When is a friendly not a friendly? Well, when it’s not all that friendly… England take on Germany on Friday night in a game that has no real bearing on anything in particular. Both sides comfortably qualified for next year’s World Cup some time ago and this isn’t a competitive tie. It’s merely a chance for a few squad players to stretch their legs in the national colours and try and catch their manager’s eye a little.
But it doesn’t always work like that, does it? Friendlies are a nice idea in essence. But when you pit two sides against each other that haven’t always shared a lot of affection for one another – be it because of previous results, incidents or even social, political or historical reasons… Well, it can all get a little tense.
Starting with Southgate and Löw’s men and then charting the rest of the world for the fiercest beefs, here’s our run-down of international football’s most hate-filled match-ups:
England Vs. Germany
For a football rivalry to really bubble, you need both sets of fans to really loathe one another. And while it’s fair to say that the past 100 years or so has seen a fair amount of animosity between the two nations, this football discord is really quite one-sided. Sure, Germans football fans don’t exactly hold the English supporters in high esteem, but theirs is more of a general disdain. An indifference based, presumably, on their history of footballing superiority.
Vice versa, though? Well, repeated penalty shoot-out defeats take their toll, don’t they? Tasteless chants referencing the Second World War and crowd troubles during the Germany-hosted 2006 World Cup haven’t helped in semi-recent memory. But even more recently it was actually German fans who made he headlines, singing their own Nazi-based songs during a recent win over the Czech Republic in Prague.
Brazil Vs. Argentina
Let’s move on to a cracker now and arguably the football world’s biggest international derby. A fixture with very little love lost (both countries despise each other in footballing terms), it’s the yellow flair of Brazil versus the wily technicality of Argentina. The sheer quality of the leagues, players and managers and the success of both sides has meant that the two of them have been close foes for some time. Brazil shade their enemies in terms of World Cup wins, though.
When Brazil and Argentina meet, it’s not just a tussle of minds or a war of ability. It’s often a lot more literal in terms of tussles, at least. Things often get heated. In 1946, Argentina’s captain José Salomon’s leg was broken in two places after a horror lunge. The game turned into a mass brawl, with punches and – as this is South America we’re talking about here – kicks flying. This was nine years after a clash between the two was called off midway through due to Brazil players ‘fearing for their safety’.
Let’s not forget in 1990 when Brazil might just have had their drinks spiked with something pre-game to affect their performance. Sound like a conspiracy theory? Diego Maradona later confirmed the story…
Germany Vs. Holland
Germany Vs. Holland might just be Europe’s most bitter duel. Again, it might be borne of two top sides battling it out for superiority. But they could just be a little more behind it. Dutch international of the ’60s and ’70s Will van Hanegem claimed to speak for quite a few of his colleagues when he told the press of his motivations in disliking his European cousins…
“I didn’t give a damn about the score, as long as we could humiliate them. I don’t like them. It’s because of World War II.”
Germany would go on to get the better of the Dutch over time, but let’s not forget that small measure of revenge spat out by Frank Rijkaard all into into Rudi Völler’s mullet that time.
Serbia Vs. Albania
We don’t have a doctorate in Balkan History, so we’re going to swerve attempting to crudely describe the historical reasons why Serbia and Albania might dislike each other and instead just explain what went down when their mutual hatred spilt over during one particularly ‘feisty’ encounter in October of 2014…
It was a Euro 2016 qualifier which English referee Martin Atkinson had the pleasure of officiating. 25,000 packed into Belgrade’s Partizan Stadium. The early stages of the game saw vile chants, tasty challenges and objects thrown onto the pitch. Atkinson called for a break in play to assess the situation. During that break, a drone was flown on to the pitch, carrying a pro-Albanian independence flag. The Serbian captain attempted to remove the flag, two Albanian players saw his actions as disrespect and intervened. A Serbian fan ran over to argue, wielding a plastic chair. Albanian captain Lorik Cana punched the fan. Cue a pitch invasion by thousands of angry Serbs…
A riot ensued. Eventually, the players escaped down the tunnel and the police took control of the situation. An automatic 3-0 victory was awarded to the visitors. And an international footballing rivalry was forged.
England Vs. Scotland
Another rivalry involving England, this one – against Scotland – can thank geography and history for its existence. This is a derby that pre-dates any other in international football. Thanks to England Vs. Scotland being the first ever football match between two countries to ever be played, way back in 1872. The game finished 0-0, so it’s not great loss that we don’t have a clip of the highlights for you.
The Scots have faced ‘The Auld Enemy’ a whopping 113 times since then. England have won 48, Scotland 25 and there have been 41 draws.
Egypt Vs. Algeria
Here’s another rivalry that comes from geographical proximity and a history of dispute. But where you need look pretty far back in your history textbooks to find England and Scotland at war with each other, tensions in North Africa and across the Middle East are less tricky to find nowadays. True, Algeria and Egypt are not warring nations (with each other, at least). And both are members of the Arab League and share similar outlooks on a whole range of things. But football does funny things to people…
Separated only by Libya, perhaps it’s the locality. Perhaps it’s the Algerian player who attacked the Egyptian team doctor making him lose an eye some three decades ago. Whatever it is, when the two countries meet now, it’s nothing short of insanity. And not just in the stadium. Fires are set, offices are ransacked, riots are rife.
Put it this way, should you ever be offered comped tickets for a African Cup of Nations match between these two (for whatever strange reason) – best you politely decline.
USA Vs. Mexico
Between 1937 and 1990, the USA only beat their southern neighbours once. But since hosting the World Cup and seeing Major League Soccer thrive, things have got a lot more even. And with recent political tensions driven by a certain joke-haired former Apprentice host (Donald Trump, not Alan Sugar), there’s now more than a little resentment and dislike on either side.
The funniest story of this particular feud? In 2004, just before an Olympic qualifying game in Guadalajara, American star Landon Donovan was said to have urinated on the pitch. The news spread fast and it unstandably upset the local fans who saw his toilet avoidance as a mark of disrespect. They responded with ninety minutes packed with cries of ‘Osama! Osama! Osama!’ Not a very politically correct thing to yell just three short years after 9/11. It later turned out that Donovan had widdled outside the stadium. Not on the pitch.
Who have we missed? England Vs. Argentina? South Korea Vs. Japan? Spain Vs. Portugal? Let us know your favourite international football rivalry…