2010 FIFA World Cup: The 10 Best World Cup-Related Feuds and Rivalries
The world's greatest spectacle starts later today and to kick off the fun enjoy this list of some of the World Cup's greatest rivalries and feuds.
These rivalries aren't listed in any particular order, but they are all humorous and great.
England against the Penalty Shot (The World against England)
Frank Lampard is a good penalty taker at Chelsea, and Steven Gerrard has been reliable over his career at Liverpool but when it comes to taking penalty kicks for their country, they choke.
In fact, all of England chokes.
The Three Lions have been involved in seven penalty shootouts in competitive international fixtures and have lost six of them.
Their lone penalty shootout win came against a team considered more hapless than themselves—the pre-Euro 2008 Spain.
Recall the flamboyant Portugal knocking England out of the World Cup in 2006, led by the high-stepping Christiano Ronaldo.
England will need confidence and some PK luck if they want to finally bring the trophy back to the "motherland."
Roy Keane against Mick McCarthy (The Legend against the Hapless Manager)
Not quite related directly to the World Cup—although you could argue a similar situation with Eto'o and the Cameroonian brass—but a funny fallout that had international ramifications for Man United and Ireland talisman Roy Keane against the helpless (but decent manager at Wolves) Mick McCarthy.
Roy Keane is a man who leaves no doubt about what he thinks of others.
He's not afraid to bash Sir Alex Ferguson, throw Brian Clough under the bus, or sever Alf Inge Haaland's knees off. But he saved his greatest vitriol then Ireland manager Mick McCarthy.
Ireland was preparing for the 2002 World Cup at its base in Saipan with the talismanic Keane as the team's captain.
As training developed, however, Keane became less than impressed with the training methods McCarthy used.
Keane told McCarthy such, and McCarthy eventually sent Keane home after much back-and-forth conversation.
"I cannot and will not tolerate being spoken to with that level of abuse being thrown at me so I sent him home," McCarthy said.
Keane would never play under McCarthy again (and his international career was in its twilight, anyway), and McCarthy would soon be sacked.
Story: one talismanic player accompanied by a otherwise crappy squad doesn't mean much—especially when the best player has a crazy temperament.
Mexico against Jose Torres and Landon Donovan (Mexico against USA)
The United States and Mexico obviously share an interesting long-enduring history and rivalry.
Nonetheless, interest and passion have only recently piqued to new heights.
El Tri finally feels its soccer "superiority" threatened as the U.S. strings results against Mexico (and the Mexican fear and passion has shown).
Recollect the last CONCACAF qualifier between the U.S. and Mexico at Azteca, a place where El Tri have only lost to Costa Rica.
Many analysts felt that the Americans could finally win one at the intimidating and hostile fortress.
The American players were jeered and taunted at sight.
Landon Donovan, who galvanized the Mexican fan base by urinating on an important Mexican soccer landmark, was even spit on during corners.
The Americans got an early 1-0 lead off a Davies goal, but eventually conceded a heart-breaking goal to Sabah in the final 10 minutes and lost the match 2-1.
The Americans and Mexicans won't cross until the late rounds of the World Cup but expect the intensity and constant comparisons between each team's results to grow.
Argentina against Britain
An intercontinental rivalry is pretty rare, and the zeal of this one is surprising.
But again, there's nothing like a bloody war to add fuel to blazing hatred.
The two nations fought in the Falklands War in 1982, a battle over a set of islands off the Argentine coast, fueling animosity towards the two nations.
In addition, the British claimed to bring football to Argentina, hitting the pride of the Argentineans.
The residue of these feelings were still fresh when the teams met in Mexico City during the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals.
Argentina defeated England 2-1 on Maradona's infamous "Hand of God" goal. Minutes later, he majestically weaved through eight England defenders to score the "Goal of the Century".
Although Maradona immediately denied that he cheated on the first goal, he later admitted that cheating the Brits out of the win actually made it even sweeter.
There would be further incidents in 1998 and 2002, highlighting the extremely tense relationship between the two teams.
These two teams can meet in the quarterfinals of this year's World Cup and fireworks should fire if that is to occur.
Zimmer frei, jetzt geht's los! (Netherlands against Germany)
This rivalry also traces back to conduct during wartime, specifically the brutal German occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War.
The Dutch in the bottom of their hearts still resent the German's actions back then, and use football as their conduit for retribution.
For the Dutch, they haven't achieved this domination yet, having only tied the series 3-3-2.
The rivalry is extremely intense among the fans.
When the Dutch failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, Germans fans often rejoiced by singing and making signs reading "Über Japan lacht die Sonne, über Holland die ganze Welt"—the sun's smiling over Japan, the world is laughing at Holland.
When the Dutch were eliminated in the 2006 World Cup, a sign on the Autobahn signaled, "Netherlands, exit right".
The Dutch were able to respond once after the Germany's elimination in Euro 2004. Dutch supporters went to the German fan zone during their final match and hung up a sign saying "Zimmer Frei"—open vacancy.
The players share less hostility, since many Dutch youngsters ply their trade in the Bundesliga.
Joga Bonito? ¡Ah, agua santa! (Brazil against Argentina)
Brazil and Argentina simply don't like each other to the point of impropriety and unsportsmanlike actions, or simply hate.
This rivalry lies deep into each country's identity, and have shaped the nature of football around the world.
Each team possesses large support domestically and abroad, garners much admiration for player quality and styles of play, and is almost metonymically associated with the game of soccer.
Then there's the constant debate about Pele and Maradona.
There's the Battle of Rosario (rumors of Peru dropping the game for the Argentines to grant Argentina a spot in the Cup final over Brazil), the Holy Water scandal (Argentinean physios giving Brazilian players water laced with tranquilizers), and the Desábato/Grafite incident (allegations of racism).
Zinedine Zidane against Marco Materrazi (France against Italy)
Le headbutt heard around the world was a sad exit for one of this generation's greatest players.
But it did earn him acclaim from other non-soccer demographics, and even netted his likeness the top song—the fitting "Coup de Boule"—in France for months after the World Cup.
I'll fall just short of saying Materrazi deserved the punishment he received, but he did say some vile things. In fact, Zidane was recently quoted saying he still hasn't forgiven Materrazi and would do it again.
Italy and France are both has-been footballing nations, and should they meet in the later stages of the World Cup, it'll definitely be a testy match fueled by memories of Le Coup de Boule.
The rivalry is also effected by the flight of elite French players to Serie A, such as Vieira, Mexes (who is only excluded from the France squad because of Domenech's idiot-ology/astrology), Flamini, Thuram, and ironically, Zidane.
South Korea against Kim Jong-il (South Korea against North Korea)
I'm not informed enough to give you any comprehensive, thoughtful, or insightful analysis about this rivalry but the historical circumstances and potential ramifications stemming from this rivalry should be enough to keep you captivated.
From the anonymity and curiosity regarding the North Korean team to the lovable quality of the South Korean team and their desire to assert strength and reunification on the North Koreans, the results of the respective teams should be interesting.
Any potential match between the two sides would be in the late rounds of the Cup, making any meeting improbable.
If a match were to take place though, the whole world will watch fireworks fly in the ultimate display of nationalism.
And for goodness sakes, maybe North Koreans can take note from Cuban baseball players and flee.
Wayne Rooney against Christiano Ronaldo (England against Portugal)
Not much to say here, besides the fact that the two have "made amends" and England can't shoot penalties.
A potential rematch looms in the late rounds of the World Cup, and it would be electric.
Could Steven Gerrard join Ronaldo at Real Madrid?
Can England finally win a big game?
Can Wayne Rooney refrain from cursing and stomping on people's crotches?
Can Ronaldo make himself likeable?
Big questions for potentially big campaigns for the squad with Capello needing to deliver and Quieroz's job security on life support.
If Only the Match Was 22 days Later! (USA against England)
How fitting would it be if this match—the most anticipated World Cup match in quite a while—was slated for July 4th?
Hopefully the viewers of this match recognize the irony that keys this historical rivalry turned friendship turned political alliance turned sudden football rivalry.
Add in the banter and ceremonial bets by politicians, apparent disregard of the U.S. team by the English, the underdog complex of the American team, the difference in receptions of American players in the two countries (Dempsey and Donovan are saints in England, no so much in the States) and we have a great rivalry and match in the making.