The blazing hot afternoon in Mexico City was hotter at the famous Estadio Azteca as England took on Argentina in the quarterfinal of 1986 World Cup. England, had a horrific start to their World Cup campaign with a loss and a draw. But a lean striker, not so much known to the world, brought them back in the campaign. Gary Linekar, scored a vital hat-trick against Poland to send his side through to the last 16. Till then he had already scored five goals in the tournament.
On the other hand, Argentina had the best player in the world. Maradona was going through the best phase of his career and the whole Argentine team was riding high on his brilliance. But the Argentina team was more than just Maradona. The team consisted of players like José Luis Cuciuffo, Oscar Ruggeri, Nery Pumpido, Jorges Burruchaga and Jorges Valdano. Thus, they were surely considered strong contenders to win the World Cup.
The match was a cagey affair in the first half. The real action started in the second half. Six minutes into the second half, Maradona skipped past Glenn Hoddle and then beat two more England players. A slight slide to Valdano enabled him to make his way into the box. The ball skipped up on Valdano’s foot which went to Steve Hodge whose reckless lobbed backpass saw England goal-keeper Peter Shilton running out to attempt to punch clear. Maradona, shorter than Shilton, leapt for it at the same time and with his raised fist managed to force the ball into the empty net. England players complained vociferously about the handball but the match officials failed to spot it and awarded the famous ‘Hand of God’ goal to the little master.
Maradona’s notoriety could have been the only topic of discussion in that match, but that moment of supreme impishness was shed by a glorious solo strike by the legend. Just five minutes later Maradona received a pass in his own half. Evading two English opponents, Maradona ran down the right wing to sped away from Peter Reid. After crossing the halfway line, he penetrated into the England box where he met Tery Butcher. But to his dismay, Maradona turned towards the other side. Terry Fenwick never had a chance of stopping the ball and simply tried to foul Maradona. But the great man skipped him and had one more player to beat. It was Shilton himself. The goal-keeper anticipated a shot into the far corner but Maradona dragged the ball past him with his left foot before pushing it into the empty net.
“You have to say that’s magnificent… there’s no debate about that goal,” commented BBC commentator Barry Davies on the goal that was later declared by FIFA as ‘The Goal of the Century’. Maradona lifted the World Cup after Argentina beat West Germany 3-2 in the final eight days later.