The rivalry between Argentina and Uruguay is one of the longest-running in international football and continues this Friday in the latest round of qualifying matches for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. FIFA.com sets the scene for the fixture’s latest instalment by recalling five of the greatest River Plate derbies of all time.
Though some argue that they first crossed swords in May 1901, the fact is that this meeting one year later marks the starts of the rivalry between Uruguay and Argentina, and is regarded as the first international friendly featuring teams from outside the British Isles.
The game was played in the Uruguayan capital and the result remains to this day the biggest away win in the history of the fixture. The countries have met 178 times in all, with Argentina winning 83 of those games, drawing 41 and losing 54, while scoring 287 goals to Uruguay’s 214. No two other countries have faced each other as many times in the history of the sport.
The inaugural FIFA World Cup was staged in Uruguay and, just as they had done at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Amsterdam 1928, the River Plate rivals met in the Final.
The match was played before a full house at the Estadio Centenario, with goals from Carlos Peucelle and Guillermo Stabile giving the Argentinians a 2-1 lead at half-time, this after Pablo Dorado had put La Celeste ahead. The tide would turn after the break, however, as the tenacious Uruguayans pinned their opponents back and ran out comfortable winners thanks to further goals from Pedro Cea, Victoriano Iriarte and Hector Castro.
“We ran out of steam, to tell you the truth,” Argentina’s Francisco Varallo told FIFA.com in one of his last interviews. “I was carrying an injury and had to go off. From that point on they (Uruguay) started to get stronger and, with all due respect to my team-mates, we weren’t gutsy enough. How I cried that day. Even now when I look back it still makes me angry.”
It would be a whole 56 years before Argentina exacted revenge.
Pedro Pablo Pasculli was the hero for the blue-shirted Albiceleste as they overcame Omar Borras’ Uruguay, who wore white for the occasion. While the Uruguayans kept a very close eye on Diego Maradona, they forgot all about the Lecce striker, who was totally unmarked when he swept the ball home from close range after Eduardo Acevedo had inadvertently knocked the ball into his path.
“That was no ordinary victory. The Uruguayans were so paranoid back then, it annoyed me. What’s more, it was our first World Cup win over Los Yoruguas in 56 years.” Taken from Maradona’s biography Yo soy el Diego, those words reflect the tension of a tetchy game in which seven cards were shown and which proved a vital stepping stone in Argentina’s journey to their second world title. A starter in this game and the opening group match against Korea Republic, match-winner Pasculli would not feature again in the tournament.
The two foes went into the final round of qualifiers for South Africa 2010 with fourth place and the last direct ticket to the world finals at stake. A tense game of few chances was settled by an unlikely hero in Mario Bolatti. After coming on as a substitute in the 79th minute, midfielder Bolatti thrashed home a loose ball in the box to give La Albiceleste their first win in Montevideo in 33 years and a place in South Africa.
The evening came to a close with a notorious press conference in which Argentina coach Maradona directed some choice words at his country’s reporters. Though beaten on the night, Los Charrúas went on to join their neighbours in the finals after overcoming Costa Rica in a two-legged play-off.
Having gone 18 years with a major title, Argentina had high hopes of success when they hosted the 2011 Copa America. Emerging from the group phase, they faced Uruguay in the quarter-finals, providing them with an opportunity to avenge the 1-0 semi-final defeat La Celeste inflicted on them in Buenos Aires in the 1987 Copa.
There was to be no revenge for La Albiceleste, however. After first-half goals from Uruguay’s Diego Perez, who was later sent off, and Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain, the match went to penalties, with Carlos Tevez missing his spot-kick to give Los Charrúas victory. They would go on to win the continental title for a record 15th time, one more than their arch rivals from across the River Plate.