ANALYSIS - Raisa Simplicio & Rupert Fryer
There have been no wars. There is no political gripes. It's all about football. For over a century Brazil and Argentina have battled, and they face off once again this week to write the latest chapter in international football’s greatest rivalry.
And the competition has only intensified. While the initial fight for supremacy in South America took place between Uruguay and Argentina as football spread across the continent, the Selecao’s rise to the most successful national team in the game has since seen the ‘Superclasico de las Americas’ become the most dominant derby in the world.
The rivalry had grown following a series of battles throughout the 1950s and 1960s and was well established by the time the two sides met at a World Cup finals for the first time - in 1974 as the tournament arrived in West Germany.
The great Rivelino gave the Selecao the lead after half an hour with a trademark long-range strike of his ‘atomic’ left foot, but Miguel Angel Brindisi’s chipped free-kick brought the ‘hermanos’ level just three minutes later. The Selecao would take the bragging rights, however, as Jairzinho headed the winner five minutes into the second-half.
Four years later, the two sides met once more, as Argentina hosted a controversial World Cup held under a brutal military dictatorship. The regime had hoped victory in the tournament would solidify a feeling of national pride and deflect attention from the thousands of Argentinian citizens who were ‘disappeared’.
The two teams clashed in the second group-stage and played out a goalless draw in what was later dubbed ‘the battle of Rosario’ - a feisty affair which often boiled over. Brazil’s final group game saw them dismiss Poland 3-1, leaving the hosts needing to win their final group game against Peru by four clear goals to progress to the final.
In one of the most controversial matches in World Cup history, Argentina saw off a fine Peru team 6-0 beating Holland in the final to claim their first world title.
Brazil and Argentina's next World Cup clash arrived four years later, as Zico’s mythical 1982 side blew away Argentina 3-1 in Barcelona. Having been overlooked for the 1978 World Cup, a young Diego Maradona arrived in Spain desperate to prove he was the world’s best.
However, after goals from Zico, Serginho and Junior sealed a comfortable win for the Selecao, Maradona’s competition ended in acrimony has he was sent off with five minutes remaining. But el Diego would have the last laugh, as eight years later he retuned to Europe to lead one of the greatest smash-n-grabs in tournament history.
In 1990 the Selecao were going through something of a personality crisis – without a world title in twenty years, the ‘beautiful losers’ of 1982 had captured the watching world’s collective imagination, but their failure to bring home the cup had seen the Brazilian game abandon wonder in favour of pragmatism.
Brazil dominated the round-of-16 clash in Turin from the outset, but time and again failed to make the breakthrough and, with ten minutes to go, Maradona set off on another of his trademark runs before slipping in Claudio Caniggia for a shock winner.
It would later be claimed that Brazilian left-back Branco had been handed ‘baptised’ water by the Argentine dugout. After taking a sip, he became dizzy and was forced to leave the field.
On Tuesday, the rivarlry resumes when the two sides meet in the semi-finals of the Copa America.