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  • 05:40 PM ET  08.10

MEXICO CITY -- It is, at this point, the greatest international rivalry in North American sports. When the U.S. meets Mexico in a World Cup qualifier here on Wednesday (4 p.m. ET, mun2, Telemundo), there will be plenty at stake for both teams.

For the U.S., it's a chance to make history by winning at the dreaded Estadio Azteca for the first time after going 0-18-1 in America's house of horrors. And for Mexico it's an opportunity to turn around a flagging World Cup qualifying campaign that has El Tri in fourth place (out of six teams) midway through the 10-game tournament.

Only the top three teams in CONCACAF will earn an automatic berth in World Cup 2010, and a U.S. victory against its archrival would put Mexico in serious danger of missing out on a trip to South Africa. A Mexico victory, on the other hand, would increase the pressure on the Yanks to win their home games in order to seal the U.S.'s sixth straight World Cup bid.

How heated is this rivalry? I've come up with six great moments from over the years to show that (as the great Keith Jackson might say) these two teams just don't like each other. Let's count them down in order:

6. Paco's Hejduk Handslap (2009). El Tri assistant coach Paco Ramírez didn't take kindly to Frankie Hejduk's postgame celebrations after the U.S.'s 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory earlier this year, and so he gave Hejduk an old-fashioned slap to the face in the tunnel after the game. Alas, Ramírez is no longer around: he lost his job with ousted coach Sven-Göran Eriksson.

5. Hermosillo's Header (1997). Mexican striker Carlos Hermosillo always had one of the biggest heads in the game, and he put it to good use in this World Cup qualifier, a 2-2 tie in Foxboro, Mass., that U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller would just as soon forget.
 
4. Dirty Sánchez (2007). Mexican goalkeeper Oswaldo Sánchez was so angry after Landon Donovan sealed yet another 2-0 U.S. victory at this "friendly" in Glendale, Ariz., that the Mexican goalie tried to take out U.S. forward Eddie Johnson with a sucker tackle as Johnson went to celebrate with Donovan. Fortunately for everyone involved, Sánchez missed.

3. Donovan waters the grass (2003). Before the decisive Olympic-qualifying game in Guadalajara, Mexican observers caught Donovan urinating on the hallowed grass at Estadio Jalisco. After a Mexican uproar, the home team spanked the Americans to end their Olympic dream amid chants of "Osama! Osama!"

2. Cobi the Piñata (2002). For whatever reason, the sight of Cobi Jones always turned the Mexicans into head-hunters. As the U.S. salted away its historic 2-0 win in the second round of the '02 World Cup, the normally mild-mannered Rafael Márquez speared Jones in the back, earning a well-deserved red card that Márquez repeated with a rash challenge on U.S. ‘keeper Tim Howard in 2009.

1. Today's Menu: Rack of Lalas (1997). In a U.S. Cup game, Mexico's Ramón Ramírez karate-kicked Alexi Lalas in the groin, causing Big Red to stagger to the turf. "A full-frontal assault on my manhood," Lalas described the blow, which we may just have to re-enact for the camera when we meet up with ESPN's Lalas here today or tomorrow. (If anyone has a YouTube link of the '97 incident, please send it on.)

What are your favorite Rivalry Moments from the U.S.-Mexico tussles over the years? Post them below as the drum keeps beating for Wednesday afternoon at the Azteca...

Grant Wahl’s book, The Beckham Experiment, is in bookstores everywhere. You can order it here. You can also find him on Twitter.

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