The 1986 World Cup in Mexico remained in the memory for many reasons: it was the first, and to date the last, that the Argentina Selection won away from home; the one that marked the historic elimination of England, the one that catapulted Diego Armando Maradona as the best in the world, the one with the best goal of the century, and where it was possible to beat Germany in the final, a power that later became unbeatable for Albiceleste.
The June 29, 1986, at Azteca de Mexico, Carlos Salvador Bilardo’s National Team made history. That day was the end of a path that had begun with doubts. Many critics, in some cases with good reason, accompanied that stage of the Narigón with the Selection. But the World Cup was another story.
There a winning, invincible team began to take shape, which had the presence of a player who made the difference above the rest, and that was Diego Armando Maradona. Argentina was part of Group A, where there were also the champions Italy, Bulgaria and South Korea. Bilardo’s team started with a 3-1 win against Korea, the weakest team in the area. He won that match without problems, with two goals from Jorge Valdano and another from Oscar Ruggeri, while the Korean discount came from Park, 17 minutes from time.
In the second shift came a tough test: Italy. A game to find out where the National Team was really standing. The team did not disappoint. La Azzurra started winning 1 to 0 with a disputed penalty that Altobelli converted into a goal after six minutes of play. But Bilardo’s team was going to recover. A great goal from Maradona, who from a very corner position and with a mark on top took an impossible shot that entered through the far post of Galli, put the 1 to 1 final.
On the last day of the group, Bulgaria did not put up much resistance: the 2-0 win, with goals from Valdano and Burruchaga, made it clear that the team was on the right track. The doubts of the difficult tie and the friendlies prior to the World Cup seemed to be left aside. The team finished first in the zone. But the World Cup was starting.
And the round of 16 came, heads-up matches that left no room for error. A doubt, a hesitation, a bad meeting, meant farewell. Uruguay waited in that instance. A team that did not shine for its game, but it was a South American classic and two teams that knew each other quite well. It was not going to be easy. And it wasn’t. Argentina won 1-0 with a goal from Pedro Pablo Pasculli, 42 minutes into the first half. La Albiceleste deserved the victory and it was more against Enzo Francescoli, but anyway the Uruguayan team lost by the slightest difference and harassed the Argentine fence until the end of the match.
However, Bilardo’s team showed that in each game he consolidated a little more. There was already a clear idea of the game, with a Maradona at a very high level, and players who supported him such as Burruchaga, Valdano, Batista, Giusti, Ruggeri, Brown, Enrique …
We said that Maradona had been making a great World Cup, but the match that ended up scoring him, and surely the whole team, was England. With the Malvinas war still very present (only four years had passed) the clash had a lot of revenge. For some, it went beyond football. But the players and the coaching staff focused on football. “We knew that England had killed many Argentines, but the English players had not killed anyone, they had nothing to do with it. There was no mistaking things”, Reflected years later Maradona.
On the 10th he had a brilliant game against the English, with two memorable goals that marked him for the rest of his career. The first, with the hand, the famous “Hand of God”; the second, the best goal of all time: Maradona started in his own field, leaving behind Hoddle, Reid, Butcher, Fenwick and goalkeeper Shilton, and scored the memorable 2-0.
The Uruguayan Víctor Hugo Morales immortalized that epic moment with a story full of emotion: “There Maradona has it, he is scored by two, Maradona steps on the ball, the genius of world football starts on the right, leaves the third and goes to play for Burruchaga … Always Maradona! Genius! Genius! Genius! Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta … Goal … Goal … I want to cry! Good God, long live football! Golaaazooo! Diegoooool! Maradona! It is to cry, forgive me … Maradona, in a memorable run, in the play of all time … Cosmic kite … What planet did you come from to leave so many English on the road? So that the country is a clenched fist shouting for Argentina … Argentina 2 – England 0. Thank God, for football, for Maradona, for these tears, for this Argentina 2 – England 0”.
At the end, Lineker scored 2 to 1 and put the game in suspense. But Argentina ended up imposing with justice and advanced to the final to face Belgium, a team that arrived after eliminating Butragueño’s Spain on penalties.
Again Maradona, who was already irrepressible for the rivals, scored the two goals, two new goals to put Argentina in the final. The result was 2 to 0, with so many of Pelusa all six and 18 minutes into the second half.
Germany expected. The Teutons, runners-up in Spain 1982, had lagged behind Denmark in the group zone. Then, they defeated Morocco 1-0, went through penalties to the semifinals after equalizing without goals against Mexico, and defeated France 2-0, which was another of the favorite teams with Platini as a figure.
The final started with an Argentine advantage. First José Luis Brown headed (23 minutes into the first half), and then Jorge Valdano, 10 minutes into the second half, put Albiceleste 2-0 on the scoreboard. It seemed that everything was heading towards the title. But Germany is always Germany and it never gives up. Thus, with goals from Rummenigge (29 of the complement) and Voller (35), 10 minutes from the end, he tied 2 to 2.
Everything indicated that extra time was coming. But Maradona, who had not had a great game and had been well marked by the rivals, scored a great goal pass for Burruchaga and seven minutes from the end, Argentina was back up on the scoreboard: 3 to 2.
Thus, a historic World Cup ended, where the Albiceleste started from lowest to highest and grew game by game. Statistics indicate that he played seven games, won six and tied one, with 13 goals for and five against.
The Selection ended up consolidating as a team and as a group, and had a Maradona at an extraordinary level to win the second World Cup in its history.