Friday, July 23, 2010

23 July 1966 - The Beginning Of A Beautiful Rivalry

On 23 July 1966, Argentina met hosts England in the quarterfinals of that year's World Cup, sparking a heated rivalry that has provided some of the Cup's most dramatic matches and endures to the present day.

The two countries had met five times previously, resulting in two wins each with one match abandoned because of poor weather. But the matches did not become a full-blown rivalry until the 1966 meeting. Playing before a crowd of 90,000 at London's Wembley Stadium, the match was unremarkable until the 35th minute, when German referee Rudolf Kreitlein ejected Argentina's captain, midfielder Antonio Rattín as the Argentine attempted to speak with him.

The basis for the ejection was unclear. British newspapers claimed that the captain had been sent off for "violence of the tongue," while commentators in Argentina said that Rattín was tossed for giving Kreitlein a dirty look. Regardless of the reason, the ejection raised the emotions of the Argentinian players and the match took an ugly turn, with England winning thanks to a 78th-minute strike from Geoff Hurst. Afterward, England manager Alf Ramsey referred to the visiting players as "animals" and refused to allow the English team to swap shirts with them.

England went on to win the Final, but the rivalry continued in future World Cups, including the 1986 meeting in which Diego Mardona scored the "Hand of God" goal, the 1998 match which England lost after David Beckham's ejection, and the 2002 match in which Beckham redeemed himself. The current record stands at fifteen matches, with six England wins, four Argentina wins (including one by penalty shootout), four draws and one with no result.

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