Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ Knocks England Out Of The World Cup On This Day In 1986

Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ Knocks England Out Of The World Cup On This Day In 1986
06:05, 22 Jun 2018

At the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on June 22, 1986, an already fierce footballing rivalry that dated back some two decades escalated even further as England took on Argentina in a game which would provide one of the most controversial moments, not just in the World Cup but in the history of the game.

To say relations between the two countries were strained at the time would be something of an understatement as during the 1966 World Cup in England they had met in a bad tempered quarter-final at Wembley in which Argentine skipper Antonio Rattin was sent off.

England Manager Alf Ramsey was so disgusted at the actions of England’s opponents that day he ran onto the field immediately after the final whistle to stop his players exchanging shirts with their opposite numbers leading to ugly scenes and plenty of pushing and shoving.

To make matters worse, on April 2, 1982, General Leopold Galtieri had led the Argentine military some 300 miles off the coast to the British-occupied Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, which many in the country believed rightfully belonged to them.

In response, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sent a task-force of over 100 ships and almost 30,000 troops to the islands which would lead to a two-month conflict; leaving 907 people dead before Argentina finally surrendered on June 14 that year.

So when the two teams met almost exactly four years to the day after the hostilities ended what was already a mouth-watering clash between Bobby Robson’s England and an Argentina side boasting the greatest player in the world at the time, Diego Maradona, at the 1986 World Cup there was an added edge to say the least.

After a relatively cagey and uneventful first half Argentina began to impose their authority on the game while increasing the pressure on the English defence which ultimately led to the opening goal of the game.

Launching another blistering attack Diego Maradona weaved his way through the English defence with ease before laying the ball off and darting into the box in the hope that he could get on the end of a return pass; only for England defender Steve Hodge to inadvertently flick the ball into his own box where the little number 10 was laying in wait.

Jumping with England ‘keeper Peter Shilton, Maradona appeared to get to the ball first and divert it into an unguarded net; running away in celebration while the England defenders surrounded referee Ali Bin Nasser to protest the nature of the opening strike.

From his position in the commentary box the BBC’s Barry Davies was initially deceived like everyone else into thinking the England players were appealing for an offside decision which couldn’t be given as the ball came off the foot of an England player last.

Only after two television replays did it become clear as to why the protestations were so long and so loud; the only way Maradona had beaten Shilton to the ball was by cleverly punching it into the net with his left hand.

Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser was also deceived, looking at his linesman Bogdan Dotchev for confirmation before awarding the goal and running back to the centre circle with English players in hot pursuit.

“I was waiting for Dotchev to give me a hint of what exactly happened but he didn’t signal for a handball,” Bin Nasser later explained. “The instructions FIFA gave us before the game was that if a colleague was in a better position than mine, I should respect his view.”

Aware of the chaos around him Maradona kept up the pretence, later claiming: "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.'"

If he’d scored the most controversial goal in World Cup history just four minutes later Maradona would be responsible for one of the most celebrated as, after picking up the ball in the centre of the field, he eluded five England players before making it 2-0 to Argentina in a game they would eventually win 2-1 on their way to becoming World Champions.

But despite this display of genius all the talk after the game, not to mention the years that followed, was about the opening goal which, when asked about in a post match press conference its scorer described as being scored: “a little with his head and a little with the hand of God’.

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