international sporting rivalries

9 International Sporting Rivalries to get Pulses Racing

Japan South Korea Rivalry

6. South Korea vs Japan – football

When South Korea plays Japan, winning has historically meant everything. Take their qualifying clash for the 1954 World Cup: only one team would represent Asia, and it would be decided over two legs. However the South Korean president Syngman Rhee would not allow “past invaders” Japan into the country to play the Korean home leg. Ultimately both legs were played in Japan, and, perhaps spurred on by Rhee’s warning to the team to “throw yourselves into the ocean” if they lost, South Korea duly carried it 7-3 on aggregate.

USA USSR Rivalry

7. US vs USSR – Olympics

Not surprisingly, this rivalry both transcended sport, and throughout the Cold War it lurked behind every occasion the two nations met. Countless Olympic events, in all competitions, contested between the two has been worthy of a grudge match billing.

In particular, the 1972 Munich games the clash for the basketball gold medal descended into farce, with the last few seconds being re-played and the Soviets scoring the points needed to overtake the (previously match-winning) American total. Worse yet, when the US team appealed, the review panel was dominated 3-2 by judges from Soviet countries . Needless to say they were unsuccessful and perhaps understandably, they refused to take their silver medals. Things have cooled in recent years, due to both the obvious political changes and the general sporting dominance of the States over Russia.


8. Canada vs USSR and Russia – ice hockey

Stronger now than American animus with the USSR is the feud between the Russians and Canadians in ice hockey. The Summit series in 1972 stands as a high-watermark in their battles, taking an eight-game series to settle. Eventually won 4-3 by Canada, with one draw, the series – originally intended to good-naturedly pit the two best nations up against one another – was littered with controversy, banned players, refereeing meltdowns and the deliberate injury of Valeri Karlamov in match six.

This rivalry has staying power throughout the generations, too – a team brawl between the junior sides managed to get both nations disqualified from the 1987 World Junior Championships.

Germany Holland Rivalry

9. Germany vs The Netherlands – football

Finally, while English fans might like to think the Germans are their greatest rival of all, this feeling is not shared in Germany: hardly surprising, given the one-sided nature of their matches (with one obvious exception). It’s with the Dutch that most Germans feel a pang of rivalry. The bad blood principally dates back to the Second World War, in this case the German occupation of Dutch territories.

In common with England, the frequency with which Germany come out on top has become a particular thorn in the Netherlands’ side, most famously when they lifted the 1974 World Cup with Holland as beaten finalists. They also helped knock the Dutch out of the group stages of Euro 2012, beating them 2-1 and setting them on their way to zero points in their group.


There are so many more to add to this, add to the discussion in the comments below and let us know some more that we missed 🙂

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