In South America, there can be said to be 3 proper Super Clasicos, a rare triangle rivalry between Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, the holy trinity of South American football. Population, recent history and marketability have fostered the idea that Brazil vs. Argentina is the most traditional and important of the three, but this article will attempt to show otherwise.
As of last year, Brazil and Argentina began to dub their yearly series of exhibition matches: “the Super Clasico de las Americas”. I found this to be particularly in poor taste. In the 90s and 2000s, Chelsea and Arsenal’s new found money and overwhelming success, caused them to openly state that they were now Manchester United’s main rival and (depending on the era) that their respective matches vs. the Red Devils to be the most important match on the English football calendar. Last year, Manchester City, in response to their recent success, did the same thing. This was obviously due to Liverpool FC’s near complete irrelevance in the Premier League compared to those three teams that shared so many exciting climactic moments with Manchester United over the last 23 years. Oddly enough, with all their marketability and success, these teams could never really replace Liverpool as Manchester United’s most important, and storied rival. Your first…anything…is what really marks you for life. Both clubs had an irreplaceable history with one another during the key moments during each club’s formative years.
Is Uruguay “Liverpool” or “Atletico de Madrid” of South America?
The best eternal football rivalries are the ones that convey real history and emotions of regret. The greatest rivals are ones who left a permanent mark on one another and pushed themselves past their limits in order to surpass each other. This perfectly explains Real Madrid’s indifference to Atletico de Madrid or even England’s indifference to Scotland. Both have history, but not the type of history that Argentina and Uruguay share. Atletico de Madrid did not have any meaningful impact on Real during their formative years. Beyond meeting in the 1959 European Cup Semi Final, and enjoying some successful years in the late 1960s and 1970s, Atletico Madrid did not have the impact that Barcelona did in forming Real Madrid’s football culture. They never dealt a painful era defining blow to their neighbours. In fact, Real Madrid (founded in 1902) only began to consider Atletico de Madrid as being remotely relevant in the late 1920s.
The “Friendly” clasico
From 1902 until the 1970s, Argentina vs. Uruguay was THE end all. The ultimate Super Clasico of the Americas. Over the 1990s, Uruguay’s terrible international standing caused the “Clasico de Rio de la Plata” to become a sort of “friendly clasico” (much like Everton v. Liverpool). Argentina unquestionably even gave Uruguay in that final match of the 2002 World Cup Qualifiers. I remember a fan speaking on the radio after Uruguay got that free pass to face Australia in 2002. This was the most storied international derby on earth, and now Argentina was doing Uruguay favours?
The Return of the King
The birth of the new qualifying system changed everything. While my favouirite rivalry of the 3 major rivalries remains Uruguay v. Brazil for its impressive streak of great footballing epics, the last few World Cup Qualifiers have demonstrated why this rivalry is so magical, and how this idea was lost throughout the 90s. In the most recent era of football, no Brazil vs. Argentina qualifier ever had the urgency and grandeur that Argentina vs. Uruguay had during the climax of the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cup Qualifiers.
Argentina vs. Uruguay, really feels like the Manchester United v. Liverpool of world football. Rarely will you see a rivalry that is filled with such important history. Their legendary rivalry established the birth of mainstream international football worldwide. They were crucial in forging the South American Championship (Copa America) and the god damn FIFA WORLD CUP. Incredibly, the rivalry never stopped there. At a club and national level, the mutual respect and resentfulness created a surge of iconic matches throughout the century. It really is great that the new World Cup Qualifying system (coupled with Uruguay’s recent resurgence) has allowed this rivalry to grow again. Point is, this is not Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid , or Scotland vs. England. This is really the most pure and storied derby in the history of world football and it’s about time that it got recognized again as that.
-Argentina vs. Brazil-
– 10 Copa Americas were settled between these two nations: 1921, 1925, 1937, 1945, 1946, 1957, 1959, 1991, 2004, 2007. Argentina won 8 and Brazil won 2.
– Other FIFA World Cup Matches- 4: 1974, 1978, 1982, 1990. Brazil won 2, Argentina won 1 and they drew 1.
-Argentina vs. Uruguay-
– 3 FIFA World Cup/Championships final were settled between these two nations: 1924, 1928 and 1930. Uruguay won all 3.
– 12 Copa Americas were settled between these two nations: 1916, 1917, 1920, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927, 1935, 1941, 1942, 1956, 1959, 1967. Uruguay won 10 and Argentina won 2.
– Other FIFA World Cup Matches- 1 : 1986 FIFA World Cup- Won by Argentina 1-0.
– Copa America record- Argentina= 13 wins, Uruguay= 13 wins. Draws= 4.