Are England and Argentina on a World Cup collision course?

I recently spotted a press report suggesting a group of “Argentinian football hooligans” are plotting to attack England fans during the World Cup. How likely is a meeting between fans of the two teams and when could one take place?

Let’s look at the article first. It’s from the Daily Mail, a UK paper which specialises in scaring its readers with apocalyptic headlines. So we get “Argentina's football fans 'plan to fight English supporters' at World Cup”. It’s the least I expected.

Here’s a flavour of the article. 300 Argie troublemakers who are keen supporters of the Argentine government and its increasingly belligerent attitude over the Falkland Islands are to attend the World Cup.

Apparently, and this is where the article started to go awry for me, these hooligans are actually to be so-called “social agents” who tip off police about potential trouble rather than wade in themselves for a scrap.

Argentine police aren’t very happy about the idea of mobs organised “like paramilitary task groups”, even ones who aren’t going to cause any trouble but might give out ice creams or something instead, getting free rein during the tournament.

Top cops from Buenos Aires recently travelled to Zurich to discuss the issue “with security chiefs from other participating World Cup countries”.

Then there are comments about the Falklands, Alf Ramsey calling Argentine players “animals”, the “Hand of God” incident, and Beckham’s penalty winner in 2002.

I’m a little concerned about this article. Not because it may be true (it probably has some basis in fact) or because it is another blatant attempt to stir up antagonism between teams and their fans (given we’re talking about England and Argentina, this seems unnecessary).

No, I’m surprised the Argentinians haven’t learnt the lessons of History. Unless the 300 are to be accompanied by ninjas with superpowers and tanks, they won’t be enough to tackle the 20,000 fans following England in South Africa. Someone in Buenos Aires hasn’t really thought this one through.

Of course this small band of hooligans may actually be “social agents” after all, although I can’t see this helping them. They’ll get a beating once the hardcore fans figure out who is trying to spoil their fun.

Ninjas or peaceniks, it doesn’t look good either way for the 300.

Anyway, here’s the article in full. Feel free to make your own mind up about the veracity or otherwise of its contents. And don’t forget to check out the reader comments.

Turning to the other issue now – when might England and Argentina meet?

I’ve had a look at the fixture list for South Africa and there are a number of options:

The sides could meet in the quarter finals if one or the other (not both) finishes second in the group stage and both go on to win their last 16 clashes. If this happens they will meet in Cape Town or at Soccer City in Johannesburg.

The sides cannot meet until the final if both win their groups or finish second. Imagine that – an England - Argentina final watched by a global audience of billions, over 20,000 England fans and a small band of Argentinians praying the ninjas and tanks are on their way.

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