The Argentine football player scored with his hand against England’s Peter Shilton before scoring ‘the goal of the century’ minutes later.
“A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”, Diego Armando Maradona told a melee of reporters at the Azteca Stadium in 1986.
The Porteno, who died at the age of 60 on Wednesday, was describing the responsible parties for his first of two goals against England in a game which would go down in football infamy and legend.
The Napoli star’s attribution of a goal and blatant piece of cheating to God would incense England fans, delight Argentines and secured him a place in the hearts of Scotland supporters.
An Argentina side heavily reliant on 25-year-old Diego Maradona took on an England side which featured the talents of Gary Lineker, Glenn Hoddle and Terry Butcher among others.
In the 51st minute with the game goalless, Maradona attempts to play a one-two with teammate Jorge Valdano on the edge of England’s box. Valdano is unable to keep it under control with Three Lions midfielder Steve Hodge looping the ball towards goalkeeper Peter Shilton with the outside of his boot.
Maradona, seven inches shorter than Shilton, contested for the loose ball, with his left hand, while Shilton attempted to punch with his right. Maradona would win the race of limbs, knocking the ball into Shilton’s net.
The Napoli player would initially celebrate while clocking the reactions of referee Ali Bennaceur and his officials, before leaping triumphantly in front of travelling Argentinian supporters following the confirmation of the goal.
Bennaceur would consult with one of his linesman following protestations by England before confirming that the goal stood.
Four minutes later Maradona would score what has been become known as the “Goal of the Century”, comabtively dribbling past a number of England defenders and then ‘keeper Shilton before sliding the ball home to extend Argentina’s lead.
Why was the game so important?
A place in the semi-finals of the World Cup awaited the winner, but for Argentina there was more at stake.
Four years prior to the game England and Argentina were opposing parties in a bitter conflict over the status of the remote Falkland Islands.
Great Britain would inflict heavy losses on Argentinian forces who would surrender after 74 days handing power back to the UK.
Defeated soundly Argentina would continue to stake a claim to the islands and four years on Diego Maradona saw the fixture as an opportunity to restore some pride.
Speaking in Asif Kapadia’s 2019 documentary, Diego Maradona would say: “We, as Argentinians, didn’t know what the military was up to. They told us that we were winning the war. But in reality, England was winning 20-0. It was tough. The hype made it seem like we were going to play out another war. I knew it was my hand.
“It wasn’t my plan but the action happened so fast that the linesman didn’t see me putting my hand in. The referee looked at me and he said: ‘Goal.’ It was a nice feeling like some sort of symbolic revenge against the English.”
What happened after the game?
Diego Maradona would deliver his famous press conference, stating “Un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios,” (“a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”) and the media would act with a mixture of outrage and delight.
Argentina comfortably saw off Belgium in the semi-finals with a 2-0 victory, both goals scored by Diego Maradona, before contesting a World Cup final for the ages, defeating West Germany 3-2 with Maradona assisting the decisive third goal for the South Americans.
Diego Maradona’s performances at the ‘86 World Cup are regarded as one of the great individual performances at an international tournament.
What have Diego Maradona and Peter Shilton said about the goal?
Remarkably, the fallout from the goal would stretch for decades with Maradona often stoking the flames of English discontent.
Wiritng in his 2000 biography, Maradona described the goal as follows: “Now I can say what I couldn’t at that moment, what I defined at that time as The Hand of God. What a hand of God, it was the hand of Diego!”
England goalkeeper Shilton remembered the goal less fondly, stating: “None of us expected what happened next. How could we? He challenged me for a high, looping ball, but knew he wouldn’t get it with his head, so he punched it into the net. A clear offence. Cheating.
“As he ran away to celebrate he even looked back twice, as if waiting for the referee’s whistle. He knew what he had done. Everybody did — apart from the referee and two linesmen.”
Writing in the Daily Mail on Wednesday, shortly after Maradona’s death, Shilton stated that he had still not forgiven Maradona.
He said: “What I don’t like is that he never apologized…never at any stage did he say he had cheated and that he would like to say sorry. Instead, he used his ‘Hand of God’ line.
The pair have never met since the goal.