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25 Greatest Rivalries in World Football

Mikhail TurnerContributor IIIJuly 16, 2012

25 Greatest Rivalries in World Football

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    Rivalries in world football are all special. Some are bigger than others though and those are the games on display in this slideshow.

    Whether it's on the international or club level, football has its share of games that get every fan excited. These rivalries are important for a variety of reasons and certainly have the blood boiling for those involved.

    These aren't in order, but are separated by category with internationals coming first and various club rivalries coming after.

    Here are the 25 greatest rivalries in world football.

Mexico vs. USA

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    These two sides are considered the best two teams in the CONCACAF region and have both been World Cup regulars for the region.

    There is a lot of pride at stake with these two nations who border each other as they constantly battle it out for supremacy in the region.

    Mexico leads the overall series with 33 wins to the USA's 15, but a lot of those 15 US wins have come in the rivalry's most recent history.

Germany vs. Netherlands

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    This rivalry originated due to anti-German sentiment in the Netherlands during German occupation of the country in World War II.

    These two are among football's most powerful nations and things really started to heat up after the Netherlands were defeated by West Germany in the 1974 World Cup final.

    One notable incident in a game between the two sides is the sending off of both Germany's Rudi Voller and the Netherlands' Frank Rijkaard during the 1990 World Cup. 

    Netherlands and West Germany have faced each other 37 times with the Germans coming out on top with 14 victories to 10 for the Netherlands.

Argentina vs. Brazil

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    The Argentina vs. Brazil rivalry certainly has a lot of talking points with the individual rivalry between the games two greatest players, Brazil's Pele and Argentina's Diego Maradona, being one of the major topics.

    These teams have met 92 times in friendlies, Copa America tournaments, World Cup qualifiers and World Cup tournaments. Argentina leads the series with 35 wins to Brazil's 34.

Denmark vs. Sweden

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    Denmark and Sweden have met mostly in friendlies and Nordic Championship games. This does not decrease the heated battle these teams have when they do meet.

    Recent history is evidence of the animosity between the two sides as tempers flared when the two met in a Euro 2008 qualifier.

    Denmark's Christian Poulsen hit Sweden's Markus Rosenberg in the stomach towards the end of a thrilling 3-3 game and was sent of while the Swedes were awarded a penalty.

    One Danish fan got on to the pitch to try and exact revenge on the referee of the night but he was stopped by a Danish player. The referee called off the game and awarded Sweden a 3-0 win.

Italy vs. France

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    France and Italy are two nations with plenty of history in world football. These neighbors have seen a lot of each other since they first met in 1910.

    Italy leads the series with 18 wins to France's 8. They have met in some pretty important stages of both the World Cup and the European Championships.

    A few of those fixtures include a meeting in the 2006 World Cup final, the Euro 2000 final and the quarterfinal of the 1998 World Cup.

England vs. Scotland

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    This fixture is the oldest international rivalry having first been played in 1872. With Britain generally viewed as the home of football as we know it, these two sides hold an extremely important role in the game.

    The Scottish refer to the English as "The Auld Enemy" and the history between these two countries plays a major part in the rivalry. England leads the series with 45 wins to Scotland's 41.

Croatia vs. Serbia

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    The history these two nations have as part of Yugoslavia is a major reason why tensions run so high when these teams play.

    The events leading up to, during and after the breakup of the Yugoslav federation created massive tension between these nations.

Greece vs. Turkey

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    Greece and Turkey don't have a very pleasant history. Their previous bad relations translates onto the pitch and makes this rivalry one of the most heated there is on the international scene.

    Neither team is a major player in world football, but when they come together it makes a good rivalry game.

Spain vs. Portugal

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    These neighbors don't have much in common, especially lately. Spain's recent success gives them the edge right now in most matchups.

    Both nations have produced talented players and teams over the years and this rivalry stems from the how both countries view each other. Spain sees itself as the bigger fish in the Iberian Peninsula while Portugal begs to differ.

Algeria vs. Egypt

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    Algeria and Egypt have the most volatile rivalry on the African continent. The last few times these teams met were very heated affairs.

    Before one of their 2009 World Cup qualifying playoff matches, Algeria's team bus was attacked and a few players suffered some injuries. They met again in the semifinal of the 2010 African Cup of Nations and Egypt trounced Algeria 4-0 with three Algerians being sent off in the process.

El Salvador vs. Honduras

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    The football rivalry between El Salvador and Honduras is one of the few that was not just caused by a war, but was a major factor in causing one.

    Tensions were high between the two countries for some time and events during the teams' qualifying matches for the 1970 World Cup led to what has become known as the "Football War."  That kind of history makes this one of the fiercest rivalries around.

Boca Juniors vs. River Plate

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    Both teams were born in the same district only a few years apart. Boca Juniors has since been associated with the working class areas and River Plate benefiting from its association with the more wealthy areas.

    Boca leads the series with 67 wins to River's 61. These are two of Argentina's most well-known and dominant teams.

Liverpool vs. Manchester United

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    On the football pitch these are England's two most successful teams both domestically and in Europe. The rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United goes beyond that though as the history between the cities certainly plays its part.

    Bleacher Report's Karl Matchett has a pretty good breakdown of the rivalry here. One thing for sure is that every season fans, players and managers alike look forward to these games with relish.

    Manchester United currently leads the series with 72 wins to Liverpool's 62.

Tottenham vs. Arsenal

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    This rivalry began thanks to a sneaky bit of business by Arsenal owner Henry Norris back in 1919. The First Division was set to expand the next season and Tottenham was one of the team's expected to take a place in the country's top league.

    Norris somehow convinced the FA that his second division Arsenal should be in the First Division and that happened at the expense of their rivals.

    Since then, the teams have been locked in some very heated rivalry games. Arsenal lead the series with 72 wins to Tottenham's 53.

Arsenal vs. Manchester United

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    This rivalry has lost some of its fire in recent years but it is still one of the best around considering its history and the history of the two clubs involved.

    There have been many notable moments in this fixture and clashes during the nineties as well as the early 21st century, when both clubs were showing their dominance in English football, are hard to forget.

    Many great players have turned out for both sides and Manchester United currently holds the bragging rights having 90 wins to Arsenal's 78.

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Olympique Marseille

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    Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille partake in the biggest rivalry in French football. It is one of the more recent rivalries in world football, but a good one nonetheless.

    FIFA.com provides an interesting look at the history of the rivalry here.

    Marseille currently leads the series with 32 wins to PSG's 27.

Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke

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    Borussia Dortmund may still not be rival material for Bayern Munich according to Uli Hoeness' comments presented on ESPN Soccernet but they have their hands full with Ruhr valley rivals Schalke.

    The animosity between these two sides is brought about by the constant fight to be the number one team in the Ruhr Valley.

    Each side had its periods of dominance in the rivalry and Schalke leads the series with 55 wins to Dortmund's 47.

Lazio vs. Roma

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    Lazio and Roma have one of the fiercest club rivalries in world football which is known as the "Derby della Capital" in Italy.

    Roma came about thanks to the merger of three clubs—Alba-Audace, Roman and Fortitudo—but Lazio did not join the merger and that helped start the rivalry.

    Since then there have been numerous tight and tense encounters between the two Rome sides. Roma leads the way in the series with 63 wins to Lazio's 47.

Derby Della Madonnina: AC Milan vs. Inter Milan

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    The Milan Derby is one of the most well-known derbies in world football. Though both these teams share a stadium and have shared some the game's players as well, there is nothing friendly about a meeting between the sides.

    The two clubs used to be one before a dispute over the signing of foreign players led to the creation of Inter. That, along with the perception that each club represented a separate class (Inter was bourgeoisie and Milan working class), has made for some tense competition.

    Milan leads the series with 111 wins to Inter's 103.

Derby D'Italia: Juventus vs. Inter Milan

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    Geography and numerous successes for either side has led to this so-called Derby of Italy matchup between Juventus and Inter Milan.

    With Juventus being the dominant side in Turin and Inter vying for that same title in Milan, these games have been fiercely contested and usually involve two of the strongest teams in the Seria A going against one another.

    Juventus currently leads the series with 94 wins to Inter's 67.

El Clasico: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid

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    "El Clasico." Those words alone bring forth tons of memories for probably the premier club rivalry in world football.

    From Luis Figo and a pig's head to Samuel Eto'o's chants against Barcelona in recent memory. Looking further back to the controversial Alfredo Di Stefano deal and the Argentinian great going on to dominate in white. This rivalry grabs the attention of the world.

    It has seen some of the best players ever to play the game on either side and is almost more like two countries rivaling rather than two cities thanks to all the pieces in play.

    The games are always hotly contested, but Barcelona currently leads the series with 104 wins to Madrid's 91.

Old Firm: Rangers vs. Celtic

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    Things may change for a while thanks to recent events but this rivalry has always been one of the classics in club football.

    Scotland's two most powerful teams are divided by things such as religion and ideology as well as the fact that they commonly get in each others way when it comes to domestic titles.

    This rivalry is no stranger to fan violence and certainly is not for the faint of heart. Rangers currently leads the series with 159 wins to Celtic's 144.

De Klassieker: Ajax vs. Feyenoord

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    Ajax vs. PSV may ring more of a bell with certain supporters from either club but it is Ajax vs. Feyenoord that is the long-standing major rivalry in the Netherlands.

    "De Klassieker," as it is called, involves the countries two biggest clubs in the countries two biggest cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The cultural difference, artists in Amsterdam and hard-workers in Rotterdam, plays its part as well.

    Many fantastic players have featured for each side, most notably Johan Cruyff of Ajax and Coen Moulijn of Feyenoord.

Benfica vs. Porto

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    Benfica versus Porto is another great football rivalry that encompasses differences between the two clubs in a cultural aspect.

    As is the case with many other great rivalries, these two are usually the top teams in Portugal and have numerous titles on a domestic level. Benfica had dominance in the early stages, with the magnificent Eusebio in their side, but Porto has come on strong in recent decades.

    Porto leads the series with 86 wins to Benfica's 83.

Fenerbache vs. Galatasaray

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    The "Kıtalar Arası Derbi," as matches between Fenerbache and Galatasaray are called, involves, as you probably know by now, the two most successful teams in Turkey.

    Here's a breakdown of the history of the rivalry as presented by FIFA.com.

    In 1905 on the European side, pupils from the French high school in Galatasaray famous for educating the political classes decided to form a football team to take on Greek and English clubs. Ali Sami Yen was behind the project and went to become a legend at the club, with the stadium now bearing his name.

    Thus it was that in 1907, on the opposite bank of the Bosporus, Fenerbahce were founded in the Kadikoy area of the city. The club was formed in secret and remained so for the first few years, given Sultan Habdullamid II's unfavourable stance on gatherings involving young people.

    The rivalry between the two teams reached another level in February 1934. What was meant to be a friendly turned into a pitched battle with players and supporters involved. Relations between the clubs have never been the same since then, making the derbies win-at-all-costs affairs.

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