Diego Maradona was often hailed as the best player in the world during the eighties, but it wasn’t until June 1986 he proved it. A series of quite incredible performances for Argentina that year has put Maradona among the greatest players of all-time.
He had been left out of the 1978 squad, mainly due to age, and he was kicked constantly in the 1982 World Cup before earning himself a red card in retaliation to seeing his side capitulate against fierce rivals Brazil.
Maradona was captain of La Albiceleste for the 1986 tournament in Mexico, and was the target of some heavy tackling once again. Yet unlike in Spain in ´82, he was offered some protection from the referees this time.
He led his side to a 3-1 victory in the opening game against South Korea, before making sure his side came from behind to draw against Italy in the second game in the group — with El Diego producing a great finish for the goal. They won their final group game against Bulgaria as Maradona produced a brilliant piece of wing play to set up Burruchuga to head home.
In the knockout phase they brushed aside Uruguay with more magic from the Argentine number 10 on show before what would prove to be his most famous match of his career. The game against England showcased the dark and the bright side of Maradona.
His first goal against England has become known as the Hand of God and his second as The Greatest Goal of All-Time. Lineker pulled one back for England but Argentina held on to advance to the semi-finals where they faced Belgium who were having their best World Cup ever.
In the first half Maradona teases the Belgium defence time after time, but can’t quite find a way through. He does manage to smash a half volley off the bar which Valdano followed up to seemingly put the Argentinians in the lead but it was ruled out as Valdano had clearly used his hand.
Belgium tried to hit Argentina on the counter attack during the game and had two glorious chances to capitalise, but poorly timed passing and runs let them down.
A few minutes into the second half Maradona makes a perfectly timed run between two defenders to somehow poke home an incisive pass from Burruchaga to give Argentina a deserved lead.
Minutes later Maradona confirms Argentina’s place in the final with another awesome display of power, pace and dribbling as he leaves the Belgium defence bamboozled and finishes with aplomb…
What Happened Next?
Argentina beat West Germany 3-2 in the final, winning it with just six minutes to go when Maradona produces a wonderful pass for Burruchaga to run onto and finish. It had looked like the Argentines had blown it when they let a two goal lead slip.
Maradona and Argentina couldn’t quite defend their title four years later in Italy, losing to the West Germans late on in the final.
Artist impression of Maradona’s goal by Germán Aczel
Argentina v Belgium – complete 2nd half