The rivalry is unusual in that it is an intercontinental one; typically, footballing rivalries exist between countries that are close to one another, for example France–Italy or Argentina–Brazil. Argentina is regarded in England as one of the major rivals of the English football team, along with such countries as Scotland and Germany. The rivalry is also keenly felt in Argentina, locally described as a "Clasico", where only matches against Brazil carry a greater significance in popular perception.
The rivalry emerged across several games during the latter half of the 20th century, even though as of 2008 the teams have played each other on only 14 occasions in full internationals. It was driven by various controversial incidents, particularly those in the games played between the teams at the 1966 and 1986 FIFA World Cups. The rivalry was also intensified, particularly in Argentina, by a non-footballing event, the 1982 Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom. However despite the intense rivalry between the national sides and its high media and public profile, numerous Argentine players have played for English club sides with few problems, with many such as Osvaldo Ardiles, Ricardo Villa, Javier Mascherano, Gabriel Heinze and Carlos Tévez becoming extremely popular with fans in England.
Overall England hold the edge in the rivalry, with six victories to three by Argentina (including one by penalty shoot-out), and five draws. In the FIFA World Cup England again have the better head-to-head record, with three victories (in 1962, 1966 and 2002) to Argentina's two (in 1986 and 1998).
The so-called "father of Argentine football" was a Glaswegian schoolteacher, Alexander Watson Hutton, who first taught football at the St Andrew's School in Buenos Aires in the early 1880s. On 4 February 1884 he founded the Buenos Aires English High School where he continued to instruct the pupils in the game. In 1891 Hutton established the Association Argentine Football League. Five clubs competed but only one season of games was played. A new league, the The Argentine Association Football League was formed 21 February 1893 and this eventually became the Argentine Football Association. In these early days of football in Argentina nearly all of the players and officials were expatriate Britons or of British extraction and the oldest football clubs in Argentina like Rosario Central, Newell's Old Boys and Quilmes Athletic Club and were all founded by British expatriates. As the popularity of the game increased the British influence on the game waned, and by 1912 the Association was renamed Asociación Argentina de Fútbol.
However the British influence on the game in Argentina shows in the continued use of terms such as "corner" and "wing" rather than Spanish translations. The names of several famous teams in Argentina are also English in origin such as River Plate or influenced by the language such as Boca Juniors.
The national teams had met before their 1966 clash — Argentina were the first team other than Scotland to play England at Wembley Stadium in 1951 when the inaugural full international match between the sides ended with a 2-1 victory for England. They also played two matches in 1953 in Buenos Aires. The first, a 3-1 victory for Argentina, counted as an unofficial international for England, who fielded a second string team dubbed a FA XI. However, this match appears in Argentina's list of official internationals, and so Argentines consider it to be their first ever victory over England. Afterwards one Argentine politician stated that "we nationalised the railways, and now we have nationalised football!".
The second 1953 international was an official match for both teams: England playing with a stronger line-up involving Alf Ramsey, Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney; Argentina sticking with the same line-up used in the first match. The game was abandoned after 36 minutes due to torrential rain, with a 0-0 scoreline. They then met in the 1962 FIFA World Cup in Chile, where England's 3-1 victory at the Group Stage led to Argentina's exit from the tournament. Argentina's first victory over England in a full international occurred in a 1-0 win in Brazil in June 1964, during the Taça de Nações friendly tournament in Brazil.
It was reported in Argentina that the German referee, Rudolf Kreitlein, said that he had sent off Rattín because he didn't like how he had looked at him , while U.K newspapers cited the official as having given the reason as 'violence of the tongue'. Rattín's intention appeared to have been to speak with the German referee, as according to the Argentines he was ruling in favour of the English team. Rattín made a visible signal showing his captain's armband and intention to call a translator. Ken Aston, the English supervisor of referees, entered the field to try to persuade Rattín to leave, but this exacerbated the situation since the Latin American teams had already suspected that the English and Germans were collaborating to eliminate them from the competition. After his dismissal, Rattín finally sat down on the Queen's red carpet for a moment.
After the match, England manager Alf Ramsey refused to allow his players to swap shirts with the Argentines — as is traditional after the conclusion of a football match — and later described the South Americans as "animals" in the press. The Argentine press and public were outraged, and one Argentine newspaper published a picture of the official World Cup mascot, World Cup Willie, dressed in pirate regalia to demonstrate their opinion of the England team.
The next game between the two teams occurred at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, again at the quarter-final stage. The encounter was made particularly incendiary by the Falklands War which the two countries had fought four years previously, and many in Argentina saw the game as being an opportunity to exact revenge upon England for their loss of that conflict, and incidents during the fighting such as the sinking of the warship General Belgrano in debatable circumstances.
Argentina took the lead through a highly controversial goal from their star player Diego Maradona, who punched the ball into the England net with his hand. The goal was allowed to stand by the referee, much to the fury of the English team and its fans. The goal, dubbed the "Hand of God goal" after Maradona's tongue-in-cheek description of how it was scored, has become infamous in England, particularly as England went on to lose the game and were knocked out of the tournament. Also in this game, Maradona scored a second goal, voted in 2002 as the best goal in World Cup history, before English striker Gary Lineker pulled one back, but England could not score again and lost 2-1. Despite the skill of his second goal, Maradona wrote in his autobiography that "I sometimes think I preferred the one with my hand... It was a bit like stealing the wallet of the English. He also wrote, in reference to the Falklands conflict, that "it was as if we had beaten a country, not just a football team... Although we had said before the game that football had nothing to do with the Malvinas war, we knew they had killed a lot of Argentine boys there, killed them like little birds. And this was revenge. The importance of both goals for the English people can be seen as the fact they were chosen at the top of the list of 100 Greatest Sporting Moments in 2002 by Channel 4.
The game added hugely to the rivalry between the two teams in England where they felt that they had been cheated out of the competition by Maradona's hand ball. Meanwhile in Argentina, the game was seen as revenge for the Falklands War and for what they still see as the unfair game in the 1966 World Cup.
It is close to inevitable that, whenever the two teams play, this game (and particularly the Hand of God goal in England) will be referred to by the sports media in the build up to the game.
However, the incident in this game that most exacerbated the rivalry was when David Beckham received a red card. Beckham had been fouled by Diego Simeone and the two players were lying on the pitch in close proximity to one another. As Simeone attempted to raise himself from the ground, he placed his hands on Beckham's back; Beckham was seen to wince in pain as Simeone regained his footing. In what Simeone himself described as an instinctive reaction, Beckham, still lying face down on the pitch flicked his leg towards Simeone striking him on the calf.
Playing with ten men, England held out against the Argentine attacks and, in the dying moments of the game, during a scramble in the Argentine penalty area, Sol Campbell headed the ball into the goal. As the England players began to celebrate a winning goal the referee blew for a foul that Alan Shearer had committed on the Argentine goalkeeper prior to the goal and disallowed it. The consequent free kick was taken very quickly, while the England players were still celebrating, and they had to rush back to successfully prevent the Argentines from scoring. The scores stayed level at 2-2 until the end of extra time. In the ensuing penalty shoot-out that decided the game, Argentina won 4-3 after two English kicks were saved by their goalkeeper Carlos Roa.
There was heavy criticism in England about Argentina's "theatrics" which many fans held responsible for stealing the win. This was somewhat ironic, as the penalty which earned England their first goal resulted from what is generally acknowledged (even by english fans) to have been a dive by Michael Owen.
Immediately following the game, Beckham was vilified by the English press for his perceived petulance and naivety on the international stage. The headline in The Daily Mirror the following day described the England team as: "10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy".
The meeting between England and Argentina was one of the few times there had been so much attention given to a first round match. Commentators described the match, which began at twelve noon UK time, as the "longest lunch break in history" as millions in England and throughout the world stopped their jobs and activities to watch the game on TV.
David Beckham, who was then the England captain, scored the only goal of the match, a penalty kick following a foul on Michael Owen, which many felt redeemed him in the eyes of the English sporting public for his dismissal four years earlier. As The Times newspaper described it in their match report, "vilified for the red card that helped to usher England out of the 1998 World Cup at the hands of Argentina, he wakes this morning with his halo brighter than ever." Despite a late onslaught from the Argentine players at the end of the second half of the game, England maintained the scoreline and won 1-0, and partly as a result of this Argentina (one of the pre-tournament favourites to win) were disastrously knocked out in the first round.
Although the Argentine players and public (and many neutral pundits) criticised the awarding of the penalty kick — the game was generally played in a good, if highly competitive, spirit, and there was none of the bitterness that had affected the 1966 and 1986 meetings.
|1951-05-09||Wembley Stadium, London||1-2||Friendly match||England||England|
|1953-05-17||El Monumental, Buenos Aires||N/A||Friendly match||Argentina||Abandoned after 36 minutes with score at 0-0|
|1962-06-02||Estadio El Teniente, Rancagua||1-3||1962 FIFA World Cup||Chile||England|
|1964-06-06||Maracanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro||1-0||Taça das Nações||Brazil||Argentina|
|1966-07-23||Wembley Stadium, London||0-1||1966 FIFA World Cup||England||England|
|1974-05-22||Wembley Stadium, London||2-2||Friendly match||England||Draw|
|1977-06-12||La Bombonera, Buenos Aires||1-1||Friendly match||Argentina||Draw|
|1980-05-13||Wembley Stadium, London||1-3||Friendly match||England||England|
|1986-06-22||Estadio Azteca, Mexico City||2-1||1986 FIFA World Cup||Mexico||Argentina|
|1991-05-25||Wembley Stadium, London||2-2||England Challenge Cup||England||Draw|
|1998-06-30||Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne||2-2||1998 FIFA World Cup||France||Argentina (4-3 on Penalties)|
|2000-02-23||Wembley Stadium, London||0-0||Friendly match||England||Draw|
|2002-06-07||Sapporo Dome, Sapporo||0-1||2002 FIFA World Cup||Japan||England|
|2005-11-12||Stade de Geneve, Geneva||2-3||Friendly match||Switzerland||England|
Nine years later, in 1977, Liverpool FC refused to play against Boca Juniors, so Boca played against European runner-up Borussia Mönchengladbach and obtained their first cup. In 1978, Liverpool alleged "scheduling conflicts"; the cup was not played.
In 1984 Independiente played Liverpool for the trophy that, by this point, had been renamed the "Toyota Cup". The format had also changed, to a single game played in Japan, making it easier for teams to attend. Independiente won 1-0 with a goal by José Percudani.
The most recent match between an English and Argentine club was in the 2007 Peace Cup (held in Japan) between Argentine side CA River Plate and English club, Reading F.C. The game ended in a 1-0 win for the Argentines.
Although in general English fans are only anti-Argentine when the two national teams come face-to-face, in Argentina fans still use anti-English chants on a regular basis at many club matches. The most used chant is "El que no salta es un inglés" (whoever doesn't jump is an Englishman). This chant is used to rally the whole stadium into jumping, threatening ridicule to those not jumping with this perceived insult.