1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico
The ball: Azteca Mexico
The winner: Argentina
The runners-up: West Germany
The difference maker: Diego Maradona. Simply put, the Argentine captain became an instant legend thanks to his remarkable performances. He scored braces in the quarterfinals (see below), and in the semis against Belgium to total five goals and five assists, the last of which won the final, in Argentina’s 14 goals. By any metric—shots taken, chances created, defenders beaten and free kicks one—Maradona’s marvel in Mexico still stands as one of the greatest individual displays in the history of the tournament. A statue stands in his honor at the Estadio Azteca, the site of the final.
The lasting memory: Moreso than Pique, the jalapeño pepper that was the tournament’s official mascot, it’s Maradona’s two goals against England that first come to mind whenever anyone mentions the 1986 competition. He scored two of the most famous goals in the history of the sport in the quarterfinal matchup with the Three Lions.
First, Maradona cut through the England midfield and sprayed a ball out wide to Jorge Valdano, who failed to control the ball and lost out to Englishman Steve Hodge, the ball ballooning back toward goalkeeper Peter Shilton after Hodge failed to clear it. Maradona raced on as Shilton darted off of his line and the Argentine controversially used his hand to guide the ball into the net. The goal became known as the “Hand of God,” after Maradona described the score as “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” Two decades later, he admitted, as the world could clearly see, that he intentionally used his hand to score, providing little solace to the still-reeling English players.
There was no controversy four minutes after the infamous goal, though, when Maradona took 11 touches, wiggled and weaved past five outfield players and rounded Shilton to score was FIFA later awarded as “Goal of the Century.”