1986 Mexico

 Maradona’s a cheeky wee bod,
Who claimed he had scored with a nod,
But 'twas clear from the stand,
It was not head but hand
And Diego's, not that of God


This World Cup was supposed to be held in Colombia, but due to financial difficulties, Colombia resigned as host, and a FIFA decision was taken to move the tournament to Mexico, who had the stadiums ready to go. 1986 is remembered for the brilliance and the skullduggery of Maradona; surely no player has ever been so crucial to a team's success as he carried Argentina to a second win in 3 tournaments.


What was going on in the world in 1986?

  • The first PC virus, Brain, starts to spread
  • Space shuttle, Challenger, disintegrates 73 seconds after launch, killing all 7 astronauts
  • Nuclear accident at Chernobyl killed >4,000 people and caused >$7 billion damage to property
  • The 'BigMac index' a semi-humorous measure of purchasing power parity is introduced by The Economist
  • Matt Groenig creates the Simpsons

Back to the World Cup – the format

There was a change to the format in the second round, with the group stage, used in the previous 3 World Cups, abandoned and replaced with a last 16 knockout. This also affected qualification from round one, as 16 of 24 teams went through, meaning that the best 4 of the 6 third placed teams qualified for the second round.


Denmark, Iraq and Canada qualified for the first time.

Iraq and Canada both finished bottom of their groups with no points. Denmark, however, topped their group with 3 wins, beating Uruguay, West Germany and Scotland, before collapsing in the last 16 to lose 5-1 to Spain.

Tournament Facts and Records

  • Mexico became the first nation to host two World Cups
  • Gary Lineker top scored with 6 goals
  • Uruguay's Jose Batista was sent off after less than one minute of play against Scotland for a foul on Gordon Strachan; this is the fastest sending off in World Cup history
  • Iraq's Samir Shaker Mahmoud was given a 1-year ban for spitting at the referee in the match against Belgium

Who should have won but didn't?

We all know that Argentina won with inspired performances throughout the tournament from Diego Maradona, even if his efforts were somewhat tainted by his blatant 'hand of God' hand ball in the quarter-final against England.

Maradona's a cheeky wee bod
Who claimed he had scored with a nod
But 'twas clear from the stand
It was not head but hand
And Diego's, not that of God

But before we get too sorry for England, they were truly awful in this quarter-final and only really started to play after going 2-0 down. The two sides who played to a high quality and faced each other in a classic quarter-final were Brazil, who fielded one of their all-time most highly rated sides, and reigning European champions, France. More on this match below.

In fairness, Maradona's exploits were deserving of a World Cup win, and we should celebrate his skill, albeit through clenched teeth! At least Argentina saw off West Germany in the final, as they would have been unworthy winners.

Great Matches – France v Brazil

Two terrific sides met in the quarter-final; Brazil took the lead through Careca with France levelling from Platini. Midway through the second half, French goalkeeper Joel Bats brought down Branco, and recent substitute, Zico, stepped up to take the penalty which would probably have won the game for Brazil. He missed.

With no more scoring, even in extra time, the match went to penalties. Amazingly both Platini and Socrates missed. The decisive moment came when Julio Cesar hit the post, leaving Luis Fernandez to score the winning penalty for France.

Hero: Josimar

Josimar was Brazil's second choice right back and was not supposed to play. The incumbent was Edson, who started the first two matches but got injured, so Josimar came in for the final group game against Northern Ireland. And what a debut it was, with a stunning strike over Pat Jennings into the top corner of the goal, a goal that surely only a Brazilian could score. And to back it up, Josimar then scored an equally remarkable goal in the last 16 match against Poland for good measure.

These are moments that light up World Cup tournaments. Josimar is a hero. By comparison, when England had to draft in a reserve right back in the 2002 World Cup, they drafted in Danny Mills; enough said! Watch Josimar's heroics here.

Firstly a great strike past Northern Ireland's Pat Jennings.

Then a strike from an impossible angle in the last 16 match against Poland

Villain: The Mexican Wave

The 1986 World Cup also saw the evolution of the Mexican wave, which was amusing for about 5 minutes. This has been a tiresome intrusion into sporting events ever since from a bunch of spectators clearly suffering from attention deficit disorder. The game would be much better without it.

Quick facts:

  • Teams: 24
  • When: 31 May 1986 to 29 June 1986
  • Final: 29 June 1986
  • Matches: 52
  • Goals Scored: 132 (average 2.5 per match)
  • Attendance: 2,394,031 (average 46,039)

Verdict: Good, Bad or Ugly?

This may be a surprise, given the 'hand of God' moment, but I will say this was generally a good World Cup. There were some marvelous moments from Brazil and France, Denmark were lively rookies, and of course, there was the skill and leadership of Maradona.




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