Argentina-Brazil: South America's Biggest Rivalry

John Tilghman Correspondent IAugust 26, 2009

It is without a doubt the biggest match in international football: Argentina vs. Brazil. The two sides have given the footballing world so much joy over the years on the pitch.

The debate of which country’s style is better, La Nuestra of Argentina or Joga Bonita of Brazil, has raged for years, and has been fueled by the discussion of who is the best player of all time, Diego Armando Maradona or Pele.

The list of great players goes far and beyond those two, as Brazil have given us Garrincha, Zagallo, Carlos Alberto, Jairzinho, Tostao, Romario, Bebeto, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho, while Argentina have produced the likes of Di Stefano, Passarella, Kempes, Ardiles, Valdano, Batistuta, Redondo, Simeone, Batistuta, Crespo, and Riquelme.

Both countries have also been extremely successful as far as results go, not only by bringing through great talent.

Brazil has of course won five World Cups to Argentina’s two, but La Seleccion has been able to dominate in other competitions. Argentina has won a record 15 Copa Americas (South America’s continental competition) to Brazil’s 10. Argentina has also won two Olympic Gold Medals, the only competition Brazil has never won.

Argentina also holds the edge in the youth ranks; winning six Under 20 World Cups to Brazil’s four. Brazil has won thee FIFA Confederations Cup, while Argentina has managed to win it only once, albeit in the much different format during the first version of the event.

Despite their successes in past decades, Argentina finds themselves in a barren run at the international stage, not having won a major trophy since the 1993 Copa America.

The domination of these two nations goes beyond the international stage, to the club level, where Argentine outfits have won a record 21 Copa Libertadores (the South American version of the Champions League), while Brazil sides have won 13.

Despite the disparity in Copa America triumphs, both countries share a record nine Intercontinental Cups. The likes of Independiente (seven titles), Boca Juniors (six), and Estudiantes (three) have dominated the proceedings for Argentina in the Copa Libertadores, while Sao Paulo (three), Gremio (two), and Santos (two) lead the way for Brazil.

The statistics and championships are even more impressive considering the way the teams play. Argentina and Brazil have always vowed to win, but also to do it by playing with the attacking style and flair football fans know and love (although Carlos Bilardo’s 1990 World Cup Finalists and Dunga’s 2007 Copa America champions did nothing of the sort).

Brazil has given us perhaps the greatest team goal of all time when Carlos Alberto fired home Pele’s pass in the 1970 World Cup Final against Italy, although Argentines would argue that Esteban Cambiasso’s goal that featured a string of 25 consecutive passes, including an exquisite back heel from Hernan Crespo, is better.

Argentina also claims Diego Maradona’s run against England as the greatest goal in World Cup history, followed closely by Pele's lob around a Swedish defender in the 1958 World Cup Final.

These two sides have also been able to succeed for the most part without top class goalkeepers, although Inter Milan’s Julio Cesar has finally put an end to the joke that Brazil try to win the World Cup with out a goalkeeper.

While all the history and statistics add to the prestige around the rivalry, it will all be thrown out the window when they meet Sept. 5 in Rosario. Argentina, who are holding onto the final direct qualification spot by just two points, will need to do all they can to win and help their chances of playing in South Africa next summer.

The importance of this game to the Argentines is exemplified by Lionel Messi, who has chosen to skip Barcelona’s first match of the season in order to make it to Argentina at the same time as his teammates. Brazil, who are top of the group, can all but secure their spot at the World Cup with a win.

Maradona, who will be making his coaching debut in El Clasico, will look to give his team a shot in the arm against their archrivals before playing a tricky away fixture in Paraguay. Both coaches have called up their best possible sides, with Messi and Kaka likely to be the key figures for their respective teams.

Although we know how massive that game will be in terms of qualification for both teams, the neutral will hope to see something special from both sets of players, a spark that lacked in last year’s dour 0-0 draw during World Cup Qualifying in Belo Horizonte.

That day, Juan Roman Riquelme was effectively man marked out of the match by the tough Brazilian midfield, but Argentina still managed to control the game, only to see Messi miss the best chance for either team. Robinho should have had a penalty when Roberto “El Pato” Abbondanzieri pulled his shirt from behind but no call was given.

Other than those two events, the very defensive Brazil team kept Argentina at bay without showing much attacking ambition themselves. When Messi was substituted just before full time, the Brazilian crowd cheered, and some even stood to applaud the youngster.

Whether you support A Selecao or La Seleccion, we can all hope this match brings us something memorable. Here are the some of the most unforgettable games the sides have played in recent history.


2008 Olympic Games Semifinals: Argentina 3 - Brazil 0

The game was by far the most anticipated of the tournament, and it was billed as a grudge match between former Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho, who had just left the Catalan side to join AC Milan. The former World Player of the Year was far from his best, and the Brazilian back line were preoccupied with Messi, allowing others time and space to work.

After a scoreless first half, Kun Aguero chested home the first before finishing off a fine team move six minutes later. The Atletico Madrid star man then won a penalty, converted by Riquelme, before Liverpool midfielder Lucas and Thiago Neves both saw red late on for Brazil.

Argentina went on to beat Nigeria in the final, clinching their second straight Olympic Gold Medal thanks to Angel Di Maria’s winner, assisted by Messi. Coach Dunga, who had Ronaldinho thrust upon him by the Brazil Federation for the tournament despite the player not being fit, was blasted in the media as Brazil again fell short of winning the one competition they lack once again.

He was able to keep his job by turning around his team's less than impressive beginning to World Cup Qualifying, while Argentina have struggled to find rhythm since this game.


2007 Copa America Final: Brazil 3 - Argentina 0

Argentina went into the game as clear favorites after playing the best football of the tournament thanks to the in-form Riquelme. Brazil however, were the first to score when Julio Baptista scored a stunner cutting in from the left in the fourth minute.

With the lead, Dunga and Brazil turned to cynical tactics, such as fouling Messi and Riquelme, and although Riquelme hit the post and was denied by a wonder save from Roma keeper Doni, Argentina never settled.

Captain Roberto Ayala, playing in his 115th and last international game, scored a terrible own goal just before half time essentially killing off the match. Dani Alves added one more for good measure after the break, but Argentina had long since fallen apart. Messi had a goal incorrectly disallowed for offside, but the outcome of the match was never in danger.


2005 Confederations Cup Final: Brazil 4 - Argentina 1

It was in this game that Brazil truly cemented their status as favorites going into Germany 2006 by gaining their biggest win over Argentina in 37 years. Although both sides were clearly a cut above the rest in the competition, there was no touching Brazil on this day.

Adriano and Kaka gave the Brazilians the early lead with long range goals before Ronaldinho and a second from Adriano ensured the rout was on. Pablo Aimar scored a consolation goal for Argentina, but Argentina again failed to over come their archrivals in a Cup Final.

Despite all the hype, neither team made it past the quarterfinals at the World Cup the following summer.


2006 World Cup Qualifier: Argentina 3 - Brazil 1

Argentina were able to pay Brazil back by dominating the proceedings in Buenos Aires in early June 2005. Hernan Crespo scored an early goal thanks to a through ball from Riquelme, before the Villareal midfielder scored a sensational long range effort himself, with his left foot in the 18th minute.

Crespo grabbed his brace just before half time with a diving header, and Roberto Carlos scored late for Brazil.

The two sides then went to Germany and the Confederations Cup, where they would meet again.


2006 World Cup Qualifier: Brazil 3 - Argentina 1

Ronaldo scored a rare hat trick of penalties in Belo Horizonte in June 2004. Kaka played Ronaldo into the area where he was fouled by Gabriel Heinze. Ronaldo had to take the penalty twice because players entered the box too early, but he scored both times.

After halftime, O Fenômeno won and scored two more penalties to round off his hat trick after fouls by Javier Mascherano and Pablo Cavellero.

Juan Pablo Sorin added a late consolation goal for La Seleccion, whose manager Mercelo Bielsa had nothing but praise for the great Ronaldo, and had no gripe with the referee for awarding three penalties in one match.

Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira stated: “Ronaldo always makes the difference,” a declaration that would be disproved at the 2006 World Cup.


2004 Copa America Final: Brazil 2 - Argentina 2 (Brazil won 4-2 on penalties)   

Argentina were within seconds of winning the Cup when Adriano scored a spectacular stoppage time winner to force penalties. Kily Gonzalez had given Argentina the early lead through a penalty, before Luisao equalized for Brazil just before half time.

Argentina got what appeared to be the winner in the 87th minute through Cesar Delgado, but Adriano shocked them with his sensational strike in the third minute of extra time. In the shootout, D’Alessandro and Heinze missed their penalties, while Adriano, Edu, Diego, and Juan all made their chances for Brazil.


1993 Copa America Quarter Finals: Argentina 1- Brazil 1 (Argentina won 6-5 on penalties)

Argentina got a late equalizer from Leonard Rodriguez to force penalties, where former World Cup hero and penalty expert Sergio Goycochea saved Boiadeiro spot kick. Argentina used this success to propel them to a semi-final victory over Colombia, before
a Gabriel Batistuta double sunk Mexico 2-1 in the final.


1991 Copa America Final Round: Argentina 3 - Brazil 2

Dario Franco’s first half brace and a late winner from Gabriel Batistuta gave Argentina victory that will be remembered for five red cards more than the football. Claudio Caniggia, Mazinho, Enrique, Marcio Santos, and Careca all saw red.

Argentina went on to win the competion thanks to Golden Boot winner Gabriel Batistuta.


1990 World Cup Round of 16: Argentina 1 - Brazil 0

Argentina were the holders of the Cup, but were considered underdogs against Brazil, one of the favorites to reach the final. Maradona was hobbled due to an ankle injury, but he was the difference, as he raced past five defenders before slipping Claudio Canggia through on goal.

The Atalanta striker rounded the keeper Taffarel before slotting home, and Argentina were through. They went on to reach the final, but lost to West Germany 1-0.

In his autobiography, Maradona talked about the match by saying: “I like the Brazilian way of life, I like them, but in football, I want to beat them to death.”  It is perhaps the best way to sum up the rivalry between the two countries.


1982 World Cup Second Round: Brazil 3 - Argentina 1

Argentina entered Spain ’82 as one of the favorites after their win on home soil, and all eyes were on the World’s best player and Barcelona’s record signing Diego Armando Maradona.

Brazil brought with them quite a formidable side as well, and one that is considered the best team to have not won the World Cup.

The game was not as lopsided as the score may indicate, but Zico and Serginho gave Brazil a 2-0 lead with 20 minutes to go before Junior scored late on, and Maradona was sent off for kicking Batista in the groin, although he has since said the shot was aimed for Falcao.

It was a sad end to Maradona’s first World Cup, but the pressure for him to perform with the target on his back as the world’s most expensive footballer was ultimately too much for the 21-year-old Diego.


1978 World Cup Final Group Stage: Argentina 0 - Brazil 0

This particular game, held in Rosario, is the predecessor to one of the most controversial endings to a World Cup. In the first group game, Brazil had defeated Peru 3-0, while Argentina beat Poland 2-0.

After the goalless draw, the final game of the group saw Brazil with a one-goal lead over Argentina on goal difference. Conveniently, Brazil played Poland before the kick-off of Argentina vs. Peru, therefore after Brazil had seen off their European opponents 3-1, Argentina knew they needed to beat Peru by four goals to reach the final.

They did this easily, winning 6-0. Countless rumors have swirled around since then, some including the Argentine military junta sending free exported grain, or the fact that the Peruvian goalkeeper, Roman Quiroga, was a naturalized Argentine and had conceded too easily.

In reality, none of the goals proved to be routine saves, and no foul play has been proven. Argentina advanced to the final, and defeated the Dutch 3-1 to win their first World Cup with two goals from Mario Kempes, who clinched the Golden Boot with his performance.

Despite the claims of Argentine deceit by Brazil, Argentina rightfully won the competition with a side that will go down as one of the greatest in history.


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