-time ranking leaders Scotland visit in another World Cup qualifier.

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28TH MARCH 2021

SPAIN - 6th reign, 6th defence


Spain (Positive 4-2-3-1 Wide): D. De Gea; A. Odriozola, M. Hermoso, S. Ramos, C. Azpilicueta; S. Busquets (74' S. Roberto), Koke; Suso (68' A. Morata), M. Oyarzabal, J. Alba (74' I. Williams); Rodrigo

Scotland (Defensive 3-1-4-2 DM): Z. Clark; L. Cooper, S. McKenna, K. Tierney; R. Jack; R. Fraser, S. McTominay (72' R. Fredericks), J. McGinn, C. McGregor; O. McBurnie (67' K. Grant), R. Christie (78' J. Harper)

Scotland are the all-time leaders in the UFWC rankings, and are looking to add to their impressive score. But with just 16 seconds gone it looked unlikely that they would do so. From kick-off the ball went left to Alba, who burst into the Scottish box. Fraser followed but could only clip his heels, and the ref pointed to the spot. Ramos stepped up, and in the 59th second gave Spain the very early lead.

Alba was causing real problems on the left, hitting the upright in the eighth minute. And in the 20th minute he went one better, collecting a long ball from Busquets and beating Clark at the near post. 

On the brink of half-time Scotland broke away following a Spanish corner, Christie carrying the ball for a good 80 yards. Unfortunately this was followed by a bad one yard, scuffing his shot straight at De Gea and missing a great chance to try and get back into the game. 

Scotland largely disrupted Spanish play in the second half, racking up a few yellow cards as the period went on, but in injury-time further damage was inflicted, a great volley from Rodrigo giving the keeper no chance.

MOTM: S. Ramos (8.1)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - Another easy defence for Spain. After making the perfect start to the game they never looked in doubt of picking up another UFWC point, and the the gap to the top ten is growing smaller.

NEXT - Spain aim for their 25th UFWC point, which would take them just one behind Chile in 11th, and two behind Italy in 10th. Just ahead of them in joint 8th (with Sweden) are France, who just happen to be their opponents in the UEFA Nations League semi-final.


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3RD JUNE 2021

SPAIN - 6th reign, 7th defence


Spain (Cautious 4-2-3-1 Wide): D. De Gea; A. Odriozola, U. Nunez, S. Ramos, A. Grimaldo; S. Busquets (75' S. Roberto), Saul (61' Koke); Suso, Isco, I. Williams (91' T. Alcantara); M. Oyarzabal (61' Rodrigo)

France (Cautious 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): H. Lloris; B. Pavard (91' N. Mukiele), R. Varane, A. Laporte, L. Digne (80' C. Lenglet); N. Kante (75' A. Rabiot); C. Tolisso, P. Pogba (91' O. Ntcham), K. Mbappe, O. Dembele, A. Griezmann

In the third minute a poor goal-kick by Lloris only went as far as Williams, but the keeper redeemed himself by pushing Williams' shot around the post. A few minutes later Lloris was involved in an attacking way, as his clearance was collected by Dembele. The £108 million Manchester City man put in a cross, but as Griezmann leapt for it he got a shove in the back by Ramos and ended up on the deck. The referee immediately awarded a penalty, but the VAR consultation advised that he viewed this again on the pitchside monitor. He did so, and kept with his original decision. De Gea went the right way, but couldn't get to Mbappe's spotkick. 1-0 France.

As the first-half went on Spain started to impose themselves more on the game, and in the 39th minute Williams was again attacking from the left. His initial cross attempt was blocked by Kante, but it came back to him and his second cross made it to the six yard box, where Suso was on hand to nod home. 1-1.

Five minutes after the break a Spanish attack brokedown and France capitalised with a great counterattack. Tolisso played the ball to Mbappe wide on the right, and his cross was met by a Griezmann volley at the near post. 2-1 France.

On the hour mark Grimaldo had a great chance to level things up, but hammered his shot into the side netting. Not long after though, they did get another equaliser. Odriozola drove into the box and his looped cross found Williams waiting at the back stick. 2-2.

And so the game went to extra-time. Suso and Mbappe both wasted good chances, and penalties beckoned. This was Ramos' record-setting 182nd appearance for Spain, but after giving away a penalty earlier, his evening got even worse as he missed his spotkick here. From that point on Spain were always on the backfoot during the shootout, and when Nunez missed, it was all over. 7-6 (p) France.

MOTM: I. Williams (8.6)


NEW CHAMPIONS! - Spain's time as champions has ended. Unai Emery's team had had a good run, but they came up against a strong France side which kept their bottle in the shootout. Herve Renard's side begin their eighth reign as UFWC titleholders, and earn a 29th point to take sole ownership of 8th place.

NEXT - France will look to make up the eight point gap to Germany in 7th place. But Germany are their opposition in the UEFA Nations League A Final, Bruno Labbadia's team having beaten Croatia 2-0 in the other semi. They'll be looking to win back the title they lost a year ago.

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6TH JUNE 2021

FRANCE - 8th reign, 1st defence


Germany (Positive 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): M. ter Stegen; J. Kimmich, J. Tah, M. Ginter (83' T. Kehrer), R. Gosens; E. Can; T. Kroos, K. Havertz; J. Draxler (63' S. Gnabry), J. Brandt (56' L.Sane), T. Werner

France (Defensive 5-3-2 WB): H. Lloris; L. Dubois (83' N. Mukiele), R. Varane, A. Laporte, C. Lenglet, L. Digne; O. Ntcham (78' A. Rabiot), N. Kante, P. Pogba; A. Lacazette (56' A. Martial), K. Mbappe

A dull first half didn't have much action. There was just the one shot on target, but Lloris easily dealt with Werner's effort.

The second half wasn't looking much better but the addition of Sane added a bit of spirit to the German attack. And with 20 minutes left he helped make the breakthrough. He won the ball on the left and gave it to Kroos on the edge of the area, and Kroos curled the ball round Lloris into the far corner. 1-0 Germany.

Deep into injury-time France had a great opportunity to equalise, as a fast one-touch attacking move saw them make it into the German area. Unfortunately the ball ended up with Kante rather than one of their elite attacking players, and his shot was straight at ter Stegen.

MOTM: T. Kroos (8.3)


NEW CHAMPIONS! - France's title run ends at the first hurdle, a reign of just three days. Germany win back the title almost a year to the day that they lost it, and in beginning their 12th reign as champions, they earn the UFWC point to take them equal 6th with Brazil.

NEXT - Germany will be aiming to close the gap to Russia in 5th place in the UFWC rankings. They host Aga Hareide's Denmark in a World Cup qualifying game. Denmark are way down the rankings in 34th place. Whichever team makes it out of this tie as champions will then come up against the rest of the group over the coming months, made up of Azerbaijan, Slovenia, and Montenegro.

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GERMANY - 12th reign, 1st defence


Germany (Positive 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): M. ter Stegen; J. Kimmich, J. Tah, M. Ginter, R. Gosens; E. Can; T. Kroos, K. Havertz; J. Draxler (61' S. Gnabry), J. Brandt (61' L. Sane), T. Werner (67' L. Goretzka)

Denmark (Cautious 4-2-3-1 Wide): K. Schmeichel; J. Maehle, A. Christensen, V. Nelsson, J. Knudsen (71' R. Falk); P. Hojbjerg, T. Delaney; R. Skov, C. Eriksen, V. Fischer (67' Y. Poulsen); K. Dolberg

After a slow start to the game the best chance of the first-half came in the 44th minute. Gosens won the ball in midfield and fed the ball to Brandt, who nutmegged Skov and then was away up the wing. He picked out Werner perfectly, but his header skimmed the top of the crossbar.

The second half also started slow, then continued slow, and ended slow. Both teams had chances, but nothing of any real substance, and this was a pretty low quality game.

MOTM: K. Havertz (7.1)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - Germany retain the title but won't be happy at all with their performance. No UFWC points are earned for a draw.

NEXT - In three days time Germany have another World Cup qualifier, this time travelling to Azerbaijan. Ramin Suleymanov's side will be aiming to win their first ever UFWC point, but having lost all seven games so far in 2021 probably won't be optimistic about their chances.

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GERMANY - 12th reign, 2nd defence


Azerbaijan (4-2-3-1 Narrow): E. Balayev; O. Buludov, B. Huseynov, A. Nagiyev (76' I. Qirtimov), Q. Qarayev; E. Mahmudov, E. Camalov (64' C. Diniyev); N. Alasgarov, D. Nazarov, Richard; B. Kose

Germany (4-1-2-3 DM Wide): M. ter Stegen; J. Kimmich, J. Tah, M. Ginter, N. Katterbach; E. Can (70' J. Weigl); T. Kroos (59' L. Goretzka), K. Havertz; S. Gnabry, J. Brandt (64' L. Sane), T. Werner

It took less than ten minutes for Germany to go ahead. A cross from deep was fumbled by Balayev, ending up at the feet of Brandt and leaving him with an easy finish. 1-0 Germany. It wasn't completely one-way traffic, Azerbaijan did produce one or two opportunities, but the second goal went as expected. A free-kick from Kroos hit the wall, and fell to Werner who slotted home from the right. 2-0 Germany.

Just before the hour mark the game was killed off. Werner got his second of the game, meeting Kimmich's cross with a glancing header into the bottom corner. 3-0 Germany. Qirtimov came on in the 76th minute and five minutes later must have been wishing he was still on the bench, giving away a penalty for pulling back Gnabry in the box. Werner stepped up and completed his hat-trick. 4-0 Germany. In injury-time ter Stegen made a good save from Richard's effort, but the resulting corner saw Sane break up the pitch, and Werner was in the right place to tap home his low cross. 5-0 Germany.

MOTM: T. Werner (9.8)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - A routine victory for Germany, it was just a matter of how many goals they could score. Germany earn their 39th UFWC point, going solo in 6th place and pushing Brazil down the 7th.

NEXT - Another World Cup qualifier, this time against Primoz Gliha's Slovenia, who are yet to score a UFWC point.

Edited by DaneBramage
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9tH OCTOBER 2021

GERMANY - 12th reign, 3rd defence


Slovenia (Cautious 4-2-3-1 DM AM Wide): J. Oblak; P. Stojanovic (76' N. Skubic), M. Blazic, M. Mevlja, J. Balkovac; L. Stulac, J. Pisek; D. Hotic (76' R. Bezjak), J. Ilicic, B. Verbic (46' R. Pozeg Vancas); A. Sporar

Germany (4-1-2-3 DM Wide): M. ter Stegen; J. Kimmich, J. Tah, M. Ginter, R. Gosens (76' N. Schulz); E. Can; T. Kroos, K. Havertz; S. Gnabry (76' J. Draxler), L. Sane (69' J. Brandt), T. Werner

Germany took a while to grow into the game but when they did Sane was a real nuisance, forcing a couple of saves out of Oblak. When the opening goal came though it was due to an individual mistake, Mevlja being caught in possession by Werner on the halfway line, who then raced off and beat Oblak one-on-one. 1-0 Germany. Slovenia nearly hit back immediately, but Stulac curled his shot just wide.

Slovenia thought they'd made it to half-time just one down, but Sane had other ideas. He beat his man on the left, then put in a cross. It didn't find anyone in the middle, but the ball made its way to Kimmich closing in from the other flank, and he hit a scorching shot across the keeper into the far corner. 2-0 Germany.

Pozeg Vancas joined the fray for the second half and Slovenia suddenly looked a lot more dangerous, ter Stegen having to be alert to stop efforts from him and Sporar. But Germany were up to the challenge, and with 20 minutes left were on the scoresheet again. A free-kick from Brandt hit the crossbar, but bounced down in the perfect spot to give Can an easy tap-in. 3-0 Germany.

 With 10 minutes to go Slovenia got the goal they deserved, a cross from Stulac met by a diving header from Pozeg Vancas. 3-1. But Germany responded instantly, Havertz's long range effort could only be parried by Oblak and Brandt was quickest to react and tucked home. 4-1 Germany.

MOTM: J. Kimmich (8.3)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - Slovenia put in a good shift, but ultimately Germany were the much stronger team and came out convincingly on top. With the win they earned their 40th UFWC point, and now sit just one point below 5th place Russia.

NEXT - Faruk Hadzibejic visits with Montenegro, who are unbeaten in their last three games. They'll be aiming to win their first UFWC point.

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GERMANY - 12th reign, 4th defence


Germany (Positive 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): M. ter Stegen; J. Kimmich, J. Tah, M. Ginter, R. Gosens; E. Can; T.Kroos, K. Havertz; S. Gnabry (66' J. Draxler), J. Brandt (66' L. Sane), T. Werner (70' L. Goretzka)

Montenegro (Cautious 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow): M. Mijatovic; A, Marusic, S. Savic, E. Saveljich, Z. Tomasevic; A. Scekic, M. Pepic (64 ' S. Haksabnovic), N. Vukcevic, M. Ivanic (76' V. Sakicevic); S. Jovetic, S. Mugosa (70' D. Islamovic)

Could a shock be on the cards? Less than three minutes had elapsed when Gosens clattered Vukcevic in the German half. Ivanic swing in a free-kick, and Scekic rose highest to open the scoring with a powerful header. 1-0 Montenegro

Probably not. When Jovetic was robbed of the ball by Can he quickly passed the ball on to Kroos, who picked out Brandt on the left. Werner beat Mijatovic to the cross and squeezed the ball in at the near post. 1-1. And almost immediately they got another, Mijatovic's goalkick not finding any of his team-mates and being collected by Gnabry. A 30 yard ball forward found Werner, who'd timed his run perfectly to beat the offside trap, and he rounded the keeper to score his second. 2-1 Germany. And before half-time the lead was extended, Gnabry with the assist again, his cross being met by Brandt. 3-1 Germany.

Germany continued to exploit the Montenegrin weakness at dealing with crosses, this time Gosens setting up Werner for his hat-trick. 4-1 Germany. He was subbed soon after and Montenegro might have though their evening would get easier, but it certainly didn't. Kroos and Havertz turned out to be a deadly combination, as this partnership combined twice to score from corners. 5-1 Germany and 6-1 Germany. And there was still time for a Draxler cross to be turned in by Goretzka at the back stick to make the score really embarrassing. 7-1 Germany.

MOTM: T. Werner (9.6)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - The initial minutes might have got hopes up for a title change, but this only served to anger Germany as they turned it around with style to give Montenegro an absolute battering. They now go equal with Russia in 5th place.

NEXT - Germany have a 10 point gap to close up to the Netherlands in 4th place. Next in their path are Denmark. These two teams went to a goalless draw just a month ago, and with Age Hareide's men on a seven game unbeaten streak this should provide a tougher challenge.

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GERMANY - 12th reign, 5th defence


Denmark (Cautious 4-2-3-1 Wide): D. Iversen; J. Maehle, A. Christensen, V. Nelsson (73' J. Andersen), J. Knudsen; P. Hojbjerg, T. Delaney; J. Bruun Larsen (62' R. Falk), C. Eriksen, V. Fischer; Y. Poulsen (56' K. Dolberg)

Germany (4-1-2-3 DM Wide): M. ter Stegen; N. Katterbach, J. Tah, M. Ginter, R. Gosens (68' J. Weigl); J. Kimmich; K. Havertz, T. Kroos; J. Draxler (56' E. Can), L. Sane, T. Werner (62' S. Gnabry)

Straight from kick-off Sane stormed forward, and he was clipped just before he reached the Danish area. Sane picked himself up and curled the free-kick onto the top-corner. 1-0 Germany. And his brilliant start to the match continued less than 90 seconds later. A throughball from Kroos picked up out Sane, and he dinked the ball over Iversen. 2-0 Germany. He had plenty of opportunities to complete his hat-trick before half-time, and eventually it came in the third minute of stoppage time. Kroos' free-kick from the right evaded everyone in the middle, making it all the way to Sane who put the ball away from a tight angle. 3-0 Germany.

Sane didn't stop going, and he was unlucky not to add to his tally when a late free-kick hit the outside of the post. He should have had an assist too, but Can failed to hit the target when put though one-on-one.

MOTM: L. Sane (9.6)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - Denmark will be disappointed at how little resistance they put up; the game was effectively over by the fourth minute. The easy win gives Germany their 42nd UFWC point, to move clear of Russia and take sole ownership of 5th place.

NEXT - The final World Cup qualifying match against Azerbaijan. Germany have already smashed them once during this run, 5-0 back in September. Azerbaijan haven't won a match all year, but will be coming into this match off the back of two draws (Denmark and Luxembourg).

Edited by DaneBramage
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On 01/10/2020 at 20:46, corinthiano said:

Pretty confident Germany will overtake Russia :)

And they did with ease. The next question is how close will they get to the Netherlands? The current gap is 9 points.

After the Azerbaijan match there's nothing currently scheduled, but next year will see the 2022 World Cup, which will hopefully mean more non-European nations getting in the mix.

Edited by DaneBramage
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GERMANY - 12th reign, 6th defence


Germany (Positive 4-1-2-3 DM Wide): M. ter Stegen; J. Kimmich, J. Tah, M. Ginter, N. Katterbach; E. Can; T. Kroos, K. Havertz; S. Gnabry (78' J. Draxler), L. Sane (71' J. Brandt), K. Adeyemi (71' T. Werner)

Azerbaijan (Cautious 4-2-3-1 Narrow): E. Balayev; O. Buludov, B. Huseynov, A. Nagiyev, Q. Qarayev; E. Mahmudov (84' I. Muradov), C. Dinlyav (61' E. Camalov); S. Tasmedir, N. Alasgarov, Richard; M. Abbasov (56' T. Mutallimov)

On his international debut Adeyemi was involved in the opening goal, as he was hauled down by Huseynov just as he was about to shoot. The keeper went the right way and got a hand to Kroos' penalty, but couldn't get enough contact to keep it out. 1-0 Germany. Balayev made a great double save from Adeyemi and Gnabry in the 37th minute to prevent them from extending the lead. But just before the break Kroos got his second, again from the spot. This time Mahmudov was the guilty party, judged to have handled a cross from Sane. 2-0 Germany.

The bombardment of the Azeri goal continued in the second half, but a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping from Balayev stopped them from adding to their tally.

MOTM: T. Kroos (8.8)


SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE! - The scoreline perhaps doesn't show quite how one-sided this tie was, the shots tell the real story. 37 for Germany compared to just the one for Azerbaijan. On another day this could have been a cricket score. 

NEXT - The 2021 year in review.

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With the absence of a major international tournament this summer there was a lot less UFWC action than in 2020. There were just 10 games taking place, and 8 different nations competing to try and win the UFWC title.

Spain started the year as UFWC champions and came through the March double-header without too much trouble, scoring two UFWC points, but they had a much tougher task on their hands in the Nations League semi. Ramos had a poor evening, and that opened the door for France to take the title on penalties. The French reign was over almost as soon as it begun though, the Nations League final against Germany was a dull game highlighted by a title-winning strike from Kroos. 

Germany stumbled out of the gate with a draw against Denmark, but since then have smashed through everyone in their path, racking up five more UFWC points and scoring 21 goals in the process.


Spain slightly closed the point difference to the top ten, but failed to rise up the rankings at all. The one point earned by France didn't change their ranking, but as they now had an additional point over Sweden, they went into sole possession of 8th and pushed Sweden down to 9th. 

The big movers were Germany, as they jumped from 7th to 5th, and with a World Cup coming up in 2022 it wouldn't be a terrible bet to suggest they could be challenging the Netherlands for 4th place soon.



NEXT - A couple of friendlies in March. First up is Belgium (31st). And if they make it through that game unscathed, Ecuador (41st).

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As another year begins, the UFWC continues. Reigning champions Germany have so far made six successful title defences in their current spell holding the gold, and could extend that to eight before the month has finished. But there's a tough task ahead of them first in the form of Belgium (31st in the rankings). The Belgians will be looking to win back a title they last held back in September 2020, a reign that lasted just three days.


A wet and windy first half didn't see much in the way of positive attacking play, both sides content to ease their way into the game. Belgium came out stronger in the second half, Tielemans and Batshuayi both forcing Nubel in goal into action, but when you get chances against Germany you need to take them, otherwise they'll punish you. There are plenty of players who can do the damage, but in this case it was Toni Kroos receiving the ball just outside the area, with all the time and space in the world to pick out the bottom corner. With minutes to go insult was added to injury, an exceedingly soft penalty being given for Vanheusden knocking Sane over, and Kroos stepped up to bag his second of the game.

MOTM: Toni Kroos (8.7)



Next up for Germany is the visit of Ecuador (41st in the rankings). This is a big game for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Ecuadorian players will want to be making a name for themselves, winning the UFWC title back for the first time since 1965. Secondly, the competition has been dominated by European nations in the last couple of years, Peru in 2019 the last team from outside the continent to get a shot, so it would be quite the coup for Ecuador to take this back to South America. And thirdly, Ecuador did not qualify for the upcoming World Cup. There are still a few friendlies to go until then, but it would be a bit of a shock if Ecuador won and this caused the World Cup to pass without any UFWC action.


An early volley from Julian Brandt gave Germany a lead they never looked like giving up. Ecuador struggled to get out of their own half, let alone mount any sort of meaningful attack, and so it was just a question of when Germany would score again. Toni Kroos had scored four goals in his last two international games but he couldn't keep that up tonight, seeing his penalty saved, but he was able to turn provider instead, putting in a corner for Kai Havertz to head home.

MOTM: Toni Kroos (7.8)



So Germany came out of March with two more UFWC points. There's no change in the rankings, but the gap to the Netherlands in 4th has been reduced further to just 6 points.

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With the 2022 World Cup being held in Qatar, the heat means it's scheduled to be taking place in November rather than the summer months. Thus the traditional summer extravaganza of football in even numbered years is missing from our TV screens. Luckily there isn't a complete break from football, as we instead have a pair of Nations League matches in June to focus on. Reigning champions Germany have been drawn against three of their nearest neighbours, with matches against the Netherlands, Austria, and Poland coming up over the next few months. 

First up is Poland (35th in the rankings). This will be their first title shot of the modern era (summer 2019 to present), and it's been 33 years since they last held the UFWC crown.


There wasn't much going on in a drab first half and Germany made a couple of changes at the break to try and inject some life into the game. They certainly looked a lot better after this and looked the only team likely to score, but Werner missing several good chances. Eventually though the fresh legs did make the difference. With five minutes left a Poland corner didn't lead to anything, and when this was cleared to Leroy Sane on the halfway line he raced away to leave him one-on-one with Szczesny, rounding the keeper to put the ball into an empty net. During injury-time Germany bagged a second, near identical goal, Timo Werner this time making the dash up the field to beat Szczesny. This would be a double celebration for Matthias Ginter and Emre Can, as both men received their 50th caps for this game.

MOTM: Toni Kroos (7.8)



With the win Germany move on to their next challenge, making the short journey to Austria (17th in the rankings). It's been an awfully long time since Austria were UFWC kings, last tasting victory in 1968, and they're coming into this off the back of a defeat against the Netherlands.


An excellent left-footed drive from Serge Gnabry gave Germany the early lead, but he was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch a few minutes later, cynically tripping Arnautovic when the Austrian looked poised to launch a dangerous attack. The Austrians were probably still sulking about the injustice of that when they emerged for the second half, but had only themselves to blame for the second goal. Kroos' throughball couldn't find anyone and it looked to be easily gathered by Stankovic in goal, but his defender Posch was also trying to gather the ball himself, and between the two of them the ball somehow find its way into the back of the net. Disastrous defending. 

MOTM: Serge Gnabry (8.3)



Two more easy wins for Germany, they just keep marching on. That's now ten successful defences in this reign, with five 2-0 wins in a row. The gap to the Netherlands is down to just 4 points. Would anyone bet against them being caught during this Nations League campaign?

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After a couple of months off we're back with another Nations League doubleheader. Germany take on the Netherlands first, then if successful, they move on to Poland

The Netherlands (4th in the rankings) game is a big one. Not only are the two countries old rivals, but the Dutch are currently the side immediately above the Germans in the rankings, with the gap shrinking at an alarmingly quick pace. The Dutch could really do with winning back the title that they lost to Germany in March 2019, otherwise they're in real danger of being overtaken soon.


Considering how much quality these two sides hold, they failed to show it. There was one bright moment from Memphis Depay in the first half, embarking on a cracking mazy run through the German defence that left two players on the floor in his wake, but the end product was a letdown, shooting straight at ter Stegen. Depay had a couple more straightforward chances in the second half too, but failed to make them count, disappointingly hitting the post when it would have been easier to score. For their part, Germany offered nothing. Kroos and Havertz were uncharacteristically quiet in midfield, giving Werner nothing to feed on up front.

MOTM: Matthijs De Ligt (7.0)



Next up is a trip to Poland (35th in the rankings). The Nations League format provides quickfire attempts for sides to try again if they fail to win the UFWC title, the Poles having last challenged for the crown back in June.


Germany were determined to give a better showing this time out, and it didn't take long for them to go ahead, a pinpoint throughball from Kroos finding Karim Adeyemi to score his first international goal. The lead didn't last long though. Marco ter Stegen came out to claim a corner but could only push the ball to the edge of the box. Karol Fila's first shot was charged down, but he ball rebounded back to him and at the second attempt he put it past ter Stegen's desperate dive. And just before the break Fila turned provider, his cross being headed home by Kamil Jozwiak. 

Ter Stegen will not look back on this game fondly. Krzysztof Piatek's shot had some power on it but the keeper would have expected to save it 99 times out of 100. Unfortunately for him this was the 1, and the ball somehow squirmed through his grasp and over the line.

MOTM: Karol Fila (8.0)



Germany will look back on this title reign with some pride, making 11 successful title defences along the way, but this was a disappointing way to lose the championship. Poland were just better than them on the day though and Jerzy Brzeczek's men thoroughly deserved the victory. With the win they earn their fifth UFWC point, and begin their third title reign by jumping up to 33rd in the rankings.

Edited by DaneBramage
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