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Football World Cup - 1986: Mexico

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The World Cup: An Introduction | 1930: Uruguay | 1934: Italy | 1938: France | 1950: Brazil
1954: Switzerland | 1958: Sweden | 1962: Chile | 1966: England | 1970: Mexico
1974: West Germany | 1978: Argentina | 1982: Spain | 1986: Mexico | 1990: Italy | 1994: USA
1998: France | 2002: Japan and South Korea

The 1986 World Cup was originally set to take place in Colombia. However, the Colombian economy hit hard times in the early 1980s, and in 1983 the Colombian FA were forced to tell FIFA that they could not afford to host the 1986 Finals. The Mexican FA agreed to take over - but then, in the months leading up to the tournament, Mexico was hit by a series of major and tragic earthquakes, in which many thousands of lives were lost.

For a while, it was uncertain whether the World Cup could be held in 1986 at all. But the stadiums in Mexico that had been chosen to host World Cup games escaped damage, and in the end it was decided that the show would go on. Mexico thus became the first country to host two World Cups.

There was another change in the format for the finals. As in 1982, 24 teams took part, and they were divided into six groups of four teams. But rather than going into a second round of group games, the competition became a knock-out tournament from the second round onwards. The top two teams from each group went through to the second round automatically, where they were joined by the four third-placed teams with the best results in their first round games.

The Tournament

As usual in the World Cup, the first round of the finals produced some surprise success stories. Morocco topped Group F after holding both Poland and England to goalless draws, and then pulling off a shock 3-1 win over Portugal. By doing so, they became the first African team to reach the second round.

England looked to be in trouble after losing 1-0 to Portugal and then drawing with the Moroccans. But in their last first-round game, a first-half Gary Lineker hat-trick helped them beat Poland 3-0. Poland had previously beaten Portugal, and in the end the Portuguese were the only team from Group F to be eliminated in the first round.

The other surprise stars of the first round were Denmark, who stormed through Group E with a 100 per cent record. They beat Scotland 1-0 in their first game, then hammered Uruguay 6-1, with Preben Elkjar-Arsen hitting a hat-trick.

But Denmark saved their most impressive result for last. They beat one of the favourites to win the tournament, West Germany, 2-0 thanks to a Jesper Olsen penalty and a goal from John Eriksen.

For Scotland, it was the familiar story of a brave attempt ultimately bringing no reward. After losing to Morocco, they took the lead against West Germany thanks to a Gordon Strachan goal, but the West Germans fought back to win 2-1. After a 0-0 draw against Uruguay, the Scots were eliminated from the tournament.

Beyond that, the first-round results went largely as expected. Argentina and Italy drew 1-1 when they clashed in Group A. The group's other results left Argentina as group winners, with Italy going through in second place. Mexico and Paraguay did well to push Belgium into third place in Group B, although Belgium's three points saw them safely through to the second round.

The Soviet Union and France dominated Group C, with the Soviets topping the group on goal difference after hammering Hungary 6-0. Brazil coasted through in Group D, picking up maximum points, with Spain coming second. Northern Ireland were unable to repeat their 1982 heroics, going out after drawing 1-1 with Algeria and then losing to Spain and Brazil.

The match of the second round must surely have been the seven-goal thriller between Belgium and the Soviet Union, in which the Soviets' Igor Belanov scored a hat-trick and still ended up on the losing side. The game was tied at 2-2 after 90 minutes, and in extra time Stephane Demol and Nico Claesen put Belgium 4-2 up. Belanov scored from the penalty spot with nine minutes remaining, but neither he nor any of his team-mates could find a fourth goal for the Soviet Union.

Two of Europe's great football nations met in Mexico City, where France defeated Italy 2-0 thanks to goals from Michel Platini and Yannick Stopyra. In the all-South American clash in Puebla, Argentina just edged out Uruguay thanks to a 42nd minute strike from Pedro Pasculli.

Perhaps the most surprising scoreline of the second round came from Queretaro, where Denmark - so impressive in the first round - were thrashed 5-1 by Spain. The Danes actually scored first, with a Jesper Olsen penalty, but they were then taken apart by a devastating performace from Butragueno of Spain, who scored four of his team's five goals.

England progressed to the quarter-finals fairly comfortably, with two more Gary Lineker goals and one from Peter Beardsley enough to see off Paraguay 3-0. West Germany had a much harder time getting past Morocco, for whom Ezaki Zaki had an outstanding game in goal. Morocco held out until the 87th minute, when Lothar Matthaeus finally managed to score the only goal of the game. Brazil brushed aside Poland 4-0, and Mexico kept the home supporters happy with a 2-0 win over Bulgaria.

The quarter-final between Argentina and England was unforgettable because of the two totally different goals scored by Diego Maradona: the first an outrageous piece of cheating, the second a sublime display of skill. Any game between England and Argentina at that time was bound to have a little extra edge. It was, after all, only four years on from the time when Britain and Argentina had been enemies in the Falklands conflict, and there was a history of bad blood between the English and Argentine football teams dating back at least as far as their ill-tempered encounter during the 1966 World Cup.

After a goalless first half, the game turned on an infamous incident in the 51st minute. A botched clearance by Steve Hodge looped up into the air, and Maradona and England goalkeeper Peter Shilton raced to get to it first. Shilton looked likely to be able to punch the ball away - but Maradona got there first with his fist, and punched the ball past Shilton and into the net. Amazingly, none of the officials noticed. Despite England's furious protests, the goal stood. After the game, Maradona somewhat immodestly claimed that the goal had been scored thanks to 'The hand of God!'

Maradona's second goal, four minutes later, could hardly have been more different. He got the ball inside Argentina's half and set off on a dazzling run down the right flank, beating Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Fenwick and Terry Butcher before rounding Shilton to make it 2-0. Maradona had scored his first goal through blatant cheating, and his second through sheer genius.

England refused to give up. Glenn Hoddle forced a fine save from Argentine goalkeeper Nery Pumpido with a 25-yard dipping free kick in the 68th minute. And then, with just over ten minutes left, Lineker scored to bring England right back into the game. At the other end, Argentina also went close: a shot from Carlos Tapia hit the foot of the post.

With two minutes left, John Barnes raced down the left wing, and crossed to Lineker. It looked as if he must score - but Julio Olarticoechea managed to block Lineker's shot and deflect the ball out for a corner. England's last chance had gone, and Argentina had won 2-1.

After the game, Maradona was unrepentant about his 'Hand of God' goal and ecstatic about his team's win. He said: 'That was a final for us. Much more than winning a match, it was about knocking out the English. I will never forget this game.'

The quarter-final between France and Brazil in Guadalajara was another memorable match. Brazil were well on top in the early stages, and Careca put them one up after 18 minutes. It might have been 2-0 within a minute, as a shot from Muller struck the post. But then, five minutes before half-time, France drew level when Michel Platini converted a cross from Dominique Rocheteau.

Brazil had a great chance to regain the lead in the second half when Zico was fouled by French 'keeper Joel Bats in the penalty area. Zico got up to take the kick, but Bats made amends for his foul by saving Zico's penalty.

The match went to extra time, and France had the better of the extra half-hour. But no more goals were scored, and so it was time for a penalty shoot-out. Surprisingly, Socrates failed with the first kick for Brazil. The next six penalties were all converted, and then Platini fired over the bar. Brazil were back on level terms - but not for long. Bats produced a superb save from Julio Cesar, and Luiz Fernandez then scored to put France through 4-3 on penalties.

The other two quarter-finals were also decided on penalties. Jan Ceulemans put Belgium ahead against Spain in the 35th minute, but Spanish substitute Senor equalised with five minutes to go. No more goals were scored in extra time, and Belgium won the shoot-out 5-4. West Germany and Mexico drew 0-0 after extra time, and the West Germans eliminated the hosts 4-1 on penalties.

In the semi-finals, Andreas Brehme put West Germany 1-0 ahead against France in the ninth minute, but the outcome of a tense game remained in doubt until two minutes from time. Then Rudi Voller made it 2-0, and West Germany were in the final for the second World Cup in succession. In the other semi-final, that man Maradona struck twice in the second half as Argentina beat Belgium 2-0.

Jose Brown put Argentina one up midway through the first half of the final, and when Jorge Valdano scored a second for the South Americans in the 55th minute, Argentina looked to be strolling to victory. But then West Germany staged a spirited comeback. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge pulled one back in the 74th minute, and six minutes later Rudi Voller hit the equaliser. The momentutm now seemed to be with West Germany - but with seven minutes remaining, a brilliant pass from Maradona gave Jose Burruchuga the chance to score the winner for Argentina. Eight years on from their home triumph, Argentina were world champions once again.

Tournament Trivia

Despite England's exit in the quarter-finals, the leading scorer in the 1986 finals was a man now best known to young British football fans as a genial BBC TV sports presenter: Gary Lineker. He scored six goals during the 1986 finals, to win the 'Golden Boot' award presented to the tournament's leading scorer. So in this respect at least, Gary got the better of Maradona, who was joint second with five goals.

For The Record

First Round

Group A
  P W D L F A Pts
South Korea3012471

Group B
  P W D L F A Pts

Group C
  P W D L F A Pts
Soviet Union3210915

Group D
  P W D L F A Pts
Northern Ireland3012261

Group E
  P W D L F A Pts
Denmark 3300916
West Germany3111343

Group F
  P W D L F A Pts

Second Round

Belgium 4 : 3 Soviet Union after extra time
Mexico 2 : 0 Bulgaria
Argentina 1 : 0 Uruguay
Brazil 4 : 0 Poland
West Germany 1 : 0 Morocco
France 2 : 0 Italy
Spain 5 : 1 Denmark
England 3 : 0 Paraguay

France 1 : 1 Brazil after extra time
(France won 4-3 on penalties)
West Germany 0 : 0 Mexico after extra time
(West Germany won 4-1 on penalties)
Argentina 2 : 1 England
Belgium 1 : 1 Spain after extra time
(Belgium won 5-4 on penalties)

West Germany 2 : 0 France
Argentina 2 : 0 Belgium

Third Place Play-Off
France 4 : 2 Belgium after extra time

Argentina 3 : 2 West Germany

Tournament Top Goalscorer
Lineker (England) - 6 goals

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