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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.

  • Joe

    *disclaimer, not an England follower*

    First, I think leaving out the non-sporting side of things sort of takes the air out of the explanations, at least for Argentina, because you can bet the Falklands does have a bit to do with it.

    Still, I’d say Scotland.. but you’re right. It seems that all of these have cooled in the last few years, for one reason or another…

  • Daryl

    Agree, Joe. But talking about wars and international politics tends to turn nasty. So I thought it best to steer clear.

    Also, there’ve been various wars between England and all three of these rivals, so in some ways that evens it all out.

  • Joe

    true dat

  • diana

    It’s a tough call for me, Daryl. Considering I only started support England since the 2002 World Cup.

    I remembered about the win over Argentina in the group stage. My father, the other England supporter in the family, was jubilant England beat Argentina then. I can understand why. He still has the vivid memories of the ‘Hand of God’ goal, apart from the second goal Maradona scored against England in the 1986 World Cup. Back then when I told him that Maradona is the new Argentina coach, he initially thought it was a joke. Considering I was not even born yet when the ‘Hand of God’ goal happened (psst, I was born in the following year), what I know that happened in the 1986 World Cup are based on my father’s memories. One thing is for sure, my father (like Terry Butcher who spoke to the press ahead of Scotland’s friendly with Argentina) will never ever forgive Maradona for the ‘Hand of God’ goal.

    Germany…5-1. If I just mention that scoreline to my father, his face will brighten up at once. For him, that was the best England performance he had seen in a long time since he support England. My only memory of that 2002 World Cup qualifier from Munich was that it made big news at where I come from (Singapore). Till now, my father still gets the satisfaction whenever Germany loses any match! :P So you can imagine he was happy Spain beat Germany in the Euro 2008 final. On a personal scale for me, I am still sore over that 2-1 scoreline last year at the Wembley.

    Unfortunately, I did not live through the time as an England supporter whenever we meet Scotland. :( Whatever I remember of the meetings with the Auld Enemy, I did background reading on the Internet. Coming from a country myself where we do share football rivalry with our neighbour next door in the form of Malaysia, I see the England-Scotland rivalry as a football rivalry between two neighbours which share a common border. That’s just me. And Singapore got the better over Malaysia in recent times actually. Considering Malaysia was once better than us…but then, we always love it here whenever we beat Malaysia. Just like you said Scotland love to beat England.

  • Rob

    I think its an interesting question because its about perspective – I think we’re angrier at Argentina than they are at us, they have Brazil, like you say. But I think a similar situation is present with all rivalries – the Scots hate us (I mean look how they worship Argentina, just because we don’t like them!), but I think they hate us more than we hate them, and the same with Germany. I actually think the Germans calmly admire us, they seem to have a friendly rivalry thing with us, yet we take it way more seriously.

  • Jan

    I think when Germans say, that the rivalry with the Netherlands is much more important to them, then that is not an honest and objective assessment of the situation, but rather another way to make England feel second best. Which in turn is proof that Germans actually do take the rivalry with England serious as well. Maybe the Netherlands indeed have a slight edge, but the difference between Germany – England and Germany – Netherlands isn’t that big IMHO.

    Both rivalries have always been perceived differently on both ends though. For England and the Netherlands matches against Germany also served as a substitute for revenge for World War II – as such were politically/historically charged. In Germany, a match by a German national team was – until only a few years ago – basically the only place where Germans would fly the German flag and sing the anthem, because sport was perceived as something harmless and unpolitical. So, the political angle was always completely missing on the German end. For Germans the perception usually was that the rivalry with England started in 1966 with the World Cup final, and in case of the Dutch in the early 70s, when Eredivisie and Bundesliga sides clashed in European Cups (Ajax – Bayern) and of course the World Cup final in 1974. So it was really reduced to the football. In general England and the English actually have a very positive image in Germany.

  • Albo

    The problem argentines have had with England, actually comes from 1966, when Ratín (Argy captain) went to the German referee to ask him to explain a decision and got automatically red carded.
    Argentine players complained and they were called animals by the English media.
    That was a scam to get England and Germany to advance to the finals.
    Since then we don’t like the English much.
    Forget The Falklands or Malvinas. That’s only for the nationalist type.
    Football fans believe 1966 WC was a steal and we can’t forget that.

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