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What are the biggest rivalries in international football?

Local derbies have the ability to stop entire nations so imagine what happens when rival nations clash against each other. Whole regions become engrossed in feuds that transcend the actions on the pitch and rear up political or social tensions that stretch back centuries. This is what makes rivalries in international football that much more intense when they occur particularly in major tournaments. It doesn’t take long to find larger than life derbies that entangles two nations in an outright war. So what are the greatest rivalries in international football?


7 greatest rivalries in international football


England vs. Scotland

It is the oldest rivalry in any form of football and the clash between England and Scotland is something that always proves to be a highlight. The two nations actually shared the world’s first official match in 1872, when they drew 0-0 in Glasgow, and have gone on to clash another 114 times since then.

The two sides used to meet annually in clashes that stopped the entire UK to a halt and drew on the passionate support of both nations. England have generally come out on top of their northern neighbours triumphing 48-25 but it never stops The Tartan Army from bringing their a-game to the clash. With matches often played in iconic venues such as Wembley Stadium and Hampden Park, this is a rivalry that truly stands the test of time.


Germany vs. Netherlands

Many England fans class Germany as their bitter rivalries but if you ask The Germans, they often cite their rivalry with The Netherlands as their biggest grudge match. It’s a relatively new rivalry that didn’t really begin until 1974 where the Dutch were narrowly beaten by West Germany in the World Cup Final. That defeat combined with the anti-German sentiment stemming from World War II created a heated rivalry against two European powerhouses.

Both sides are known for their technical style and matches are often tight and tactical affairs. In the 44 meetings between both sides, the Germans are 16-12 against the Dutch but the 16 draws between the two indicates just how close these two nations are whenever they face against each other. Definitely one of the biggest rivalries in internation football today.

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Croatia vs. Serbia

Born from the depths of the split of Yugoslavia, the rivalry between Croatia and Serbia is mutually reached both sides of their borders. The pair are two of the best sides to emerge out of the Balkans split in the 1990s and are backed by fiercely passionate fans.

Clashes between opposing fans are common meaning that each game will see an extremely high police presence. Games in the past have been abandoned due to crowd troubles with one instance seeing the pitch covered in flares from the crowd. A real simmering cauldron in a game featuring two of the most exciting teams in European football.


USA vs. Mexico

There’s no hiding the rivalry between the USA and Mexico in most aspects of daily life and it’s no different when the sides meet on the pitch. Undoubtedly the two biggest sides in the CONCACAF region, USA and Mexico have clashed for rights in almost all forms whether it be friendlies, World Cup Qualifier or in the Gold Cup finals.

The fiercely competitive rivalry though is one where Mexico have reigned supreme winning 38 matches to the USA’s 20. With the rivalry dividing families across borders and in cities across the region, it is by far the biggest football rivalry in North America.


Japan vs. South Korea

There is legitimate bad blood between two of Asia’s most dominant football nations, Japan and South Korea, which is ine of the biggest international rivalries in football. Stemming back from Japan’s occupancy of Korea and the harsh conditions during the period, there is no love lost between either side. The rivalry was almost instant when the two sides met for the first time in 1954 with the Korean President drawing a rousing speech to his nation leading them to a 5-1 win on enemy soil.

Since then, the two sides have regularly fought for supremacy in the Asian Cup as well as the occasional clashes in World Cup Qualifying rounds. With the two nations almost always at loggerheads politically, every match is a competitive one where tensions are always simmering before a kick has even been played.

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Algeria vs. Egypt

Despite not being direct neighbours, it hasn’t stopped Algeria vs Egypt becoming one of the biggest international rivalries in African football. Tensions only became heightened in 1989 when Algeria felt aggrieved about a loss to Egypt which allowed the latter to reach the 1990 World Cup. A further incident after the match saw several Algeria players accused of hitting Egypt’s doctor in the eye with a glass bottle risking an international incident.

Further issues in 2009 also escalated tensions further when the Algeria team bus was pelted with stones in Cairo before the match. This, mixed with riots between rival fans, meant that their next clash between the two sides was played in Sudan to prevent further hostilities which still occurs to the present day.


Brazil vs. Argentina

South American football has lots of fiery international rivalries but nothing comes close to matching the drama, spectacle or atmosphere of Brazil vs. Argentina. The pair are two of the leading sides in the world yet the different cultures speak volumes off the pitch. It formed out of the embers of the rivalry between their former respective parent nations of Spain and Portugal before the two South American nations became powerhouses in their own right.

Since then, the two have dominated for major honours at every major hurdle whether it be the Copa America, friendlies or the World Cup itself. Brazil have the edge over Argentina with a 46-39 record in the rivalry with every match a close encounter to savour. With the matches occurring as well in classic venues such as the Maracanã.



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