The Rundown

Top 10 greatest sporting rivalries

The Rundown

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This Wednesday, India take on Pakistan in the semi-finals of the cricket World Cup in a match that is being dubbed "the mother of all contests".

With that in mind, we have decided to pick our 10 favourite sporting rivalries.

You could feasibly have a list made up entirely of football derbies and boxing battles, so to avoid that we have decided to select just one rivalry per sport.

Cricket: India v Pakistan

Forget the Ashes - when it comes to cricket there is nothing quite like a clash between India and Pakistan. For a start, there is the political edge; the two countries have fought three wars against each other since independence from Britain in 1947. Then there is the fact that both nations are simply obsessed with cricket. Whether it is a Test match, a ODI or a Twenty20 contest, the intensity is always the same - both on the pitch and in the stands. India have won all four previous World Cup clashes against their rivals, and it will be seen as a national disaster if they don't win on Wednesday. Make sure you tune in to see what all the fuss is about.

Tennis: Martina Navratilova v Chris Evert

McEnroe v Borg, Sampras v Agassi, Federer v Nadal - all great rivalries, to be sure, but the most sustained battle at the top of the tennis tree came in the women's game between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. The pair met an incredible 80 times over their careers (with 60 of those clashes coming in finals) with Navratilova edging the series 43-37. What's more, they did battle in 14 Grand Slam finals with Navratilova again holding a 10-4 edge. Between 1982 and 1986 an astonishing 18 out of 19 Slams were won by the two players. They also had a remarkable contrast in styles which made most of their battles so watchable. As Evert put it just last year: "The beauty of our rivalry was not only that we met so many times, but the contrast: we were night and day, so different in every way and brought our own set of fans to the mix. It was drama."

Football: Boca Juniors v River Plate

Barca v Real? Celtic v Rangers? Liverpool v Manchester United? All special football games - but our football selection is instead the 'Superclasico' between Argentine giants Boca Juniors and River Plate. In 2004 The Observer ran a feature called '50 sporting things you must do before you die' and attending this match topped the list, with the paper saying: "Derby day in Buenos Aires makes the Old Firm game look like a primary school kickabout." Four Four Two magazine have also listed this as the greatest football rivalry of them all.

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The match has been a traditional war of the classes with Boca considered the working class side while River Plate are sometimes referred to as 'Los Millonarios'. No matter where these two teams lie in the league, weeks of hype, and often crowd trouble, surround the game. It is not just Argentina where the game attracts huge attention: the whole of Spanish-speaking South America is gripped by Superclasico fever. When these two do battle, an entire continent stops to watch.

Formula One: Alain Prost v Ayrton Senna

From 1985 up until Senna's tragic death in 1994, all but two of the Formula One World Championships were won by either Prost or Senna. The rivalry between the pair first intensified when Senna joined Prost at McLaren ahead of the 1988 season. The then twice world champion Prost was expected to be the main man, but Senna had other ideas: during that year's Portuguese Grand Prix Senna tried to block an overtaking attempt from Prost that nearly ran the Frenchman into a wall. Prost managed to get past and win the race but was annoyed with Senna, and it was the Brazilian who eventually went on to win the championship. In 1989 things got nastier still; Senna broke an agreement that the two would stay out of each other's way in the San Marino Grand Prix, while at the final and deciding race in Suzaka the pair collided at a chicane when Prost blocked an attempted pass from Senna. The Brazilian was able to finish and win the race, but was later disqualified and banned for illegally racing through the chicane - meaning Prost won the championship. There were further clashes between the two after Prost had moved to Ferrari, but despite all that needle on the track, the pair had a huge mutual respect for each other. Prost was a pallbearer at Senna's funeral in 1994 and said that the day Senna died in a horrible crash at Imola "part of myself died also".

Baseball: NY Yankees v Boston Red Sox

The biggest rivalry in American sports has been going on for over 100 years with the brash NY Yankees and the upstart Boston Red Sox enduring a bitter feud - and this despite the fact that the Yankees dominated their division rivals from 1918 all the way through to 2004. In 1919 the Yankees managed to trade for Boston star Babe Ruth, which helped them to rule baseball - and 'the curse of the Bambino' was a noose around the Red Sox's collective neck until seven years ago, when they ended an 86-year wait for a title. What made that success all the sweeter for Boston fans was the fact that they managed to come from three games to nothing down to defeat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, which sent them to the World Series. Since then the two sides have been seen more as equals, which has ramped up the hatred between the fans even more.

Golf: America v Europe

The Ryder Cup looked to be pretty much a dead duck up until the mid-Eighties with America either winning or defending the Cup in 22 of its first 25 stagings. The Great Britain team became Great Britain and Ireland in 1973 and then Europe in 1979, but it was not until the Europeans ended a barren 28-year run in 1985 at the Belfry that the competition sparked into life. Europe went on to win and then defend the Cup over the next two editions and wounded pride saw America intensify their enthusiasm for the event. In 1989, Seve Ballesteros and Paul Azinger accused each other of cheating and their needle carried on to the 1991 event, which America won. The drama and passion then seemed to increase every year and spilled over in 1999 when the USA staged an incredible final-day comeback to snatch the Cup at Brookline with their wild celebrations infuriating some of the European players. It is a tournament that seems to make good players great, and great players legends.

Figure Skating: Nancy Kerrigan v Tonya Harding

The build-up to the women's figure skating event at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994 was simply astonishing after the US Olympic Committee failed to get Tonya Harding removed from the team. Earlier in the year, Harding's fierce rival Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by a man hired by Harding's ex-husband and her bodyguard. The attack, made with a police baton, was supposed to break Kerrigan's leg. Sufficient damage was done to Kerrigan to keep her out of the US National Championships, which Harding then won to clinch her spot at the Olympics.

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However, Kerrigan's leg was not broken and she recovered sufficiently to compete in Norway too. Harding, now a hate figure around the world, could only finish eighth at the Olympics while Kerrigan won a courageous silver. To this day, Harding insists she was disgusted by the attack on Kerrigan and knew nothing about it, but she received three years probation, 500 hours of community service, and a $160,000 fine after pleading guilty to "conspiring to hinder prosecution of the attackers"; while the US Figure Skating Association eventually found sufficient evidence to ban her for life, concluding that Harding showed "a clear disregard for fairness, good sportsmanship and ethical behaviour".

Athletics: Sebastian Coe v Steve Ovett

Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe dominated middle-distance running three decades ago and split the nation ahead of the 1980 Moscow Games. Ovett, a 24-year-old working-class lad from Brighton who refused to speak to the media, preferred the 1500m while Coe, a charming middle-class 23-year-old from Sheffield, was more at home over two laps. But it was Coe who stole 1500m gold, with his rival third, while Ovett topped the 800m podium ahead of second-placed Coe. Coe went on to defend his 1500m title in Los Angeles but failed to shake off his 800m hoodoo, claiming silver once again. In a 10-day period in 1981 they also traded the world record for the mile between them three times. A dramatised movie about their rivalry is due to be released later this year.

Boxing: Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier

Again, boxing is one of those sports where there are so many rivalries to choose from - but nothing stopped the world quite like the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier bouts. The first fight was held in Madison Square Garden in 1971 when both fighters were still unbeaten. Such was the demand for tickets that Frank Sinatra agreed to take photographs for Life Magazine so he could get a ringside view. After a blazing fight that went the distance, Frazier was handed victory by unanimous decision.

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The second fight, again in New York, three years later saw Ali avenge that defeat so the series was tied at 1-1. The two great champions went to the Philippines for a third and final bout dubbed 'The Thrilla in Manila' which ended when a battered and bruised Frazier failed to return for the 15th round. The two had produced one of the greatest fights of all time, and Ali, who had constantly trash-talked Frazier in the past, finally had some words of respect for his opponent. Ali described the fight as "the closest thing to dying" and added: "He is the toughest man in the world. I couldn't have taken the punches he took. I would have given in long before."

Cycling: Fausto Coppi v Gino Bartali

Fausto Coppi won two Tour de France titles and five Giro d'Italias, while Gino Bartali won two Tour de Frances and three Giros; both would have had even more success had their careers not been interrupted by World War II. The two heroes of Italian cycling though kept a nation gripped for years, with their rivalry splitting the country right down the middle. Coppi was the hero of the industrial north, and seen as the exact opposite to the more conservative, religious Bartali who was the darling of the more agricultural south. Back when they were competing, cyclists represented national teams but Coppi refused to race for the more experienced Bartali when first called into the Italy team and a massive feud developed which reached its head at the 1948 World Championships when both riders climbed off their bikes rather than help each other. Even when they finally seemed to reach peace in 1952 - sharing a drinks bottle during the Tour de France - the pair then argued over who was first to offer the other the bottle.

Have we left your favourite sporting rivalry out? Leave your comments below!

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