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Will England leave Brazil as Unofficial World Champions?

The general verdict seems to be ‘probably not’.

As of writing, the market seems to have settled to a pessimistic 30-1 and even the press seem to have reined in their customary hyperbole.

So what hope is there for the England fan hoping for glory in Brazil? Possibly more than you’d expect due to the existence of the Unofficial Football World Championships. Described as ‘probably the least known but most exciting football competition on Earth’, a team claims the title by beating the previous holder, counting all FIFA matches (friendlies included).

Since 2010 the champions have been Spain, Argentina, Japan, North Korea, Sweden, Argentina, and Uruguay (current holders at time of writing). Uruguay currently holding the title gives England a great chance for glory, either by:

  1. Dethroning Uruguay on their way to being joint official and unofficial champions (a feat achieved by Spain in the final of the previous World Cup)
  2. Following the example of Chile (1950), Mexico (1962) or Colombia (1994) and being eliminated in the group stage despite holding the unofficial title.

There are a number of result combinations that end up with England leaving the competition as Unofficial champions; they can be grouped together into the following scenarios:

Scenario Description Probability
1 Costa Rica beat Uruguay
Costa Rica don’t lost to Italy
England beat Costa Rica
England don’t qualify
0.53%
2 Uruguay don’t lose to Costa Rica
England beat Uruguay
England don’t lose to Costa Rica
England don’t qualify
1.52%
3 England take the title and qualify from the group.
England win the World Cup
1.65%
4 England don’t take the title but qualify from the group
The title holder qualifies England win the World Cup
1.42%
Overall World Cup glory 5.11%

(The probabilities have been generated by using the implied market probabilities of various match outcomes & outrights along with 10,000 group simulations.)

Combining the probabilities together, we’ve boosted England’s chances by 50% (relative probabilities are much more exciting), from 3.33% to 5.11%.

There is also a controversial tactic that will give England an even greater chance of coming home with glory - deliberately losing against Italy.

Of course, this reduces our chances of winning the World Cup final, but it increases the probabilities of winning via the first two scenarios, doubling the measly probability given to us by the bookmakers:

Scenario Probability
1 1.19%
2 3.77%
3 1.44%
4 0.46%
Overall 6.86%

As it turned out, Costa Rica beat Uruguay 3-1, which meant England’s chances shot up to 7.4%! Unfortunately in the end it wasn't England's day; they did have a chance to win the UFWC, but only drew with Costa Rica

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