The World Cup goal that will forever be associated with the name Diego Maradona is ‘the Goal of the Century’ against England in Mexico, 1986.
Diego Maradona appeared in four World Cup tournaments — more than any other Argentine. (although if Lionel Messi plays in 2022 he will have also played in four.)
Maradona had his World Cup moments in 1982 as a youngster and in 1994 as a veteran and cunningly helped his team to the final in Italy ‘90, but the tournament that made him famous worldwide was the World Cup in Mexico, 1986.
1986 World Cup: The Hand of God
Maradona dominated that World Cup like no single player before or since, leading a fairly average Argentina team to glory, scoring five goals and setting up five more along the way.
The defining match of that tournament, and of his career, came in the quarter final against England.
At the time, the Falklands War was still a recent memory, and Maradona was out to get what he later referred to as “a little bit of revenge.”
Six minutes into the second half, Maradona initiated an attack into the heart of the England defense, before laying the ball off to a teammate and surging forward.
The ball was lobbed back in his direction by a panicked England defender and Diego leaped up in front of the goalkeeper to seemingly head the ball into the net.
English players protested vehemently, and with just cause. Somehow the match officials had missed what most people had seen — the vertically challenged Maradona had actually reached up and punched the ball into the net with his hand.
The cheeky Argentinian famously said after the match that the goal had been scored “a little with the head of Maradona, and a little with the hand of God.”
It was probably the most controversial moment at any World Cup, and English fans have never forgotten his act of deception.
‘The Goal of the Century’ World Cup ’86 Highlight
Nor could anyone forget what happened just four minutes later in the game, when the ‘flying comet,’ as he was known, made sport history.
Maradona received the ball a few yards behind the halfway line and produced a pirouette which left three defenders bamboozled. He then surged along the right hand touchline at pace, before somehow accelerating even more, slaloming past more English players as he hurdled towards goal.
Entering the box, he dummied another defender, left the goalkeeper sprawled on the ground with a jink, then clipped the ball into the back of the net.
‘The Goal of the Century’, as it became known, stunned England, the 115,000 live spectators and amazed the world.
In one of the most famous sport broadcasts in history, Argentine commentator Victor Hugo Morales famously sobbed with joy as he screamed,
“Cosmic kite, what planet are you from that you can leave so many Englishmen in your wake? To make a whole nation come together, screaming for Argentina. Argentina 2, England, 0. Diegoool, Diegoool … Diego Armando Maradona. Thank you God!… For football!… For Maradona!… For these tears! For this 2-0!”
With that goal, Maradona helped secure Argentina’s second World Cup win in history (the first being in 1978).
And in just four minutes, Diego had demonstrated two contrasting facets of his persona — the streetwise scrapper with no qualms in flaunting the rules to get what he wanted, and the footballing genius who seemed to be from another world when he had the ball at his feet.
(← cont. from: Maradona, The Man, the Myth)
cont. reading Dan Colasimone’s stories on Diego Maradona:
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