Best International Football Rivalries

From relatively recent spats, to cultural divides that go back over centuries, these countries just can't seem to get along and it always comes out when their football teams meet. There is only one more day to go before the biggest carnival of this summer begins and we might get a chance to witness these fierce rivals compete with each other in current edition of World Cup in South Africa.

10. El Salvador vs Honduras

In one of the biggest rivalries in CONCACAF, El Salvador and Honduras are two neighbors that have played many major matches throughout the years that have had Gold Cup and World Cup implications throughout the years. This was not more apparent than in qualifications for the 1970 World Cup, in which these two sides met each other in a three game playoff, with the winner going to the World Cup.

In the first game in Honduras, tensions were starting to build but during the second match in El Salvador, when the home supporters started attacking the Honduras supporters, which coupled with the tensions over land, caused El Salvador to start the "Soccer War" with Honduras which lasted for four days with several thousand casualties before the war ended.

More recently during 2010 World Cup qualifying, Honduras won 1-0 in El Salvador, which coupled with a Costa Rica draw with the United States, Honduras was able to clinched their first World Cup birth in 28 years.

9. Turkey vs Greece

Long-standing rivals on and off the pitch, this particular "derby" would not have registered much interest outside the two nations themselves not so long ago. However, things are completely different now as they continue to punch above their weight internationally. Greece famously won Euro 2004, while Turkey followed-up their World Cup semifinal appearance in 2002 by reaching the last four of Euro 2008.

These two sides were paired together in Euro 2008 qualifying, where Turkey beat the defending champion Greece 4-1, which was key for Turkey's Euro 2008 qualification campaign. Turkey's win was not well received in Athens, add into the mix the age-old dispute surrounding Cyprus and its no surprise this rivalry makes the top 10.

8.  Denmark vs Sweden

The Scandinavians are not renowned for their passion, or if they are, they keep it nicely controlled. However, there is something about this fixture that gets the blood bubbling on both sides.

First played in 1913, the fixture has witnessed numerous controversial incidents down the years, none more so than in qualifying for Euro 2008. A remarkable match in Copenhagen saw Denmark recover from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 before the referee awarded the Swedes a last minute penalty. This was too much for an enraged Danish fan who ran onto the pitch to confront the referee, who promptly abandoned the match. UEFA took a dim view and awarded Sweden a 3-0 victory. The Swedes qualified for the finals and Denmark didn't.

However, Denmark got some recent revenge on Sweden by defeating them 1-0 to finish first in Group One and by doing this, they gained an automatic spot to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, and the loss was the deciding factor for Sweden to miss going to a playoff to go to the World Cup

7. USA vs Mexico

There is a lot at stake when these two nations collide, most notably to see which one is the stronger in the CONCACAF confederation they both represent. This rivalry has grown big in a short amount of time. Originally, Mexico were superior to the United States in international competition, as they lost only one match against the United States from 1937-1990.

However, in recent years, the United States have become a way stronger side in international competition, as they have been able to qualify for five straight World Cups, and they also have been able to defeat Mexico on American soil in World Cup qualifiers. Also, the United States beat Mexico 2-0 in the round of 16 of the 2002 World Cup, and matches in recent years have grown in significance each time.

Add in the history of the Alamo and Mexicans' perceived grievances as to how they are treated as citizens within the U.S. and you have a cocktail of ingredients fit to rival most national derbies.

6. Spain vs Portugal

This is an ancient rivalry off the pitch, which can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when Philip II of Spain took it upon himself to become Philip I of Portugal - before that particular dynasty was overthrown. Portugal borders Spain on the Iberian Peninsula, and have always been seen as the less dominant neighbor. The hundreds of years rivalry between these two countries has naturally spread onto the football pitch.

Over the years, both of these sides have had many memorable match ups, with the most recent one being in Euro 2004, which was hosted in Portugal. In that matchup, Spain were tied with Greece at top of the Group A table with four points, and needed only a draw over Portugal (who had three points) to get into the next round.. Prior to their clash with Spain, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari declared: "This is war, and I have to kill and not be killed. Ironically, Portugal defeated Spain 1-0 to go onto the next round and eventually to the final, where they lost to Greece

However, Spain made up for this loss in Euro 2008 by winning the tournament, and now with some of the best players in the world in Fernando Torres and Cristiano Ronaldo playing for both sides, this rivalry only continues to get better.

5. Holland vs Germany

Another rivalry between two nations that share a common border, Holland and vs Germany. This is a contest between two of the top sides in European football. Their first memorable matchup was in the 1974 World Cup final, where the Dutch were expected to win but lost to Germany.

In the 1988 European Championships, both sides met in a hotly contested semi-final in which the Dutch came from behind to win 2-1 in a hotly contested battle and went on to win the final. After coming back to Amsterdam after the final, manager Rinus Michels told the crowd "We won the tournament, but we all know that the semi-final was the real final."

Since then, both sides have met in another hotly contested 1990 World Cup. In the knock-out stages, the Germans took their revenge on the Dutch for defeat in the Euro 88 semi-finals with a 2-1 win. The game became infamous for a disgraceful spitting incident between Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Völler. in which both players were sent off.

4. England vs Scotland

This is the oldest international football rivlry in the world, Despite both countries being part of the wider United Kingdom, a major rivalry exists between the pair. Ever since the first match in 1872, the two sides have met each for 109 times, with the English winning 45, Scotland winning 41 and 24 draws.

Even thought these two sides haven't met each other since 1999, these two countries have met each other more times than any other country in history, mainly due to the annual fixture between them in British Home Championship which was ended in 1989. Also, Scottish and English fans usually support their arch rival's opposition.

3. Germany vs England

A long-time rivalry between two great European sides, Germany vs England is a matchup that has existed for over 100 years. For the first 70 years of this rivalry, these countries only met each other in friendlies, but that all changed in 1966, as both sides met each other in Wembley Stadium in the World Cup final.

During the final, Germany were able to tie the game at two in the dying minutes, which led the game into extra time. During extra time, England striker Geoff Hurst had a shot on goal which bounced down from the crossbar and then out of the goal, before being cleared away by the German defenders.
After the play, the referee's consulted each other and decided to go with linesman Tofik Bakhramov's decision that the ball went into the goal and then out, giving England a 3-2 lead, which they would later add onto and gave England a 4-2 win and their first and to date, their only World Cup.

Since then, Germany have been in control of the rivalry, as they have beaten England in the 1970 and 1990 World Cup, and also beat England in Euro 1996.

Even though England beat Germany in Euro 2000, Germany beat England in the final international match at the Old Wembley Stadium and became the first team to defeat England in the New Wembley Stadium in 2007.

2. Italy vs France

A matchup between two major European football nations that are neighboring countries, Italy vs France is a rivalry that has always had major implications on the line each time that these two sides meet. For the first 72 years of the rivalry, Italy dominated with a 17-6-2 record (which included victories over France in both the 1938 and 1978 World Cups).

But France turned the tables, starting with a 2-0 win over Italy in the 1986 World Cup, and continued onto the 1998 World Cup in France, in which France defeated Italy 4-3 on penalties in the quarterfinal, as they went on to win their first World Cup.
After winning the World Cup, France continued their dominance over Italy, beating them 2-1 in Euro 2000 (which France also won), but the two countries didn't meet again for another six years.

The next time that Italy and France squared off with each other, it was the 2006 World Cup final in Berlin, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable World Cup finals of all time. During the match, France, on the power of a Zinedine Zidane goal off of a penalty in seventh minute and Italy, on the power of a Marco Materazzi goal in the 19th minute, the game went onto extra time.

In the 110th minute, Materazzi started to insult Zidane, which caused Zidane to headbutt Materazzi in the chest, causing Zidane to be sent off in his final ever career match. After the end of extra time, the game went to a penalty shootout, in which Italy won 5-3, and won their fourth ever World Cup. Since then, France and Italy played each other in Euro 2008, in which Italy beat France 2-0.

1. Brazil vs Argentina

The greatest international football rivalry in the world, Brazil vs Argentina is a battle between two of the strongest countries in international football. Since they first crossed swords in 1914, Brazil lead 35-34 in terms of victories and although Brazil have won five World Cups to Argentina's two, the Argentines have claimed an impressive 14 Copa America's as well as two Olympic titles.

These two countries quarrel over who was the best footballer of all time (Pele or Maradona), and each match between these two titans has humongous implications on the line as well as controversy and dismissals. They have met in several World Cups in 1978, 1982 and 1990. In 1978,
"The Battle Of Rosario," Brazil and Argentina had a scoreless draw but in the final match of the second group stage, in which Brazil beat Poland 3-1, forcing Argentina to beat Peru by at least four goals to advance onto the final. Argentina defeated Peru 6-0, and advanced to the final, where they defeated Holland and subsequently won their first World Cup. There are claims that Peru allowed Argentina to beat them the way they did, but there is no proof for this claim.

Argentina and Brazil met again in the 1982 World Cup, where Brazil dominated Argentina 3-1, and were able to advance out of the Group of Death into the next round. In 1990, Claudio Caniggia scored the match's only goal off a pass by Maradona, which gave Argentina a 1-0 victory over their arch rival. After the match, Brazilian player Branco accusing the Argentina training staff of giving him a bottle of water laced with tranquillizers while they were tending to an injured player, which the Argentine Football Federation claims never happened.

Although politically there is no tension between the pair, their standing as the elite nations in South American football ensures that this rivalry is as hot as any other in the world. It is impossible to split them in terms of football talent and results. With its great history of international football and the long existing rivalry between each other, this is the best international football rivalry in the world.

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