England Out of the World Cup but Can Still Return (Unofficial) World Champions

England Out of the World Cup but Can Still Return (Unofficial) World Champions
Michael Sohn/Associated Press

England are out of the World Cup, but all is not lost—Roy Hodgson's men can still return home as the unofficial world champions.

The unofficial world championship is an imaginary title whose rules resemble boxing—to be the champion, you have to beat the champion.

So through history, from 1872 to the present day, there has always been an unofficial champion according to this system, and every match the champions play is a defence of that title.

Sometimes, it turns out that the World Cup winner and the world champion are one and the same—Spain, for example, were the world champions in 2010.

But they lost their crown later that year in a 4-1 friendly defeat to Argentina. From there, the title has been held by Japan, North Korea, Sweden, Argentina again and then, going into the 2014 World Cup, Uruguay.

But Uruguay were stunned by Costa Rica in their opening game, and the subsequent victory over Italy means the Central American country retains the crown. 

With Costa Rica through and England playing for pride in Belo Horizonte, England could win the unofficial title for the 74th time in their history—behind only Scotland.

Of course, the achievement is unlikely to result in an open-top bus parade through the streets of London if England pull it off. But at this point, it's something.

[Unofficial Football World Championships]