Soccer is the single most popular sport that can be found on the planet. For proof, some sources claim 4 billion fans for the sport, whereas most sports are lucky if they can manage 1 billion. Regardless, the popularity of soccer means that there are a lot of people out there who have an enormous emotional investment in their national teams, which makes a perfect breeding ground for international rivalries. Sometimes, international rivalries are born of coincidences that turn into something more. Other times, they are reflections of the political tensions between the participating countries, which can make them particularly serious by increasing the emotional stakes for people on both sides. When that happens, it is no wonder that the resulting soccer matches can make for some of the most intense TV that can be found out there. Here are five of the most intense soccer rivalries that can be found between countries:
Argentina vs Brazil
The Argentina-Brazil rivalry might be the most famous rivalry that can be found between national soccer teams. In fact, it is so famous that it actually encompasses sub-rivalries, as shown by the example of Argentina’s Diego Maradona and Brazil’s Pelé as well as the example of their respective successors in Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar. Part of the passion behind the Argentina-Brazil rivalry might be explained by both national teams being some of the best in the world, thus making their games that much more exciting as well as that much more interesting to watch.
Chile vs Peru
Speaking of which, the Argentina-Brazil rivalry isn’t the sole rivalry that can be found on the South American continent. After all, there is the Chile-Peru rivalry as well, which sees the two countries fighting it out for the honor of being the fourth best national team in South America, following behind Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. The whole thing is further fueled by the political tensions between the two countries in past decades as well as an ongoing dispute over which one came up with the bicycle kick, which is called the chilena in Chile and the chalaca in Peru.
England vs Scotland
England is one of those national teams with a number of rivalries. However, none of those rivalries are as close to home as the England-Scotland rivalry, which can be traced to the first international match in 1872. After all, England and Scotland might have shared a monarch ever since James I and VI, but that hasn’t been enough to ease the tensions between the two. For proof, look no further than the fact that Scotland is presided over by the Scottish National Party, which has been eyeing a second referendum on Scottish independence ever since Brexit upended the assumptions on which the first referendum on Scottish independence was decided.
France vs Italy
Similar to the Argentina-Brazil rivalry, the France-Italy rivalry is founded on the fact that both national teams are powerful contenders that happened to be situated next to one another. So far, Italy has had the advantage with 18 wins versus France’s 11 wins, which were accumulated over the course of a long period of dominance. However, France has been catching up in more recent decades, though the events of the 2006 World Cup Final should make it clear that it has not managed to run rampant.
Japan vs South Korea
South Korea’s relationship with Japan is what one might euphemistically call “complicated.” In short, the Empire of Japan forced Korea into an inferior position, which culminated in the outright annexation of Korea in 1910. Suffice to say that this proved to be rather unpleasant for the Korean people, as shown by examples ranging from the seizure of Korean-owned land to Japanese landowners charging 50 percent of their Korean tenant-farmers’ crops. Moreover, it is important to note that the splitting of Korea into North Korea and South Korea is a direct consequence of the Empire of Japan’s participation as one of the aggressors in World War 2, meaning that the Japanese occupation of Korea has had far-reaching consequences for the worse. Due to this, it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that the Japan-South Korea rivalry can get rather heated, though it is important to note that present sentiments are less hostile than in past decades when the wounds of the occupation were much fresher.