Football's 10 Greatest International Rivalries; Argentina - Brazil, Portugal - Spain, Algeria - Egypt, Japan - South Korea And More

With Brazil meeting Argentina and Portugal and Spain going head-to-head, analyses the teams who seek to put one over their neighbours...
Argentina v Brazil

The rivalry between South America's two greatest national teams has been tempered somewhat by the fact that Brazil rarely play non-competitive matches on their home continent any more. Indeed, the last time these sides met in a friendly was in London in 2008. There is, of course, bad blood between the nations which means there is always a degree of expectation around the fixture. 1990, and Argentina's alleged water-bottle tampering, lingers in the Brazilian memory. Also, at the 1978 World Cup, Argentina defeated South American rivals Peru 6-0 in order to progress to the final, the exact scoreline required to eliminate Brazil. The Brazilians have traditionally held their own in competitive fixtures though, winning convincingly in the 1982 World Cup in a fixture in which Diego Maradona was sent off. Brazil just shade things in Copa America final triumphs while Argentina came out on top in the 2008 Olympics.

England v Scotland

North of the border, England are regarded as the 'Auld Enemy' and this fixture represents the oldest international match in the world, and the one most often played, having been first played in 1872. England hold a slight upper hand but that does not mean that the Scots have failed to bloody their more illustrious neighbours' noses on occasion. Notably, in 1967, Scotland defeated the recently crowned World Cup winners at Wembley. In 1977 they did it again but there were scenes of ugly hooliganism on the part of the Tartan Army at the final whistle. England's most remarkable victory came in a 1961, with a 9-3 drubbing. More recent competitive internationals have been more one-sided. England emerged triumphant in the 1996 European Championships and in a play-off for Euro 2000 despite Don Hutchison giving the Scots an unlikely victory in the second-leg in London. Paul Scholes' double had decided the first leg in England's favour.

Japan v South Korea

Competition between both teams, in any sport, is known in Korean simply as Haniljeon, which translates as 'the Korea - Japan Match'. The first competitive clash between the east Asian giants took place in qualification for the 1954 World Cup, nine years after the end of Japan's occupation of Korea. Korea's unwillingness to invite the Blue Samurai for one leg of the play-off meant that both legs were staged in Tokyo, with Korea coming out on top convincingly. That was the way it stayed, for the most part, until the 1990s, with Korea in the ascendancy, aside from a seven-year winless gap in the 60s, which preceded Japan's appearance at the 1968 Olympic Games where they finished third. Japan's last-minute failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, after conceding against Iraq, is known as the 'Miracle of Doha' in Korea and the 'Agony of Doha' in Japan, but the emergence of the J-League and a competitive Japanese team meant the series was no longer as one-sided. Co-operation between the two countries has since increased on a sporting level, culminating in the successful co-hosting of the 2002 World Cup. The febrile atmosphere around the derby may have subsided in recent times, certainly from a Japanese point of view, but the rivalry is not something Koreans want to lose in historical context.

Algeria v Egypt

The most infamous, and troubling, fixture on the African continent. Tensions are always extremely high in the run-up to this powder-keg of a match, with players, fans and officials all involved in the pre-game sparring. November 2009 saw the two north African sides meet in Group C of the CAF World Cup qualification section. A 2-0 win in Cairo for Egypt meant that the sides would have to play-off on neutral soil for a place in South Africa. The build-up to the game in Cairo saw the Algeria team bus allegedly attacked and cyber warfare conducted between citizens of the two countries. The match led to diplomatic crises between the two Arab countries in both nations, as well as in France. The play-off was set for Obdurman, Sudan; a game in which the unfancied Algerians triumphed 1-0, consigning Egypt to yet another year without World Cup football. The Pharoahs were to have their revenge though; they beat Algeria 4-0 in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final en route to victory in Angola in January in a bad tempered affair. Algeria had three players sent off.

Germany v Netherlands

A fine example of a football rivalry that has mellowed over time is that of the Nationalmannschaft and the Oranje. In the wake of World War II there was bitterness and hatred from the Dutch towards the Germans. It manifested itself on the football field, as well as elsewhere, and the Germans surprisingly won the 1974 World Cup on home soil against a heavily fancied Dutch outfit. Holland had their revenge in 1988, at the European Championships, defeating West Germany en route to the title. It also led to the infamous Ronald Koeman - West German flag - toilet paper incident. The Germans were back on top in 1990, winning in Milan and knocking Holland out of the World Cup. Both Rudi Voeller and Frank Rijkaard were sent off, the latter for aiming a wad of spit at his opponent's perm. Since then there have been meetings but with less temper and more skill. Although the 1-1 draw at Euro 2004, which eventually saw Germany tumble out at the group stages with Latvia, would by not means have annoyed the Dutch.

Honduras - El Salvador

Apocryphal evidence suggests that the two countries went to war over a football match in July 1969 but the historical reasons for the 'Football War' run deeper than that. Immigration of Salvadorans to Honduras eventually led to mass expulsion, escalating tensions on the eve of a 1970 World Cup qualification match. Two legs and a play-off eventually meant, on the field, El Salvador were the winners, but violent clashes and tragedies, including the suicide of a Salvadoran teenager, provoked El Salvador to cut all ties with their neighbours and launch an assault on Honduran soil. A ceasefire was called roughly 100 hours later but the incident left thousands dead or displaced. In the Central American region, Honduras hold sway over their Salvadoran rivals, regulary outpointing them in qualification matches.

Portugal v Spain

Like Argentina and Brazil, the traditional rivals and neighbours will line up against each other on Wednesday night. This friendly match in Lisbon comes only a matter of weeks after the sides last met, in Pretoria in the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals. The game ended in victory for Spain, who went on to become world champions. La Furia Roja have only been defeated once in competition by their Lusophone cousins; that loss was handed to them at the group stages of Euro 2004 with Nuno Gomes grabbing the decisive strike which eliminated Inaki Saez's side. Mostly, Portugal and Spain have met in friendly matches - a series in which Spain hold the upper hand. The sides first met in qualification for the 1934 World Cup. Spain won at Chamartin, 9-0.

Iran v Saudi Arabia

Team Melli and the Green Falcons have long battled for west Asian supremacy. Saudi Arabia gained the most recent upper hand when they shocked the Iranians on home soil during the qualification process for the 2010 World Cup. Iran led at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran through a Masoud Shojaei strike only for two late Saudi goals to hand victory to the visitors and eliminate Iran from qualification proceedings. The recent historical tension between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims has also lent this fixture a grudging spark of late; Sunnis forming the majority of practicing Muslims in Saudi Arabia with Shi'ites largely inhabiting Iran.

Croatia v Serbia

Politically this international fixture is perhaps the fiercest in world football. The two countries were playing as one until the dissolution of SFR Yugoslavia in 1991 with ethnic tension destroying a nation. So when the two newly formed nations of Croatia and Serbia (confusingly known then as FR Yugoslavia) were drawn in the same qualifying group for Euro 2000 there was plenty of scepticism and fear for what might happen. On August 18, 1999 the two nations met in Belgrade for the first time. Rioting and political protests in the crowd, combined with a power outage, overshadowed a dull 0-0 draw with the return fixture in Zagreb also marred by crowd trouble. Hatred between the two nations is still strong today; the circumstances of Croatia's secession from Yugoslavia give this fixture a volatile back story and there has been trouble reported at tennis and basketball matches involving players of the two nationalities. A match at the Maksimir Stadium in 1990, when Dinamo Zagreb hosted Red Star Belgrade, resulted in the-then Dinamo captain, Zvonimir Boban, aiming a kick at a policeman who was beating a home supporter following a pitch invasion.

Mexico - USA

Like Argentina and Brazil, these two regional behemoths are the big dogs in their confederation yards and vie against only each other for dominance. The rivalry had once been a one-sided affair with the Mexicans coming out on top on most occasions since the first meeting in 1934. But the USA's emergence as a major player on the global football scene has led to them enjoying not too inconsiderable success of late. Only not in Mexico. The USMNT have never won south of the border, despite close to 80 years of trying. Furthermore, no MLS side has ever gone there and won. That has not prevented controversy at the home of el Tri though with Landon Donovan allegedly urinating on the Jalisco Stadium turf in 2004. The hostile atmosphere and vitriolic fans all help make it an uncomfortable experience for the Stars and Stripes, not to mention the aggression in the Mexican ranks; Rafa Marquez has been dismissed twice in this fixture.