France are officially world champions until next December and the World Cup in Qatar, but a new intercontinental champion will be able to challenge them for that title at Wembley on Wednesday night. Italy, winners of the European Championship, meets Argentina, holders of the Copa America, in the name of the Conmebol-UEFA Champions Cup.
This “Finalissima”, official nickname, is modeled after the former Artemio Franchi Cup, which only had two editions when the football business was still in its infancy. In 1985, Michel Platini’s France defeated Enzo Francescoli’s Uruguay (2-0) at the Parc des Princes; In 1993, Argentina’s Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta defeated Denmark’s Brian Laudrup and Peter Schmeichel on penalties in the seaside resort of Mar del Plata (1-1, 5-4 on penalties).
The Artemio Franchi trophy then disappeared, mourned by no one. In 1989 (Brazil beat the Netherlands), 1998 (Germany beat Brazil) and 2013 (Spain beat Uruguay) the defending champions of two dominant but unofficial continents met.
The buried Confederations Cup
The Conmebol-UEFA Champions Cup will have the value that players and spectators will see in it, but it is an official trophy that “represents the culmination of the long-standing partnership that exists between UEFA and Conmebol [la confédération sud-américaine], and will serve as a catalyst for the global development of football, uniting countries, continents and cultures. The two confederations have signed three editions through 2028.
This initiative seems to finally bury the Confederations Cup, organized by FIFA from 1997 to 2017. There were eight editions attended by the champions of the six international federations, the organizing country and the world champion. FIFA took over the King Fahd Cup, organized in Saudi Arabia in 1992 and 1995, and offered the host country of the World Cup the opportunity for a dress rehearsal a year before the event.
The short-lived success of the Mundialito
None of these formats had the impact of the mundialito (the small world championship), which took place between December 30, 1980 and January 10, 1981 in Uruguay. While Uruguay is governed by a military junta and is trying to restore its image like Argentina, organizer of the Mundial two and a half years earlier, FIFA decides to organize a tournament that brings together the six winning countries (Uruguay, Italy, Brazil, England , FRG and Argentina) to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first World Cup, held in Montevideo in 1930.
Only England are missing, whose championship does not enjoy a winter break, and are replaced by the Netherlands, unlucky finalists of the last two editions. In a repeat of the 1950 World Cup, Uruguay defeated Brazil 2-1 in the final. The host country declares itself the ‘world champion of world champions’, but FIFA will retrospectively decide to downgrade this mundialito – aka the Copa de Oro de campeones mundiales (World Champions Gold Cup) – in a friendly tournament, with no real justification.
To read again:
FIFA is now transferring its ambitions to the clubs. Since 2005, after an attempt in Brazil in 2000, they have organized a Club World Cup modeled on the Confederations Cup. The tournament replaced the old Intercontinental Cup, which was created in 1960 and in which the European champions and South America took part. The winners of the Champions League or equivalent competitions from all six confederations compete against each other.
The competition will soon be expanded to 24 participants. The first edition was supposed to take place a year ago but was postponed due to a health crisis. Scheduled to be held in China in 2023, it will bring together teams from six continents to reach fans around the world and continue to break new ground.
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