Poll: Who’s Our Biggest Rival – Argentina, Germany or Scotland?
The upcoming game against Germany raises a straightforward but possibly difficult question: Who are England’s biggest rivals?
The three obvious candidates are (in alphabetical order) Argentina, Germany, Scotland.
Please vote in the poll where we’ll (maybe) settle this question for good.
Here’s a quick summary of each rivalry, sticking to football (no mention of the war(s) or beach towels on sun loungers)…
Argentina: On the field it all started with the 1966 World Cup quarterfinal, a rough game where Antonio Rattin refused to leave the field after being sent off and Sir Alf Ramsey famously called the Argentine team “animals”. Not a great way to start a relationship.
Argentina got their revenge in 1986, when Diego Maradona did two amazing things. England fans find the handball for the fist goal almost impossible to forgive. I know Argentina fans feel differently. And then that second goal was beautiful to watch, but an embarrassment to the England team.
Then there was the 1998 World Cup second round, the famous David Beckham sending off, the Michael Owen goal and defeat on penalties. Finally, England got a win in the group stages of the 2002 World Cup with a David Beckham pen.
Both sides take this rivalry seriously, but Argentina have bigger fish to fry with their rivalry vs Brazil.
Overall record (including friendlies) – P 14, England won 6, Argentina won 3, Drawn 5
(though that counts the 1998 penalty defeat as a draw so really it’s:
England won 6, Argentina won 4, Drawn 4, if you ask me).
Germany: This has some history. There was the controversial 1966 World Cup final, which we won 4-2 but with that questionable “was it over the line?” goal. At the 1970 World Cup we were 2-0 when Alf Ramsay decided to bring off Bobby Charlton. Germany rallied to win 3-2 and send us home. This was the beginning of the bad times. In 1972 Germany knocked us out of the 1972 Euros over two legs, including a 3-1 German win at Wembley.
Then it was 1990. My fist World Cup. England vs Germany in the semi-final, Andreas Brehme’s shot hitting Paul Parker and looping over Peter Shilton, Gary Lineker equalizing, Gazza crying, Chris Waddle skying his penalty in the shoot-out and us missing out on the World Cup final.
Then it was 1996 and the Euros in England. Another semi-final vs the Germans. Shearer scoring early, Stefan Kuntz equalising, Gazza sliding in at the far post in extra time but not quite connecting. And of course, Gareth Southgate and us losing on spot kicks again. Argh.
A sliver of revenge at Euro 2000, with Shearer’s header giving us 1-0 over a rubbish Germany team. But we both went home early at the expence of Portugal and Romania.
In 2002 World Cup qualifying Germany closed Wembley by beating us 1-0, but we claimed revenge with a 5-1 win in Germany. Then Wembley was re-opened and Germany beat us 2-1.
I personally see this as the biggest rivalry because 1) there’ve been so many memorable games and 2) Germany are so damn good. We have a psychological need to beat them after losing so many games. The downside is that the rivalry is much bigger in England than it is in Germany. They seem to think beating the Netherlands is more important.
Overall record: P27, England won 14, Germany won 10, Drawn 6
(but with shootouts it’s really: England won 14, Germany won 12, Drawn 4)
Scotland: Literally the oldest international football rivalry in the world. Est. 1872. There isn’t room to go through every game, but we used to play the Scots regularly in the British Home Championships. It went back and forth.
Scotland’s Wembley Wizards beat us 5-1 in 1928, we spanked them 9-3 in 1961. They famously beat us 3-2 in 1967, after we’d won the World Cup, which had the Scots proclaiming themselves “unofficial world champions.”
They beat us again in 1977, leading to a Scottish pitch invasion where they stole the goalposts as souveneirs. With hooliganism (and violence in Northern Ireland) on the rise the whole thing was abandoned in 1981.
Since then we’ve met in the group stages of Euro ‘96 – Seaman’s penalty save and Gazza’s wonder goal giving us a 2-0 win, and beat them 2-1 over two legs in the Euro 2000 playoff.
Scotland love to beat us. We’re the Auld Enemy after all. But for me this rivalry has lost some of it’s sparkle recently because 1) we hardly ever play anymore (we’ve chickened out of the Four Associations Cup) and 2) Scotland – sadly – just aren’t as good they used to be.
Overall results: P100, England have won 45, Scotland have won 41, drawn 24.
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