5 Biggest Rivalries We Might See Play out in World Cup Group Stage Draw

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistDecember 3, 2013

5 Biggest Rivalries We Might See Play out in World Cup Group Stage Draw

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    If you thought the buildup to the 2014 World Cup had already reached fever pitch, then it's about to get a whole lot more intense.

    Friday will see the draw for the group stages made in Brazil, with plenty of mouthwatering ties set to be picked out of the hat. But what are the biggest rivalries we could see?

    The placing of teams in various pots from which they cannot be drawn against each other has robbed us of the possibility of plenty of terrific rivalries, with Brazil and Argentina, USA and Mexico and the Netherlands and Portugal (remember this?) not allowed to face each other until the knockout stages at the earliest, but who could play each other from the outset?

    Here, we've looked through the pots and picked out five potential ties that could have the world watching.

Spain vs. Portugal

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    Iberian derbies have become a staple of recent tournaments, and they usually spell good fortune for Spain.

    A goalless draw in Donetsk in the Euro 2012 semi-final saw their most recent contest go to penalties, where a crucial miss from Bruno Alves allowed Cesc Fabregas―who converted the winning kick in the shootout in the Euro 2008 quarter-final against Italy―to score the winner from the spot and send his side to the final in Kiev.

    Two years earlier, a solitary David Villa goal earned the Spanish a 1-0 victory in their second-round tie in Cape Town on the way to 2010 World Cup glory.

    However, six years prior to that it was the Portuguese who were celebrating.

    In the Euro 2004 tournament that they hosted, a goal from Nuno Gomes gave them a 1-0 win over their neighbours in Lisbon, a result that ensured that Spain were knocked out in the group stages.

    How times change.

Uruguay vs. Ghana

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    The fact that around 4,500 miles separate the capital cities of these two countries marks it out as a very strange rivalry, but it is one because of a very strange reason.

    A place in the semi-finals was a stake when these two met in Johannesburg in the 2010 World Cup, with the clash entering the dying moments of extra time when a goal-bound header from Ghana's Dominic Adiyiah was blatantly handled on the line by Uruguay forward Luis Suarez, who was acting as an emergency goalkeeper.

    Suarez was sent off, with what followed becoming yet another infamous moment in the Liverpool man's career. Asamoah Gyan missed the resultant penalty, Suarez celebrated, and Uruguay eventually won in the subsequent shootout, denying an African side the chance to make the semi-finals for the first time in the inaugural African World Cup.

    A meeting in the group stages in Brazil would be tasty then, wouldn't it?

England vs. Germany

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    England and Germany have a storied history at major competitions.

    The Three Lions’ high came in the 1966 World Cup as a hat-trick from Geoff Hurst fired England to victory in the final at Wembley.

    The low point for England is a toss-up between Italy in 1990—with Paul Gascoigne’s tears as Bobby Robson's side were beaten on penalties—and Euro '96, when Gazza was again involved. He went within a whisker of turning the ball in to propel the side into the final.

    Four years ago in South Africa saw Frank Lampard’s ghost goal capture the headlines, as England slumped to a 4-1 loss.

    With Germany seeded in Pot 1, there is a chance these two could meet in the opening round.

Argentina vs. England

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    These two have only played each other 14 times in full internationals, but there always seems to be a story when they do.

    The most recent meaningful meeting came at the 2002 World Cup group stages, where a penalty from David Beckham (pictured) earned England a 1-0 win and went a long way toward eliminating the South Americans.

    The frosty relations between these two go back a lot further than that though.

    The 1982 Falklands War created incredible tensions between two nations from different continents, with that ill feeling spilling over into the 1986 World Cup quarter-final when two goals from Diego Maradona—one a blatant handball, the other a moment of sublime genius—led to English rage that still exists to this day.

    Even back in their successful World Cup of 1966, England boss Alf Ramsey refused to let his players swap shirts with the Argentinean players, whom he later described as "animals."

Germany vs. Netherlands

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    The best rivalries are always the ones that we get to see plenty of times, and that certainly rings true with this one.

    Political and social tensions have existed between the nations ever since the German occupation of the Netherlands during the second World War, and on the football pitch there have been plenty of heavyweight clashes.

    The two met for the first time in a major tournament when West Germany beat a much-fancied Dutch side 2-1 in the final of the 1974 World Cup. There have been seven other meetings since then, with the most recent ending in another 2-1 win for the Germans in the group stages at Euro 2012, a result which eliminated the Dutch.

    Twenty-four years earlier, the Netherlands had their greatest moment in the rivalry when a late Marco van Basten goal earned them a victory in the semi-finals of the 1988 European Championships, which they then went on to win.