By 90Min
March 23, 2018

The long standing a fevered footballing rivalry between England and Argentina has spanned the sporting and political divides for over half a decade.

As memories echoing from the Falklands in the 1980's, Diego Maradona's infamous 'Hand of God' in 1986, to David Beckham's altercation with Diego Simeone in Saint-Etienne in 1998 and the Three Lions' redemption four years later in Sapporo, Japan.


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What is less well remembered however, was the meeting of the two countries 52 years ago when England hosted the World Cup. While the Three Lions went on to lift the Jules Rimet trophy at Wembley - to undeniable fanfare - their quarter final meeting with Albiceleste at Wembley that summer lit the blue touch paper on what would become a storied rivalry.

The two sides had unofficially met five times before since 1951 - one of which is still disputed as not an officially ratified international by England themselves. 

Having knocked out Argentina four years earlier in Chile in the group stages under Sir Walter Winterbottom, the latter then exacted revenge in a friendly tournament two years later in Brazil as Angel Clemente Rojas exacted a measure of sporting retribution in 1964.

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In a game later referred to by Juan Carlos Lorenzo's men as 'El Robo del Siglo' (the theft of the century) Argentina were left fuming by a number of fortuitous - and at times highly dubious - officiating calls for the hosts, as their opponents will protest.

The game was perhaps more significant for a hostile and heated battle on the pitch throughout the 90 minutes, merely inflamed after Geoff Hurst's disputed offside 77th minute winner under the Wembley arches.

The boiling point of in particular of which was the sending off of Argentine captain Antonio Rattin after receiving his second caution of the game nine minutes before half-time. The Argentines considered the second caution to be unfair, including the skipper himself, who had to be escorted from the pitch by police.

Rattin was booked at the start of the match for a lunge on Bobby Charlton, then fouled Hurst and was dismissed by German referee Rudolf Kreitlein.


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Remarkably, it was reported in Argentina that Kreitlein said that he had sent off Rattin because he did not like how he had looked at him, while British newspapers cited the official as having given the reason as 'violence of the tongue', despite the referee speaking no Spanish.

Ken Aston, the English supervisor of referees, entered the field to try to persuade Rattin to leave, but he only exacerbated the situation since the Latin American teams had already suspected that the English and Germans were collaborating in attempting to eliminate them from the competition.

To fuel the flames of the inflammatory after his dismissal, Rattin then scrunched the corner flag complete with Union Jack motif with his hand before finally sitting down on the floor. 


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England manager Alf Ramsey then refused to allow his players to swap shirts with the Argentines post-match and later described Argentina as 'animals' in the press.

The Argentine press and public were outraged, and retorted by dressing up mascot World Cup Willie in pirate regalia to demonstrate their opinions of the England team. As far as combustible elements go in concocting the ingredients for the beginning of an explosive footballing conflict, the spectacle was quite the fuel.

It was only a few short weeks later that England went on the become World champions in front of their adoring public.

(You may also be interested in 'World Cup Countdown: 13 Weeks to Go - The 'Black Panther' Eusebio's Golden 1966 Tournament')

 seeds of one of the most bitter and pointed rivalries, however, had been sown and since then, the two nations have met nine times on the field of play.

1986 may have been dominated by 'the Hand of God' and while Argentina again took an English footballing scalp at France '98, Beckham's penalty kick in 2002 - which prompted BBC commentator John Motson (on holding the cups and glasses back home) to utter the cry "you can smash them now" - saw England finally get the better of their South American foes for the first time in 22 years.

The duo have not met in 13 years, but could this summer in Russia. Despite the heavy presence of Premier League based Argentinian players however, make no mistake about it if England were to meet Argentina once more on the world stage, a frenzied discord would again be re-ignited. 

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