Top 10 International Soccer Rivalries of All Time
International soccer rivalries are known for being some of the most passionate and exciting rivalries in all of sports. These rivalries have a long history and have also been heavily influenced by social, political, and cultural differences between the countries. Conversely, close geographical location and frequency of matchups can also lead to intense rivalries forming between international opponents. Continue reading to learn about the top 10 best international soccer rivalries of all time.
What are the biggest international soccer rivalries of all time?
- Argentina vs Brazil
- England vs Scotland
- France vs Italy
- Mexico vs USA
- Germany vs Netherlands
- Denmark vs Sweden
- Portugal vs Spain
- Japan vs South Korea
- El Salvador vs Honduras
- Algeria vs Egypt
1. Argentina vs Brazil
The rivalry between Argentina and Brazil is the fiercest rivalry in South America and might even be the fiercest rivalry in the world. Their rivalry is referred to as the “Battle of the Americas,” and ESPN has even described it as the “essence” of soccer rivalry. The two countries were bound to be rivals because they have always had political disputes and had a bad trading relationship. The teams played their first match against each other in 1914. Since then, they have played each other upwards of 100 times, with Argentina slightly holding the edge. The rivalry has greatly influenced their fans, and some even see soccer as their “religion.”
2. England vs Scotland
The soccer rivalry between England and Scotland is the oldest international soccer rivalry in existence. It all stems from the two teams sharing an island, namely Great Britain, and a nation, the United Kingdom. England and Scotland are also forefathers of the sport. Their first match dates back to 1872, the sport's first international game ever. Scotland fans describe England as the “Auld Enemy,” auld meaning old. This is because the two countries also have centuries worth of socio-political conflict in their history. Scotland's national anthem also makes reference to this age-old rivalry.
3. France vs Italy
The rivalry between France and Italy dates back to before their first match in 1910. The two countries have always had a love-hate relationship, not just in the realm of sports. They have a sort of jealous admiration for each other because they share the same love of food, wine, art, and even soccer. Notable games between these rival teams include the 2006 World Cup Final when Italy defeated France 5-3 in a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw, and the 2000 European Championship when France won with a goal in extra-time by David Trezeguet.
4. Mexico vs USA
The rivalry between the US National Team and the Mexican National team stems out of respect. This rivalry is called “dos a cero,” meaning two to zero. The two teams have fought for decades to hold the title of Kings of CONCACAF. There is a lot of passion that both teams put into the games they play against each other, making this one of the most intense rivalries in all of international soccer. The teams, however, have mutual respect for one another. The teams’ neighboring geographical location has also helped to fuel this rivalry. Their most important meeting ever was in 2002 at the World Cup in South Korea. This remains their only ever meeting at a World Cup.
5. Germany vs Netherlands
It is suspected that the rivalry between Germany and the Netherlands began after the 1974 World Cup Final when the Netherlands lost 2-1 to West Germany, but others say that this rivalry is due to a much deeper resentment that the Dutch have for Germany. Some say that this hatred is rooted in World War II, but others contest that this has nothing to do with their soccer rivalry. One of the most notable moments of this rivalry was during the 1990 World Cup Final when Dutch midfielder Frank Rijkaard spit on Germany’s Rudy Völler.
6. Denmark vs Sweden
Denmark and Sweden's soccer teams first met in 1913. Their rivalry has escalated tremendously since then, especially since 1992 when Sweden won its first game at a European Championship and Denmark won the title that same year. For over 100 years, Denmark and Sweden faced each other in almost every major event in soccer, whether it be at the Nordic Cup or the European Championship. One of their more recent notable games was at the 2008 Euro Qualifier. During this match, a Danish fan ran out onto the field and tried to punch the referee. The referee abandoned the match shortly after, and Sweden was awarded the match. As a result, Denmark was sentenced to play its next two qualifying matches at least 140 kilometers away from Copenhagen.
7. Portugal vs Spain
Portugal and Spain are traditional rivals because they are neighboring countries. Also known as the “Iberian War,” the rivalry between Spain and Portugal is one of the oldest soccer rivalries, beginning in 1921. Although they mostly play friendly matches, they have played a handful of competitive matches against each other as well. This rivalry stems mostly from the countries’ history, with Portugal and Spain often finding themselves on different sides of wars and political conflicts.
8. Japan vs South Korea
Fans describe the rivalry between Japan and South Korea as a historic rivalry. Japan colonized and brutalized South Korea for over 30 years, so this rivalry is about more than just soccer. The two teams have officially played each other since 1954. The matches between the two are often referred to as nikkansen (Japanese) or haniljeon (Korean). One of the most memorable moments between the two teams was during the 2012 London Olympics, when the South Korean team won the bronze medal for the first time, defeating Japan 2-0.
9. El Salvador vs Honduras
The rivalry between El Salvador and Honduras is very intense, and even allegedly started the 100 Hour War. These two neighboring countries in Central America have a history of border disputes. In the 1960s, their main conflict was the influx of Salvadoran migrants into Honduras. In 1969, El Salvador and Honduras were both fighting to compete in the 1970 FIFA World Cup. They had to play a three-match series, and the winner would advance to the World Cup. El Salvador won two of the three games and advanced to the World Cup. On the same day of the last match, diplomatic ties were cut between the two countries and they were at war within a few weeks.
10. Algeria vs Egypt
Algeria and Egypt are both located in North Africa, so their rivalry, like many others, is based on the region they are both located in. However, their rivalry heated up during the 2010 World Cup Finals, with the match ending in violence. Violence also broke out in Algiers, Algeria, because there was news about Algerian supporters being attacked in Egypt during the match. There was also notable violence between the players, and the Egyptian team doctor even lost an eye due to a broken bottle being thrown at him.
What is the biggest international soccer rivalry?
The biggest international soccer rivalry is the “Battle of the Americas,” between Brazil and Argentina. Both teams have produced world-renowned players, such as Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, from Brazil and Lionel Messi from Argentina. This rivalry is fiercer than others because Brazil and Argentina continue to have successful teams and produce great players.
What is the oldest international soccer rivalry?
The oldest international soccer rivalry is the rivalry between England and Scotland. Both countries are forefathers of the sport, and their first match was in 1872. This was soccer’s first-ever international game. Scotland’s fans even describe England as “the old enemy,” further showing that they have been rivals for a very long time.
What are the biggest international soccer tournaments in the world?
The biggest international soccer tournament in the world is the FIFA World Cup. Other big soccer tournaments are the UEFA European Championship, the Copa America, the AFC Asian Cup, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League, the FA Cup, the Kings Cup, and the Italian Cup.