Argentina–Brazil football rivalry

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South American El Clasico
Teams  Argentina
First meeting  Argentina 3–0  Brazil
Buenos Aires
(September, 1914)
Latest meeting  Brazil 0–1  Argentina
Superclásico de las Américas
(9 June 2017)
Most wins Brazil (40)
Largest victory  Argentina 6–1  Brazil
Roca Cup
Buenos Aires
(March 1, 1940)

The Argentina–Brazil rivalry is a highly competitive sports rivalry that exists between the national football teams of the two countries, as well as their respective sets of fans. Games between the two teams, even those that are only friendly matches, are often marked by notable and sometimes controversial incidents. This rivalry is also called the "Battle of the South Americans." FIFA have described it as the "essence of football rivalry",[1] while ESPN FC ranked it top of their list of rivalries between national sides.[2]

Even to passionate football fans, ArgentinaBrazil matches are often noteworthy for the sheer level of competitiveness and talent of the two squads. Both Argentina and Brazil are routinely ranked among the top ten national teams in the world. In the last encounter Argentina won 1-0 against Brazil in a friendly match at The Melbourne Cricket Ground on 9 June 2017. Gabriel Mercado scored the only goal of the match in the 45th minute. This was Argentina's first win under new coach Jorge Sampaoli.


The origins of the football rivalry between Argentina and Brazil can be traced to before football became so popular in both countries. Today, few remember wars and other political confrontations between both countries, and only recall matches, victories, goals and other sport-related incidents. Their rivalry is found in almost all sports, but a men's football match between Argentina and Brazil is one that neither side wants to lose, and often acquires more importance than the championship within which it takes place. To exemplify the intensity of this rivalry, one only needs to remember that after the 1946 incidents (see below), the two teams did not play against each other for ten years; either team would decline to play a given cup so that they would never have to play against the neighboring country.

Main Championship Titles Argentina Brazil
World Cup 2 5
Copa America 14 8
FIFA Confederations Cup 1 4
Total 17 17

Since their first match in 1914, the national teams have played 109 matches counting friendlies, FIFA World Cup matches, and other official competitions (excluding matches between youth sides).

Even though there is a difference depending on whether the Argentine Football Association (AFA) or the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) does the counting, the near-balance is not in dispute. According to FIFA, of the 104 matches played between both national teams, Brazil holds 40 and Argentina 38 victories, with 26 draws and 176 goals for Argentina and 170 goals for Brazil.[3] Only counting World Cup matches, Brazil is slightly ahead with two wins, one draw and one loss, whereas in the Copa América matches, Argentina holds a comfortable lead with 14 victories, 8 draws and 9 defeats. Of the 50 friendly matches, 19 went to Brazil, 17 to Argentina and 14 were draws. Since the first match between the two countries in 1914, Argentina dominated the early years with more than double of the Brazilian victories. This is even when Brazil was world champion in 1958 and 1962. However, the 1970s proved to be dark times for Argentina, with seven defeats, four draws and only one victory, although it should be mentioned that one of the draws came in the 1978 World Cup played in Argentina. The 0–0 draw actually helped Argentina reach their second World Cup final and their first World Cup title. In the 1978 World Cup, Brazil was left behind, playing for third place.

Brazil Wins Draws Argentina Wins Brazil goals Argentina goals Total matches
40 26 38 168 167 108

Highest scoring wins between these two nations, for Argentina 5–1 (at home in Buenos Aires, 1940) and 1–5 (away at Rio de Janeiro, 1939), for Brazil 6–2 (at home in Rio de Janeiro, 1945) and 1–4 (away at Buenos Aires, 1960).

Most important victory matches between these two nations: for Argentina was the 2-0 match in the 1937 Copa América final [4], the tie 0-0 in the 1978 World Cup that helped them to reach the final and their first Wordl Cup title, and the 1–0 victory over Brazil in the 1990 World Cup which eliminated Brazil from the World Cup in the Round of 16. For Brazil, two Copa America victories in the Copa America finals. The first, in Peru in 2004, saw Brazil win in a penalty shootout (4–2) after a (2–2) draw, and the second, a (3–0) win in the 2007 Copa América final played in Venezuela.[5] Another important victoy from Brazil against Argentina was the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup final, where the brazilians defeated 4-1 to Argentina in the decisive match.


Pelé/Maradona rivalry[edit]

Brazilian supporter with a fake coffin with the colors of the Argentine flag and the name "Maradona"

Among the elite group of players football fans consider as contenders for the title, best player of all time, Brazil's Pelé and Argentina's Diego Maradona are probably the most famous, and generally dominate polls on the subject. Some of their fellow countrymen also feature regularly in such debates. The next most notable pair are perhaps Garrincha (Brazilian) and Alfredo Di Stéfano (Argentine). The most dominant figures from the two countries in the modern game are Neymar (Brazilian) and Lionel Messi (Argentine). Both Pelé and Maradona have declared Neymar and Messi their respective "successors".

Argentine Lionel Messi and Brazilian Neymar, former teammates at Barcelona, have been described by Pelé and Maradona as their "successors".

However, the over-riding discussion about which of Pelé and Maradona is the greater has proved to be never-ending. Even though most consider them as the best players of their own times, many consider the comparison between them useless, as they played during incomparable eras and in different leagues.[6] The debate between the pair has been described as "the rivalry of their countries in microcosm".[2]

Pelé was given the title "Athlete of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee.[7] In 1999, Time magazine named Pelé one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.[8] Also, he was elected Football Player of the Century, by France Football's Golden Ball Winners in 1999, Football Player of the Century, by IFFHS International Federation of Football History and Statistics, 1999, South America Football Player of the Century, by IFFHS International Federation of Football History and Statistics. Pelé's 1281 goals are recognized by FIFA as the highest total achieved by a professional footballer.

The controversy reached a climax during the FIFA century awards in 2000, in which Maradona was voted Player of the Century in an official internet poll, garnering 53.6% of the votes against 18.53% for Pelé. Shortly before the ceremony, FIFA unexpectedly decided to add a second award and appointed a "Football Family" committee composed of football journalists that gave to Pelé the title of best player of the century to make it a draw. This move was criticized in Argentina, that suspected Pelé was rewarded for his constant support of FIFA, in contrast to Maradona's frequent criticism.[9] Others believe that FIFA was considering issues other than football, notably Maradona's drug problem. Maradona left the ceremony right after receiving his award and before Pelé was given his.[10]

In another internet poll that took place in 2002, Maradona received another award from FIFA, as one of his goals was selected as the World Cup Goal of the Century. One of Pelé's goals received third place, while Maradona had a second goal selected as fourth.[11]

In spite of their frequent confrontations,[12] usually through quotations by the media, Pelé was the guest star of Maradona's TV show La Noche del 10 ("The Night of the #10"), where they had a friendly chat and played a bout of headers.[13]

Famous players and football figures often give their opinion on the Maradona and Pelé rivalry, sometimes choosing one over the other.[14] Others prefer not to compare them, as they played in very different times. Perhaps one of the most reliable comparisons available is that by the Ballon d'Or winners (elected since 1956 by voters of several countries, and arguably greatest ones to properly appreciate both players). Pelé was elected Best Player of the Century for Ballon d'Or winners and Maradona was the runner-up.[15]

The table below presents factual data about their careers:

Criteria Pelé Maradona
Playing position Forward Attacking midfielder
National team appearances 91 91
Goals scored for national team 77 34
World Cup wins playing 1958, 1962, 1970 1986
Total goals scored 767 359
Total matches played 831 703
Average goals scored per match 0.923 0.511
Club Titles
Individual titles

Incidents and historical matches[edit]

1937 incident[edit]

In the South American Championship 1937 (currently Copa América), the rivalry between both teams was already something of national pride. There were verbal confrontations between both parties, and Argentine fans often taunted the Brazilians by calling them macaquitos and making monkey sounds. The final match, held in Buenos Aires, was played between the two sides and was goalless after 90 minutes. In extra time, Argentina scored two goals. Questioning one of the goals and fearful for their own safety, the Brazilian players decided to leave the stadium before the match was officially finished. The Brazilian press has since called this match "jogo da vergonha" ("the shame game").[16] Argentina won, 2–0, and was South American champion again. Leónidas traveled alone to the World Cups of 1934 and 1938 because he was black. In the same way, a presidential decree of 1921 do not allow any black player in the Brazilian national team by an "issue of national prestige". The Brazilian football was in extreme racist, and black players played first in the Argentine First División and in the National Team than in Brazil, i.e. Alejandro de los Santos, idol of El Provenir (second top scorer in his history) and champion of the 1925 Copa América.

1939 incident[edit]

In 1939, there were two matches between Argentina and Brazil, both of them in Rio de Janeiro and for the Roca Cup. The first one, held in January, ended 5–1 to Argentina.

A second match was held only one week later, with the Brazilian team seeking revenge for the previous defeat. The match was vibrating; first Brazil went ahead 1–0, then Argentina recovered to lead 1–2, and Brazil then drew level at 2–2. Shortly before the end of the match the referee, the same as in the previous match, gave a dubious penalty to Brazil. Furious, Argentina player Arcadio López verbally attacked the referee and had to be escorted out of the pitch by police. The Argentine team, enraged by the actions of the referee and the police, left the pitch. The penalty that gave Brazil the 3–2 victory was scored without a goalkeeper, because the entire Argentine team had already walked off the pitch.[16]

1945 and 1946 incidents[edit]

In the 1945 match that Brazil won by six goals to two, young Brazilian Ademir Menezes fractured Argentine Batagliero's leg. Though it seemed to be only an unfortunate accident, the game was played roughly and sometimes violently.

A few months later, the South American Championship 1946 final again involved Argentina and Brazil. There was a large media coverage, and the conviction that it would be a rough match. Twenty-eight minutes after the beginning, when both teams went for a free ball, Brazilian Jair Rosa Pinto fractured Argentine captain José Salomón's tibia and fibula. General disorder ensued, with Argentine and Brazilian players fighting on the pitch with the police. The public invaded the pitch and both teams had to go to the dressing rooms. After order was restored the game continued, and Argentina won the match 2–0. Salomón never recovered completely nor played professional football after the incident.[17]

1978 World Cup ("The Battle of Rosario")[edit]

The Group B of the second round was essentially a battle between Argentina and Brazil, and it was resolved in controversial circumstances. In the first round of group games, Brazil beat Peru 3–0 while Argentina saw off Poland 2–0. Brazil and Argentina then played out a tense and violent goalless draw – also known as "A Batalha de Rosário" ("The Battle of Rosario"), so both teams went into the last round of matches with three points. Argentina had an advantage that their match against Peru kicked off several hours after Brazil's match with Poland. Brazil won their match 3–1, so Argentina could know that they had to beat Peru by four clear goals to go through to the final. Argentina managed it with what some saw as a suspicious degree of ease. Trailing 2–0 at half-time, Peru simply collapsed in the second half, and Argentina eventually won 6–0. Rumours suggested that Peru might have been somehow illicitly induced not to try too hard (especially because the Peruvian goalkeeper, Ramón Quiroga, was born in Argentina); but nothing could be proved, and Argentina met the Netherlands in the final. Brazil, denied a final place by Argentina's 6–0 win over Peru, took third place from an enterprising Italy side and were dubbed "moral champions" by coach Cláudio Coutinho, because they did not win the tournament but did not lose a single match either.

1982 World Cup[edit]

Group C, a "group of death" with Brazil, Argentina and Italy, that World Cup history was made. In the opener, Italy prevailed 2–1 over Argentina. Argentina now needed a win over Brazil on the second day, but they were no match, as the Brazilians' attacking game, characterised by nimble, one-touch passing on-the-run, eclipsed the reigning world champions. The final score of 3–1 – Argentina only scoring in the last minute — could have been much higher had Brazil centre-forward Serginho not wasted a series of near-certain scoring opportunities. Frustrated because of the poor refereeing and the imminent loss, Diego Maradona kicked Brazilian player Batista and received a straight red card.

1990 World Cup (The holy Water Scandal)[edit]

The last time both teams met in a World Cup match was in 1990, which featured Argentina defeating Brazil 1–0 with a goal from Claudio Caniggia after a pass from Diego Maradona. The end of the match was controversial, however, with Brazilian player Branco accusing the Argentina training staff of giving him a bottle of water laced with tranquillizers while they were tending to an injured player. This came years after Maradona revealed the news on an Argentine television show. The Argentine Football Association and the team coach of the time, Carlos Bilardo, denied that the "holy water" incident ever took place.[18][19]

1991 Copa América match[edit]

Argentina defeated Brazil 3–2 in Santiago in the first match of the final pool. Five players were sent off: Claudio Caniggia and Mazinho after tangling in the 31st minute; Carlos Enrique and Márcio Santos for another fight in the 61st minute, with one player leaving on a stretcher; and Careca Bianchezi in the 80th minute, two minutes after coming on as a substitute.[20]

1993 Copa América match[edit]

Argentina and Brazil finished 1–1 at the 8/final match, played in Guayaquil. Brazil started winning the game, but Leonardo Rodríguez drew with the head after a corner kick at the second part. In penalties, Los Gauchos defeated 5–4 and advanced to the quarter-finals. Argentina finally won the Copa América title after defeating Mexico in the Final.

1995 Copa América match[edit]

Held in Uruguay, the two nations met at the quarter-finals stage on 17 July 1995. The Brazilian Túlio became famous for scoring a late equalizer five minutes from time after controlling the ball with his left arm. Despite the obvious foul, the referee, Alberto Tejada Noriega of Peru, claimed he did not see the incident and the goal therefore stood. The game finished with a 2–2 draw and Brazil went on to win on penalties. The Argentine media labeled the incident as the "hand of the devil",[21] a reference to the controversial goal scored by Diego Maradona in the 1986 World Cup against England.

Copa América 2004[edit]

Argentina was winning 2–1, but in a spectacular turn of events, Adriano scored a goal in the last minute of the match, taking the match to penalties, where Brazil won with Júlio César stopping an impossible shot from Andrés D'Alessandro. Brazil was playing with its second-string team and this victory could be considered an underdog one.

2005 Confederations Cup Final[edit]

Argentina and Brazil clash at the final of the 2005 Confederations Cup

In 2005, Brazil and Argentina participated in the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup. Brazil entered the competition as the reigning World Cup champions at the time. Since Brazil had also won the Copa América the previous year, however, Copa runners-up Argentina was allowed to participate in the tournament to take up the vacated berth. In the semi-finals, Brazil eliminated host nation Germany, while Argentina eliminated Mexico. This competition was the first time the two rivals would meet in a final game of a tournament sponsored by FIFA. In a surprising turn of events, the Brazilian team won the game easily, thrashing the Argentines 4–1. Adriano scored twice for Brazil, along with Kaká and Ronaldinho, while Pablo Aimar scored Argentina's only goal.

Copa América 2007[edit]

Brazil defeated Argentina 3–0 in Maracaibo, Venezuela, at the final pool. Goals by Júlio Baptista, Roberto Ayala (own goal) and Dani Alves.

2008 Summer Olympics – Beijing[edit]

Juan Román Riquelme scores Argentina's third and final goal against Brazil at Beijing 2008, following Sergio Agüero's brace.

Defending champions Argentina and Brazil met on 19 August in the semifinal game of the Summer Olympics. The game, billed as a tête-à-tête between Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho, Barcelona teammates, was in the end a hard-fought clash between two historic rivals, marred by numerous fouls and two ejections for Brazil. Argentina convincingly won with a score of 3–0, and went on to beat Nigeria 1–0 in the final, being the first in obtaining two consecutive gold medals in football in 40 years and the third overall after the Olympic teams of the United Kingdom and Uruguay. Brazil eventually won the gold medal at the Olympics themselves playing at home in 2016.

Individual records[edit]

All-time top goalscorer[edit]

  • Pelé has scored the most goals in history against Argentina, a total of 8 goals in 10 matches.[22]

Club level[edit]

Competition Argentina Brazil
FIFA Club World Cup
Intercontinental Cup (d)
9 10
Copa Libertadores 24 17
Copa Sudamericana
Copa CONMEBOL (d)[23]
Copa Mercosur (d)
Supercopa Sudamericana (d)
17 13
Recopa Sudamericana 8 9
Suruga Bank Championship 2 1
Copa Interamericana (d)
Copa de Oro (d)
Supercopa Masters (d)
Copa Masters Conmebol (d)
Recopa Intercontinental (d)
9 5
Total 69 56

At club level, Argentine clubs have been more successful than the Brazilians; Argentine clubs have won 24 Copa Libertadores, against 17 for Brazil. In the last 21 years, the Brazilians have made a run at this competition and have captured 11 titles and came in second place 9 other times. Brazil shows a slight advantage in world titles; Brazilians have 10 against 9 Intercontinental Cups / FIFA Club World Cup. Argentine club Boca Juniors, Maradona's team, earned the most FIFA club titles in South America with three. The second-most important CONMEBOL championship, equivalent to the UEFA Europa League, is the Copa Sudamericana (after the merger of Copa Conmebol,[23][24][25][26] Copa Mercosur and Copa Merconorte, which replace Supercopa Sudamericana) with a slight advantage for Argentina. Other minor events include the Recopa Sudamericana and the defunct Copa Interamericana.

Copa Libertadores de America[edit]

In the history of this tournament, played since 1960, only once has a Brazilian team captured a title on Argentine soil. This took place in 1963 when Brazilian side Santos defeated the most popular Argentine club, Boca Juniors. However, the same Argentine club team, Boca Juniors, has celebrated three of its six titles on Brazilian soil, defeating Palmeiras in 2000, Santos in 2003 and Grêmio in 2007. The two greatest Argentine and Brazilian players that have ever played this sport had at one point played in these same two clubs: Pelé for Santos while Diego Maradona had done the same for Boca Juniors. It has been reported that in all three of Boca Juniors' victories on Brazilian soil, Boca's players were not allowed to properly sleep in their hotel rooms the night before their final matches because of the chaos and noise created by Brazilian fans outside the hotel rooms, who attempted to disrupt the Argentine players from performing to their best of their abilities the following day.[citation needed]

In the international arena, the most successful Argentine clubs are Boca Juniors (six Libertadores and three Intercontinental Cups), Independiente (seven Libertadores and two Intercontinental Cups), Estudiantes La Plata (four Libertadores and one Intercontinental Cup), River Plate (three Libertadores and one Intercontinental Cup), Vélez (one Libertadores and one Intercontinental), San Lorenzo (one Libertadores, one Copa Mercosur and one Copa Sudamericana), Argentinos Juniors (one Libertadores) and Racing Club (one Libertadores and one Intercontinental Cup).

The most successful Brazilian clubs are São Paulo (three Libertadores, one FIFA Club World Cup and two Intercontinental Cups), Santos (three Libertadores and two Intercontinental Cups), Grêmio (two Libertadores and one Intercontinental Cup), Internacional (two Libertadores and one FIFA Club World Cup), Cruzeiro (two Libertadores), Corinthians (one Libertadores and two FIFA Club World Cups), Flamengo, (one Libertadores and one Intercontinental Cup), Vasco da Gama (one Libertadores, one South American Championship of Champions and one Copa Mercosur) and Palmeiras (one Libertadores and one Copa Mercosur).

Women's football[edit]

The women's national sides representing Argentina and Brazil do battle at the 2014 Copa América Femenina

The Brazil women's national team is a successful women's football team, though not as successful as the men's counterpart. It was runner-up in the FIFA Women's World Cup of 2007, and a Silver Medal at the Olympic games in 2004 and 2008. In comparison, Argentina does not have a professional (or even semi-professional) women's football league; the members of the Argentina women's national football team are all amateur players despite their clubs often being affiliated with prominent men's professional clubs. Although the two teams usually have to battle for the top qualification spots for CONMEBOL when the World Cup qualification comes around, this rivalry does not provide the passion that men's matches encounter yet.

Brazil won every game of the Sudamericano Femenino against Argentina until the 2006 edition, when Argentina finally beat them 2–0 in the final group stage, awarding Argentina the championship. Argentina did not participate in the 1991 South American competition and was second to Brazil in the following three tournaments. Beginning with the 2003 edition, both champion and runner-up qualified for the World Cup. As Argentina has not been past the group stages in the World Cup, the two teams have not met in the Olympic Football Tournament yet.

Football culture[edit]

Depicting the football rivalry between the two South American countries, Diego Maradona filmed a television commercial in which he is wearing the Brazilian outfit, lined up with Brazilian stars Kaká and Ronaldo, singing the Brazilian national anthem before a match. He then wakes up from the "nightmare", where he can be seen wearing an Argentine national shirt in his bed, next to a bunch of empty cans of Guaraná Antarctica, a Brazilian traditional soft drink.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Argentina in Brazil - The essence of football rivalry". Fédération Internationale de Football Association. 6 June 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Miller, Nick (9 October 2015). "The 10 greatest rivalries in international football". ESPN FC. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  3. ^ [1] at FIFA
  4. ^]
  5. ^ [2] at [Fifa]. Last retrieved 17 November 2010.
  6. ^ CNNSI – "The Maradona-Pele furor". Last retrieved 31 May 2006.
  7. ^ "Pelé still in global demand". CNN Sports Illustrated. 29 May 2002. Retrieved 30 May 2008. 
  8. ^ Kissinger, Henry (1 April 2010). "The 2010 Time 100 Poll". Time. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  9. ^ CNNSI – "The great FIFA swindle". Last retrieved 31 May 2006.
  10. ^ CNNSI – "Split decision: Pele, Maradona each win FIFA century awards after feud" Last retrieved 31 May 2006.
  11. ^ CNNSI – "Feud leads FIFA to name two players of the century". Last retrieved 31 May 2006.
  12. ^ BBC – "Maradona, Pele in furious bust-up". Last retrieved 31 May 2006.
  13. ^ BBC – "Maradona tackles Pele on TV show" Last retrieved 31 May 2006.
  14. ^ Cantona excludes Pelé from his ideal team (in Spanish). Last retrieved 31 May 2006.
  15. ^ France Football's Football Player of the Century Last retrieved 15 March 2009.
  16. ^ a b "The Rivalry: Brazil X Argentina". Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  17. ^ Museo Dos Deportes – "O dia do desespero entre Brasil e Argentina" (in Portuguese). Last retrieved 31 May 2006.
  18. ^ Davison, Phil (15 March 2005). "Football: The Maradona diet: a gastric bypass, holy water and a pinch of salt". The Independent. London. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  19. ^ (in Spanish)
  20. ^ Copa América 1991 Final Pool – from RSSSF.
  21. ^ The hand of the devil still rankles as the Copa reaches its climax.
  22. ^ "Brazil vs. Argentina: What you need to know about this historic rivalry". Retrieved 2017-08-08. 
  23. ^ a b Archived 1 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine..
  24. ^ .
  25. ^ Información sobre la Copa Conmebol.
  26. ^ Globo Esporte.
  27. ^ CNNSI – "Maradona wearing a Brazilian jersey? Say it ain't so!". Last retrieved 5 June 2006.

External links[edit]