1986: Maradona and the ‘Hand of God’

Diego Maradona single-handedly delivered Argentina its second World Cup title, scoring five goals and setting up several others.

Magician or a cheater, the never ending debate: Argentina’s Diego Maradona has his left hand at the ball’s level as he scores the controversial first goal beating English goalkeeper Peter Shilton in the quarterfinals at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on June 24, 1986. Argentina won 2-1.   -  Getty Images

This was Diego Armando Maradona’s World Cup. The Argentine genius, who, on his own, had turned perennial backbenchers Napoli into a powerhouse in the competitive world of Italian club football, was at the height of his prowess and was unquestionably the greatest star to watch out for in the mega event. He single-handedly delivered Argentina its second World Cup title, scoring five goals and setting up several others. Though Englishman Gary Lineker finished as the top-scorer it was Maradona who was the idol of the meet and went home as the tournament’s most prodigious player.

His grip over the competition reached its peak during the grudge quarterfinal encounter against archrival England. While his “Hand of God” goal remains one of the most litigious moments in Cup history, there can be no disputing the brilliance of his next strike. This second goal was pure art, with Maradona on a solo run, 60 yards out, dribbling past five English players, the ball glued to his feet. Once inside the penalty area he slipped it past goalkeeper Peter Shilton, leaving everyone in awe of his finery. In a 2002 FIFA online poll, this effort of his was voted as the best goal ever and a statue of El Diego was erected outside the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, immortalising those few seconds of unmatched class.

Host: Mexico

Teams: 24

Matches: 52

Goals: 132

Attendance: 23,94,031

Winner: Argentina

Golden Boot: Gary Lineker (ENG) — 6 goals

Best Goalkeeper: Jean-Marie Pfaff (Belgium)

Best Player: Diego Maradona (ARG)

In the final against West Germany, too, Maradona got the better of his marker Lothar Matthaus and had the decisive impact on the outcome of the game, which Argentina eventually won 3-2.

Constantly hacked and shackled, he stepped up, with the game tied at 2-2, releasing Jorge Burruchaga almost from the half-line with a defence splitting pass. The forward ran 40 yards before dutifully thrashing it through the legs of ’keeper Harald Schumacher with just a few minutes left in regulation time.

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