England v Costa Rica Battle for Unofficial World Championship

So you plan on watching Italy versus Uruguay today, eh? Fancy a match with some actual stakes? You won’t even take a peek at the dead rubber between England and Costa Rica? No interest at all in an underachieving England squad making its earliest World Cup exit since 1958?

But Italy and Uruguay are only playing for the right to advance to the Round of 16, which is small potatoes compared to the massive England-Costa Rica match. Turns out that the Three Lions and Los Ticos are playing for the unofficial championship of the world.

Journalist Paul Brown created the Unofficial Football World Championship in 2003. He was inspired by Scotland’s 1967 victory over an English side that was the reigning World Cup Champion. The Tartan Army claimed that the triumph made them world champions. This got Brown thinking – what if the championship were like a boxing or wrestling belt so that it was contested every time the holder played?

He went back to the very first football international, a 0-0 draw between England and Scotland played in Glasgow in November of 1872. England then won the return match in London the following spring to claim the first championship. He then traced the belt through the present day. Any FIFA-recognized international match, including regional qualifiers and friendlies, counts. It turned out that the World Cup champion and the “unofficial” champion don’t always synch up. But England did indeed unify the belts in 1966, allowing Scotland to snatch it away a year later.

Scotlond lost the belt in their very first defense against the Soviet Union. It’s been held by a wide variety of nations since then. Uruguay held the belt heading into this year’s World Cup, but Costa Rica claimed it from them in their upset victory two Saturdays ago. Which brings us to today’s title tilt. Put the kettle on. Cue up “Football’s Coming Home” and “World in Motion.” Dig out your shirt with those Three Lions on the chest from the bottom of your hamper. It’s a brawl for it all in Belo Horizonte and England are playing for a football championship.

Well, it’s as good a reason as any to watch.

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