Roses football rivalry

Argentina and England football rivalry

The Argentina and England football rivalry is a highly competitive sports rivalry that exists between the national football teams of the two countries, as well as their respective sets of fans. Games between the two teams, even those that are only friendly matches, are often marked by notable and sometimes controversial incidents.

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).

Early history

In the latter half of the 19th century, the Argentine capital Buenos Aires had a large expatriate British community of some 10,000 people. As in many other parts of the world, football was introduced to Argentina by the British. The first recorded football match played in Argentina was organized by the Buenos Aires Cricket Club in Palermo, Buenos Aires on 20 June 1867, and played between two teams of British railway workers, the White Caps and the Red Caps (it was common in the early days of football for teams to be distinguished by caps rather than jerseys).

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.

1966 World Cup

In spite of all of this history, it was not until the 1966 FIFA World Cup, held in and eventually won by England, that the rivalry picked up the sometimes bitter and fierce edge which it retains. The two teams met in the quarter-finals of the tournament, a game referred to in Argentina as el robo del siglo (the steal of the century) which England won 1-0 thanks to a goal from striker Geoff Hurst, disputed by the Argentines due to an alleged offside. However, the game was particularly noted for the sending-off some five minutes later of Argentina captain Antonio Rattín, which Argentines considered to be unfair, including Rattín himself who had to be escorted from the pitch by police before he would leave.

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.

1980 Friendly

On 13 May 1980, Argentina — who were at the time the world champions, having won the 1978 FIFA World Cup in their own country — visited Wembley Stadium for a friendly match, which England won 3-1. This was the first time that England had played an Argentine team that included Diego Maradona, who showed many of the skills he would demonstrate later.

1986 World Cup

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.

1991 Friendly

On 25 May 1991, a friendly match between the two teams was played at Wembley. Argentina, now under the management of Alfio Basile, were preparing for the forthcoming Copa América 1991, which they went on to win. The South Americans had a new generation of players mainly playing locally, replacing the very successful group of the previous two World Cup tournaments. The game was mostly under the control of England, but near the end Argentina came back from two goals down to draw 2-2. In spite of not being a victory, the result was celebrated in Argentina, especially due to both Argentine goals coming from corner kicks, which in Argentina were seen as being a part of the game at which the English usually excelled.

1998 World Cup

The next meeting between the two countries came in the second round of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, held in France. The game had many noteworthy aspects including a goal that is also considered one of the greatest of all time, scored by young striker Michael Owen.

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".

2002 World Cup

Another friendly was played in 2000, again at Wembley, but ended 0-0. Then, the teams were drawn to meet once more in the group stages of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Korea-Japan. Having been knocked out by Argentina in two of the previous three World Cups they had competed in, tension in England was high. This tension was raised by the England team only gaining a draw in their opening match against Sweden, meaning that they needed a good result against Argentina to avoid being eliminated from the competition.

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.

2005 friendly

The most recent game between the two nations occurred on neutral ground in Geneva, Switzerland on 12 November 2005 when the two teams, having both already qualified for the following year's World Cup, met in a friendly. Both teams selected strong sides. England twice came from behind to beat Argentina 3-2 with goals from Michael Owen from crosses by Steven Gerrard and Joe Cole in the dying moments. The result and performance were welcomed enthusiastically by the English press and public. The general nature of the match was also less intensely vitriolic than on previous occasions, with The Times reporting: "by the unpleasant standards of previous confrontations, the skirmish between England and Argentina edged towards the saccharine, although the concept is deeply relative. The latest encounter featured punches on the terraces, songs about the Falkland Islands, jibes regarding players' sexuality and general churlishness that (sic), believe it or not, represents a significant thaw in diplomatic relations." England's victory was the first time either side had won consecutive matches against the other.

Argentina v England matches

Scores and results list Argentina's goal tally first.
Date Venue Result Competition Location Winner
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

  • Overall record (14 matches): England - 6 wins; Argentina - 3 wins (including one by penalty shoot-out); 4 draws, no result once
  • Competitive matches (5 matches, all at World Cups): England - 3 wins; Argentina - 2 wins (including one by penalty shoot-out)
  • In Argentina (2 matches): one draw, one match abandoned without result
  • In England (6 matches): England - 4 wins; 2 draws
  • Neutral venues (6 matches): England - 3 wins; Argentina - 3 wins (including one by penalty shoot-out)
  • Both teams have knocked each other out on the way to winning World Cups - England in 1966 and Argentina in 1986
  • England also defeated Argentina at the 1962 and 2002 tournaments, contributing to Argentina being knocked out in the Group Stages of these competitions
  • Argentina defeated England 4-3 on penalties (after the match was drawn 2-2 after extra time) at the 1998 tournament, the only time they have faced each other in a penalty shoot-out
  • In 90 minute matches, Argentina have defeated England only once (in 1986) in the 10 matches they have played since 1964

Club level

At the club level, matches have also been heated. Argentine and English clubs have not had many chances to play against each other, but when they have done so there have been notable incidents. The most memorable matches happened in the now defunct European/South American Cup. In 1968 Estudiantes de La Plata played against Manchester United for the cup, then known as the "Intercontinental Cup". The first leg was in Buenos Aires where Estudiantes' supporters were highly vocal and the game was played in a very physical manner with a disputed red card and physical injury. Manchester United could not recover the 1-0 deficit in the second leg and Estudiantes won the title.

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.

Argentine players in the Premiership

Some high-profile Argentine footballers have played and still play in the English Premiership, among them Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa, who joined Tottenham Hotspur in 1978 when players from outside the British Isles were rare in English football, and more recently Juan Sebastián Verón, Julio Arca, Hernán Crespo, Carlos Tévez, Javier Mascherano and Gabriel Heinze. Many, such as Tévez and Mascherano, have remained a favorite amongst fans.

Fans' behaviour

Much of the colour and intensity in this rivalry is added by the fans themselves. The early matches generated interest and emotion but it was the 1982 Falklands War that fuelled passions and elevated this rivalry. Before the 1986 game fans from both countries had a fight in a Mexico City street. During games, though, behaviour so far has been generally peaceful on both sides; probably because of the heightened security in the stadiums.

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.


See also

External links

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