Few games in World Cup – or football – history have had a greater impact on the sport than Argentina’s quarter-final victory against England in Mexico City in 1986.
The match, which took place at the historic Estadio Azteca, was taken over by Argentina’s captain and No.10, Diego Maradona, who was regarded as the greatest player on the globe at the time – and, by some, of all time.
However, while Maradona’s second goal of the game captured his genius maybe better than any other in his career, his first was an equally perfect example of his ability to cause controversy and divide opinion.
Of course, we’re talking about the ‘Hand of God,’ as Maradona dubbed the opening goal after blasting an aerial ball past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. It was and still is the most incredible moment in England’s and Argentina’s rivalry, which continues to this day.
None of the authorities noticed it, and no one else did for a while, except the England players nearby, who launched desperate cries to referee Ali Bin Nasser.
Barry Davies, an English broadcaster, questioned why they were alleging offside given the ball had clearly been played by Hodge, not an Argentina player.
Davies spotted that Maradona’s arm was raised on a replay, but there was still some doubt at that point as to what had actually happened.
Maradona sold it well when he wheeled away in joy, yet his short glances at the officials were telling.
Bin Nasser, who was standing outside the box closer to England’s left touchline, was possibly somewhat obscured by Shilton and the crowd, but the linesman on the opposite side, Bogdan Dotchev, should have had an unimpeded view.
England moved forward in an attempt to counter, but Maradona increased Argentina’s lead with a goal that, as Davies put it, left no doubt.
After the match, when TV replays and photographs had clearly established that Maradona had handled the ball, the scorer gave his first goal its famous name by commenting that it had gone in “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.
He added later: “I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came… I told them, ‘Come hug me, or the referee isn’t going to allow it.'”
Bin Nasser and Dotchev blamed each other. “I was waiting for Dotchev to give me a hint of what exactly happened but he didn’t signal for a handball,” Bin Nasser said years later. “And the instructions FIFA gave us before the game were clear – if a colleague was in a better position than mine, I should respect his view.”
After a match like that, Argentina had to go all the way. Maradona scored twice to secure a 2-0 win over Belgium in the semi-finals and West Germany beat France by the same margin to book their first trip to the Estadio Azteca of the tournament.
In the final, Argentina won the match 3-2 with Maradona getting a late, late winner.
They were world champions again.