Former United States national team defender Alexi Lalas used his pulpit as part of ESPN’s broadcast crew Tuesday to proclaim the U.S.
Any consideration of great rivalries has to start with the two nations that have combined for nine World Cup triumphs in 19 tournaments – Brazil and Italy. Il Derby del Mondo, the “Derby of the World” as the Italians refer to it, traditionally presents a compelling clash between the free-flowing, samba-inspired Brazilians and the cerebral, tactically astute and technically gifted Italians.
Lalas used the paradox of Michael Orozco Fiscal to illustrate the scramble between the U.S.
England and Scotland last met in a 1999 play-off to determine which country would advance to the following summer’s European Championships. The third tenet of Lalas’ argument relates to the “battle for hearts and minds,” as he puts it, encompassing patriotism, power and current geopolitical contentiousness. Argentina’s regional tussles with Brazil gained worldwide infamy during the 1978 World Cup when allegations of match-fixing marred the Albiceleste’s path to the final at Brazil’s expense. Pele, Rivelino, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto captured the world’s imagination with an extravagant exhibition to destroy the Italians in the 1970 World Cup Final. Their most recent World Cup meeting at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in the 1994 final produced a display of defensive magnificence by Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini that has few, if any, equals. Scotland won the second game at Wembley Stadium by a single goal but lost 2-1 on aggregate.

Sovereignty issues are not exclusive to North America, nor can these intangibles boost the U.S.
Diego Maradona’s dismissal during Brazil’s 3-1 win in 1982 and Claudio Caniggia’s late breakaway goal in 1990 have since added to the legend that has been building since 1914. Are we seriously to believe that soccer fans in Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania and even Latin America are more enchanted with the U.S. Paolo Rossi gained revenge in 1982 with a hat-trick against a Brazil side including Socrates, Zico and Falcao that were, many argue, the best team never to lift the trophy.
Geographical or political sparring is absent between the distant countries, yet their fight for global soccer pre-eminence that has been waged since the 1938 World Cup semi-finals is unparalleled.
Fiscal, the California-born son of Mexican migrants, scored the winner in last summer’s friendly when the U.S. Don Hutchison, Scotland’s goalscorer, was an English-born and bred midfielder who played his entire career south of the border with Liverpool, West Ham United, Everton and others.
Mexico rivalry has intensified since the turn of the millennium with the improving Americans winning 11 of 20 meetings to close the gap. Epic contests are those played out on the game’s grandest stages that enthrall worldwide audiences. Its outcome determined Oceania’s regional champions and World Cup representative, matching the prizes awaiting the U.S.

Despite the huge disparity of resources available to both countries, their rivalry has been significantly more competitive than the historical head-to-head series between the U.S. In this respect, Tuesday’s scoreless tie in Mexico City was nothing more than the latest episode of a parochial squabble. He likens Fiscal to Argentines who have represented Italy and African players who have chosen to play for France. The Americans have progressed to the last eight only once since finishing third in the inaugural tournament in 1930. The world’s greatest battles attract a larger audience than 2.2 percent of the population in their home countries. Goals from Brian McBride and Landon Donovan from a second-round game between the sides in 2002 might be a big deal to some sports fans in California and the Carolinas.

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