Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Unofficial Football World Championship

So, since my last blog post, England have been eliminated from the World Cup, with one group game left to go, which will be against Costa Rica on Tuesday. But it doesn’t need to be all doom and gloom for England. Whilst we won’t win the World Cup this year, we could still exit the competition as the Unofficial Football World Champions...

You can read about the Unofficial Football World Championship on Wikipedia, and on a dedicated website for the championship. But I’ll summarise what it is here.

In 1966 England won the World Cup. Their first defeat after winning the World Cup came the following year, when Scotland beat them in a British Home Championship match. As a result of this, Scottish fans jokingly claimed that Scotland were now the world champions, having beaten the World Cup holders.

Many years later, a journalist called Paul Brown took this idea and ran with it. He went all the way back to the very first international football matches. The first match was a draw between England and Scotland in November 1872. The teams met again in March 1873, and this time England won. England are therefore considered to be the first Unofficial Football World Champions. They remained so until their first defeat, which was in their next game against Scotland in March 1874.

Results were then tracked through history. Any full international match featuring the title holders is considered a title match. The results of that match determines who takes the title – so, for example, in the knockout stages of a World Cup, if a match goes to extra time or penalties, the ultimate winner of the match gains (or retains) the title. In matches which end in a draw, the defenders get to retain the title.

It turns out that when tracing matches like this, that match between England and Scotland in 1967 was a title match, and so after that match Scotland were the Unofficial Football World Champions.

The title has been traced all the way to the present day. As I write this, the current title holders are Costa Rica, who gained the title when they beat Uruguay earlier in the World Cup, and retained it when they beat Italy. The next title match will be on Tuesday, when Costa Rica take on England.

So, if England manage to win against Costa Rica on Tuesday, whilst they’ll still exit the World Cup, they’ll become the Unofficial Football World Champions, which will be the first time we’ve had the title since June 2000.

However, as the title suggests, this title is completely unofficial, and it isn’t sanctioned by FIFA. But at least we can pretend that we have something to play for on Tuesday!

So, to repeat my battle cry of last week: Come on England!

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