Rivalries keep us on our toes, through pleasure and pain, rivalries keep our hearts racing and our jerseys sweaty.
In my little footballer world, October is filled with rivalry match-ups that have me up all night loosing sleep. It began last weekend with the Superclásico, when my one-and-only, the greatest team in the world, Boca Jrs. took on River Plate in down-pouring rain, which stamped the game a classic before the first whistle. The match ended a 1-1 draw, but all-in-all, we know we played better and we know we deserved that win (did that sound biased?). Later this month, my side-chick, Barcelona will go up against Real Madrid in the Spanish Clásico. With the return of Luis Suárez to the pitch, that should make for a very interesting match-up, with many of the best players in the world taking part in this age-old rivalry.
But, what I am here to talk about right now is something deeper than club play, something more important than borrowed colors and some dollar signs, this is for our country, our birthright, this is the most important rivalry in international football: Argentina vs. Brazil. Tomorrow we get to see a showdown that we hoped we would be graced with during the World Cup, where excuses go out the window and the “it’s just a friendly” talk can’t be brought up. With many of the stars taking part in the match-up, it’s hard to say this won’t be like every other Argentina vs. Brazil “friendly,” where 100% is left on the field and glory is won by those who leave it all for their colors, for their flag, for their nation.
These two teams have been battling for decades. Here are some of the best moments that will forever be etched in stone:
5. The Battle of Santiago – Showing the darker side of the rivalry, this match-up during the 1991 Copa América was filled with goals, fouls, and red card. Argentina ended up winning 3-2, but throughout the match there would be five red cards shown. It just shows what a rivalry can become.
4. “Hand of the Devil” – There’s not much the Argentinians can say over handballs during important matches… here, in the 1995 Copa América quarterfinals, the Brazilian Tulio was able to use a handball to his advantage to even up the score, which ultimately let to the Brazilian victory by penalty kicks.
3. Claudio Lopez Tames the Maracana – Like in most rivalries, home turf can be a huge advantage, but in 1998, El Piojo Lopez was able to get an applause from the rivals for a late goal, stemming from individual brilliance, that gave Argentina the 1-0 win on Brazilian soil.
2. Kaká at His Best – In the 2006 friendly, a late effort from Kaká left Argentina for dead. In the 88th minute, leaving Messi behind in the dust, this goal tilted the scoreboard to an embarrassing 3-0 defeat for the albicelete.
1. Messi’s Hat-Trick in 2012 – The last time these two nations met with full-strength squads, la pulga scored three goals to give Argentina a 4-3 victory. Beautiful stuff from the best player in the world.
Here are some of the best goals scored during the rivalry. There are more goals to be seen between these two nations, but here are some of the most impactful:
5. Gabriel Batistuta vs. Brazil, 1991 – During the Battle of Santiago, we see a baby-faced Gabriel Batistuta scoring what would become his trademark Batigol. Beautiful stuff from Argentina’s all-time top scorer. Thanks to his six goals during this Copa América, Argentina took home the title.
4. Juan Roman Riquelme vs. Brazil, 2005 – Starting the play with a luxurious heel touch to a young Mascherano, and ending it with a typical long-range strike that left Dida rooted at the goal line. Riquelme here showed why he was unstoppable, why he was the best player in the world at the time.
3. Pele vs. Argentina, 1970 – Beautiful creativity from the best Brazilian to ever wear the jersey, Pelé, and scoring it on one of the best goalies to ever wear the Argentinean colors, Agustin Cejas. Beauty.
2. Lionel Messi vs. Brazil, 2012 – This is Messi’s third goal against Brazil during the 2012 friendly, where Messi displays his speed, movement, and accuracy, all in just a matter of seconds. This was his patented goal at Barça, swooping in from the right side, aligning his left foot to drill it from outside the box, his spot.
1. Claudio Canniggia vs. Brazil, 1990 – The goal that sparked the catchy tuned heard all day during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It’s beautiful and I’m sure all Brazilians are tired of being reminded of this moment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this goal and how many more times I’ll watch it in my lifetime… it’s a beautiful sight.
“Brasil, decime qué se siente tener en casa a tu papá.
Te juro que aunque pasen los años, nunca nos vamos a olvidar…
Que el Diego te gambeteó, que Canni te vacunó, que estás llorando desde Italia hasta hoy.
A Messi lo vas a ver, la Copa nos va a traer, Maradona es más grande que Pelé”
(“Though years have passed, we won’t forget, how Diego dribbled past, and Caniggia struck it in, you’ve been crying from Italy till today. Brazil, tell me how it feels!”)
THE UPCOMING GAME
There are friends amongst the pitch, famously the Messi and Neymar friendship, but it has little to do with the rivalry that’s dated back almost a century. As I see it, Argentina has many enemies, but few rivals when it comes to football (Germany, England, Brazil), and the Brazilians are the fiercest since we have been battling for supremacy in South America, we never want to let up any points, not even in a friendly.
Like it is said again and again, these “friendlies” are nowhere close to being that. Since the 2014 World Cup, Argentina has wanted to make a statement for what they feel they deserved to win, starting to do so with the friendly against Germany and trying to continue doing so against Brazil tomorrow. Brazil as well has something to prove, wanting to come strong after an embarrassing finish to the tournament. With the fireworks in place, we are in luck knowing that most of the stars are making appearances during this exhibition, so get ready for a tasty appetizer before next years Copa América.
– Nahuel F.A.