Football unites people in Brazil and Argentina and also, football divides the supporters of these two teams worldwide at the same time. For many years the contest between Argentina and Brazil has not been limited to just football, but it has become more than just a mere game.
On and off the pitch – it is war and no matter how much you speak about peace and request everyone to enjoy the game;sadly, it does not remain such – controversy, fights and war of words have always dominated off the pitch.
The Royal Rivalry
The origins of the football rivalry between Argentina and Brazil started even football became popular in both the countries.
Today, few remember wars and other political confrontations between the neighbours, and only recall matches, victories, goals and other sport-related incidents. Their rivalry is found in almost all sports, but 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.
Since their first match in 1914, the national teams have played 105 matches counting friendlies, FIFA World Cup matches, and other official competitions.
According to FIFA, of the 105 matches played between both national teams, Argentina and Brazil hold 38 and 41 victories, respectively, with 26 draws. Argentina has 160 goals, while Brazil has 163.
Only counting World Cup matches, Brazil is slightly ahead with two wins, one draw and one loss, whereas in the Copa America matches, Argentina holds a comfortable lead with 14 victories, 8 draws and 9 defeats. Of the 60 friendly matches, 25 went to Brazil, 20 to Argentina and 16 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 after it was proven that the match between Argentina and Peru was fixed and Brazil were robbed.
The highest scoring wins between these two nations were for Argentina 6–1 – 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.
The most important victory matches between these two nations were, for Argentina, the 2–0 match in the 1937 Copa America final, the tie 0–0 in the 1978 World Cup that helped them to reach the final and their first World 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 that was overshadowed by the controversial Holy Water Scandal.
For Brazil, most important were 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 was a (3–0) win in the 2007 Copa America final played in Venezuela.
Another important victory for Brazil was the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup final, where the Brazilians defeated Argentina 4–1 in the decisive match.
The Barracas’ War
And then there was that match on Christmas Day in 1925 when a football match between the two nations transformed into a war.
Argentina hosted the 1925 edition of Copa America where only three teams participated – Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.
Both Uruguay and Chile decided not to participate – Chile after fearing a repeat of their poor performance the year previous, Uruguay due to an institutional crisis at their football association. At that time, Northern countries did not participate.
Argentina started off the event with a 2-0 victory over Paraguay at the Estadio Ministro Brin y Senguel, Buenos Aires. Then Paraguay were thrashed by Brazil 5-2 at the Barracas Stadium. Then at the same venue, Brazil were thrashed by Argentina 4-1.
Both the teams thrashed Paraguay and the match on the Christmas day turned out to be the final.
Victory for Brazil would force a tiebreak.
At the Barracas Stadium, almost 30, 000 locals joined the party.
In a crowded stadium, the match started in a tense atmosphere: at 27 minutes Lagarto intercepted a back pass by Ludovico Bidoglio and passed the ball to Arthur Friedenreich, who beat Américo Tesoriere with a strong shot. It was 1-0 for the Brazilians.
Three minutes later, Nilo scored the second for the canarinha. The crowd was astonished, because if the Brazilian lead was maintained, a new match had to be played to determinate the champion.
The local fans at the stadium were not at all impressed and tension began to rise when an Argentinian defender Muttis put in a rough tackle on Friedenreich.
A fight broke out, and fans rushed onto the pitch to join the punch-up.
The game was suspended, and only resumed – without a sending-off – after a hug between Friedenreich and Muttis that sealed a truce.
During that time, Argentina had two conflicting football associations.
Boca played under a different governing body in a parallel league, which didn’t recognize the player’s ban.
However, the incident disturbed the rhythm of the Brazilian players and changed the course of the match: at the end of the first half Antonio Cerrotti reduced the deficit and opened the road to recovery.
The equalizer came ten minutes into the second half through Manuel Seoane – who was a great idol of Independiente, but had departed for a year with Boca after picking up a lengthy suspension from Argentine football following an incident with a referee.
The match ended tied 2–2, and Argentina won its second Copa America in history in a rugged match against Brazil.
But that certainly didn’t change the mood in the stands.
Some have claimed that stones rained down on the departing Brazilians. It has been claimed that Brazil’s collapse was a direct result of the intimidation from the terraces, that they genuinely feared for their well-being, even more so if they had gone on to win.
Brazil defender Floriano’s later admission that the team had spent the eve of the game enjoying the city’s nightlife may offer another alternative reason.
Back home, Brazilians were outraged and even staged a protest on the famous Avenida Rio Branco in Rio de Janeiro.
Despite having won the tournament unbeaten, part of the Argentine media considered the team’s performance as “poor”, highlighting that Argentina was the winner only because of being stronger than the other three participants.
The Argentine magazine El Grafico stated Argentina’s virtues were decreasing as the competition went by, with such notable failures.
Centre forward Juan Carlos Irurieta was injured in the first match, being replaced by Manuel Seoane, who did not play as good as he used to be because of his change of position – from left insider to centre forward. The media criticized hardly the performances of Garasini, Alejandro de los Santos, Antonio Cerrotti and Juan Bianchi.
On the other hand, Domingo Tarasconi, Seoane and Martín Sanchez were mentioned as the most remarkable players.
In the case of Tarasconi, his efficient dribbling, passing style and accurate corner kicks were widely praised. Seoane’s goal-scoring prowess was also mentioned as one of the high points of Argentina, setting a record with six goals in four matches.
Nevertheless, Seoane was also criticized for being out of shape due to his overweight.
Another Argentine player harshly criticized was goalkeeper Aaérico Tesoriere:
(Tesoriere) is not the “magician of the goal” that we admired so much due to his security, courage, cold blood, surprising agility and unsurpassed sense of location. Although the rival did not attack so much, he conceded four goals, which were not hard-to-stop shots. Apart from the goals received, Tesoriere’s showed himself insecure and slow, which could have been worse. Undoubtedly, we don’t mean that his performance was disastrous, but we do want to set he is having a tough time in his sports career either his debacle is approaching.
— El Gráfico, about Américo Tesoriere’s performance at the South American Championship
The incidents did not go unnoticed in Brazil and some local newspapers referred to the game as The Barracas’ War!
Brazil and Argentina would not play football against each other for twelve years.