FIFA World Cup

A brief history of Fifa World Cup: Mexico 1986, when Maradona single-handedly led Argentina to glory

Not since Pele in 1970 had one man so inspired a team to glory.

It’s that time again! The greatest show on earth is upon us. Ahead of the Fifa World Cup in Russia, we look-back at the 20 tournaments before and the standout aspects from them.

The second World Cup in Mexico, and for the second time the tournament belonged to one man...

Mexico 1986

You have to be a certain kind of extraordinary to associate your name forever with a global tournament watched by millions. Mention Mexico 1986 and there is only one name that will pop up first in everyone’s head: Diego Armando Maradona.

As in 1970, the players had to endure searing heat and thin air – and midday kick-offs, thanks to television schedules.

The Danes, inspired by Michael Laudrup, were one of the stories of the tournament. They lit up the early stages with an attacking approach that earned them three straight wins, one over West Germany, and the nickname ‘Danish dynamite.’

The match of the tournament took place in the quarter-finals, when Zico’s Brazil faced a Michel Platini-inspired France, who had already knocked out holders Italy, in Guadalajara. A flowing match finished 1-1 before France won the penalty shootout 4-3.

Maradona, of course, established himself as the star of the tournament. Numbers will say he scored five and assisted five, but his impact on the tournament went beyond that. The Argentine’s infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal, when he punched the ball into the net, and a spectacular solo effort put paid to England in the last eight.

“That second goal was the one time in my life where I felt like I ought to applaud the opposition. I didn’t, because I was gutted, but it was undoubtedly the greatest goal I had ever seen,” golden boot winner Gary Lineker is quoted as saying by BBC.

The Fifa archive says this:

“The majesty of one of Maradona’s strikes and the notoriety of another seemed to capture the essence of a man described by France’s L’Equipe newspaper as ‘half-angel, half-devil’.”

Maradona produced more magic to see off Belgium in the semi-finals, scoring another goal to remember.

West Germany beat France in the semi-finals, just as they had four years earlier, but in the final they were quickly 2-0 down to Argentina, Jose Luis Brown and Jorge Valdano scoring. Somehow the Germans recovered. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Voller netted in the closing stages to force extra-time, only for Maradona, inevitably, to send Jorge Burruchaga through for the winner.

Not since Pele in 1970 had one man so inspired a team to glory.

Stats and trivia

  • A quote that will go down in footballing folklore as one of the most memorable, when Maradona described his first goal against England: “a little with the head of Maradona, and a little with the hand of God”
  • Morocco became the first African side to survive the first round of the World Cup and progress in the tournament.
  • Maradona received the ball 60 metres from England’s goal on his way to scoring the goal of the century – and he did it in a mere ten seconds. The players he dribbled past: Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Butcher, Terry Fenwick, Peter Shilton, Butcher again and, finally slotted the ball into an unguarded net.
  • Paraguay’s Cayetano Re became the first coach to be sent off in a World Cup for his behaviour during the first-round game against Belgium where he repeatedly encroached the pitch.
  • How about this for trivia? Julio Olarticoechea, the Argentinian, is the player with the joint-longest surname to play in a World Cup!
  • Leading goalscorer: Gary Lineker (England) – 6 goals
  • Total number of goals scored in the tournament: 132 (2.5 goals per match)

For your viewing pleasure

The final


*THAT* goal by Maradona

BONUS: One of the most devastating World Cup performances by Laudrup and Co


Official poster


With AFP and inputs

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