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After seeing the soccer game against Italy I wondered what the correct equivalent for the German Angstgegner is (Angst=fear, Gegner=opponent).

Explanation: The word itself does not say anything about the general quality of your Angstgegner. He/she can be extremely competent against other opponents, but very, very often it is not the case and this sets him apart from standard, competent antagonists in stories and contests.

So an example with an underdog case: You are under the Top Ten of your discipline. You are self-confident and noone defeats you without a hard fight. So you meet John Doe which has the current number 1054. Piece of cake, right? Well, you play against him and everything goes south quickly. He is a perfect match for your abilities, but not in the positive sense. He easily defends your best shots and his attacks penetrate your defenses easily. What is especially infuriating is that other players with approximately the same rank have no clue what is so special about him, they can defeat him easily.

You are playing tennis and your opponent on the other hand has a specific lob or return which only works for formidable serves...like yours. In karate he has perfected a powerful kick which can be easily countered...but you are unable to learn this specific counter.

In effect, every time you meet he has fun and you lose. And lose and lose and lose. It is always extremely hard to fight your Angstgegner and almost impossible to win. The result is naturally that you begin to fear any encounter and pray to <insert deity/positive influence here> that someone else take him out.

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    Nemesis, or one of it's synonyms.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 3, 2016 at 1:54
  • In ‘footballistic’ terms, I've always heard that Italy and Germany are archrivals
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 3, 2016 at 6:51
  • It almost sounds like a candidate for direct use in English; many people will know Angst already. Even more when it concerns Germany... Aug 2, 2016 at 12:16
  • I know I'm late, but a colloquial term that I've used is kryptonite. Jan 24, 2019 at 17:42

2 Answers 2

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A good English equivalent of Angstgegner is bogey team. Here is a definition from encyclo.co.uk:

Bogey team is British sports slang for a team which usually manages to win despite an apparent weakness.

And here is an extract from the explanation of bogey by one stop english:

Most football clubs have a bogey team, meaning a team that either always beats them or against which they habitually enjoy bad luck, as in "Bolton are rapidly becoming Arsenal’s bogey team".

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Webpages with the term "bogey team" in the title include:

Devising a Game Plan for Germany to Finally Beat Bogey Team Italy

Can Germany overcome its bogey team in Italy?

Gareth Bale: we know Belgium, we might even be their bogey team

Revealed! Your Premier League club's bogey team

I am not aware of a common term for when the Angstgegner is an individual and not a team, although HotLicks' suggestion of nemesis fits pretty well here.

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I don't think there is a suitable counterpart in English. The closest I can think of is (the most) feared opponent in a sense that you are afraid of competing with that particular opponent to the point you need to pray to God.

Actual usage:

It is the fundamental nature of sport than one must beat someone or something. Golf is the only sport in which the most feared opponent is you.

[Golf Guide for Parents and Players]

You could also consider using toughest opponent (to beat).

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