Five Great International Soccer Rivalries
As Goal.com further explores the fierce rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico, associate editor Shane Evans takes a quick look worldwide for some of the other classic match-ups.
Itís always tough to pick some of the best rivalries in the world, as there are obviously so many to choose from, with FIFA chalk full of hundreds of teams.
The U.S. and Mexico is one of the classic feuds that international football has to offer. The two countries border each other and are often at the top of the world rankings as it relates to teams in CONCACAF.
What are the other rivalries that really get the adrenaline flowing? The ones that even neutral soccer fans will tune in and enjoy? Below are the top five that I could come up with. Obviously, the list are the matches I think belong. If you disagree, feel free to comment or visit the Goal.com Forum to debate the issue.
The Top Five FIFA Rivalries (in no particular order)
Argentina v. Brazil
Easily two of the best footballing nations in the world, and two of the biggest countries in South America, this pair have been providing riveting battling since as long as anyone can remember with classic matches seemingly happening every year.
Between them, they have seven world cups, with Brazil leading the way with five. The talent levels are off the charts as many of the worldís top footballers come from this region, so itís not a surprise that the teams are successful.
The first match between the two sides took place almost 100 years ago, back in 1914 and they have played a total of 93 matches against each other. The gap in the record is barely visible given that Brazil have won 35 of the matches, while Argentina have 34, the rest being ties.
Most recently, the two teams battled in the Olympics at the semifinal stage, a match that Argentina won handily and went on to win the gold medal, beating Nigeria in the final.
Key matches: 2008 Olympics Semi-Final (3-0 Argentina), 2004 Copa America Final (Brazil won on PKs), 1990 World Cup round of 16 (1-0 Argentina)
England v. Germany
Two countries with quite a significant political history, England and Germany have always been heated rivals on the football pitch. Their earliest and most significant encounter came in the final of the 1966 World Cup, a match that was won by England but still is regarded as controversial.
An extra time goal by England has often been debated whether it actually went in, with the people on the German side citing the Russian linemanís prejudice given the fact Germany had knocked out the USSR in the previous round.
Besides the classic final in 1966 the teams have met 26 other times with Germany winning 12 times, the same amount that England has won. There have been three ties in the series.
Key matches: 1966 World Cup Final (4-2 England), 1990 World Cup semi-final (Germany won on PKs), 2001 friendly match (5-1 England)
France v. Italy
The two teams in blue have always been fierce rivals, given their shared border and passionate football cultures. Italy currently holds a distinctive edge in the rivalry, having won 18 of the 36 matches between the two sides. France has won 10, while the other eight matches have obviously ended in draws.
Meeting in two of the last three World Cup knockout rounds, the rivalry has certainly been stoked in recent years. Both matches went to penalty kicks, with France taking the 1998 quarterfinal en route to a World Cup title, while Italy won in the 2006 final.
The 2006 World Cup Final will forever be remember as the match that the talismanic French captain Zindeine Zidane headbutted Italy defender Marco Materazzi, which resulted in Zidane receiving a red card, with less than five minutes remaining before penalty kicks.
Key matches: 1998 World Cup Quarterfinal (France won on PKs), 2006 World Cup Final (Italy won on PKs), 1938 World Cup Quarter Final (3-1 Italy)
Portugal v. Spain
Similar to the U.S.-Mexico and Brazil-Argentina, these two countries share a very distinct border. In fact, Spain is the only country Portugal touches, so the animosity is obviously going to be there.
The teams first met in 1921 with Spain winning the contest 3-1. After that first match, Spain didn't lose for 15 straight matches against Portugal, over 25 years. The SelecÁ„o das Quinas finally tasted victory in 1941 defeating Spain 4-1.
One of the most lop-sided matches came during the 25 year unbeaten run by Spain, when they defeated Portugal by a score of 9-0.
The most recent competitive match came in Euro 2004 when Portugal effectively knocked Spain out of the tournament with a 1-0 win in the last match of the group stage.
Key matches: 2004 Euro group stage (1-0 Portugal), 1934 World Cup qualifier (9-0 Spain)
Ghana v. Nigeria
Two of the most successful African teams in history share the biggest rivalry on the continent. One of the tamer of the rivalries as far as the fan support goes, these two teams are linked together more because of their overall success in football, and not the animosity between them.
The rivalry is also a relatively new one, having been born in 1954, which makes it still an adolescent compared to the other duos on the list. Despite its age, the teams have played meaningful matches against each other, particularly in the African Cup of Nations.
There was also a stretch from 1994 until 2002 (six matches) when Nigeria didnít allow Ghana to score a goal against them.
Key matches: 2008 African Cup of Nations Quarter Final (2-1 Ghana), 1984 African Cup of Nations group stage (2-1 Nigeria), 2001 World Cup qualifying (3-0 Nigeria)
Shane Evans is an associate editor of Goal.com