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The 1986 World Cup was held in Mexico, which became the first country to have the honour of hosting the world's largest football tournament twice. Initially the games had been awarded to Columbia. By 1983 it had become clear that Colombia could not afford to host the games, and the increasing corruption and drug-related violence in Colombia made it hard to produce an argument in favour of further financial assistance. Mexico were awarded the finals at short notice as they were familiar with the difficulties in hosting the tournament, to the dismay of the USA, whose own bid attempt was presented to FIFA by Henry Kissinger. Clearly it would be improper to say the friendship between FIFA head honcho Joao Havelange and Emilio Azcarrago head of Televisa Mexicana had any affect on this decision.

Mexico City was hit by an earthquake in 1985, killing thousands. As none of the World Cup stadiums were structurally damaged it was still possible for the World Cup to take place. 121 teams applied to enter the competition and as in Spain 1982, there would be 24 teams competing in the finals. Countries which were competing in their first world cup finals were; Canada, Denmark and Iraq.

The format

The 24 competing teams were split into 6 groups of 4, with the teams in each group playing in a round robin format. After each team had played the others in their group once the two leading teams would be go through to the next round and would be joined by the next 4 teams with the best record in the group, provided they had finished third. This would make up the magic number of 16 which would enable a straight knock-out tournament to proceed with the winners progressing to the next round. If the score of the match was level after 90 minutes, a further half hour of extra time would be played. If at the end of extra time the scores were still level a penalty shoot-out would decide the winner.

To decide which of the third placed teams would proceed to the second round, the draw for the second round was mapped out before hand using descriptions such as, "Winner of Group A vs Best placed 3rd team out of groups B, C and D." Although this looked over-complicated the combinations were made in such a way to give no one group an advantage over any other.

The venues

Matches were held at 12 stadiums spread throughout Mexico.

	Group A						

Bulgaria     1 1  Italy        (Azteca, Mexico City)
Argentina    3 1  South Korea  (Olympico, Mexico City)
Italy        1 1  Argentina    (Puebla)
South Korea  1 1  Bulgaria     (Olympico, Mexico City)
South Korea  2 3  Italy        (Puebla)
Argentina    2 0  Bulgaria     (Olympico, Mexico City)

Argentina       3  2  1  0  6  2  5      
Italy           3  1  2  0  5  4  4      
Bulgaria        3  0  2  1  2  4  2 
South Korea     3  0  1  2  4  7  1  

The opening match of the second Mexican World Cup featured the holders Italy facing Bulgaria. The Italy team did not look as formidable as their 1982 team and despite a goal from Alessandro Altobelli they could only draw with Bulgaria. Argentina looked threatening with an easy victory over South Korea followed by a share of the spoils against Italy, earned with a good low shot from Diego Maradona.

Italy needed to beat the Koreans to make certain of qualification. This brought back memories of the 1966 North Korean side who had humiliated the Italians in Middlesbrough. It was not to be this time round. Italy won partially helped by a Korean own goal. Altobelli would have had a hat-trick but for a missed penalty. The change in the format since the 1982 World Cup meant that Bulgaria where able to qualify for the second round from third place in the group and without ever winning a World Cup finals game.

	Group B						

Belgium       1 2  Mexico       (Azteca, Mexico City)
Paraguay      1 0  Iraq         (Toluca)
Mexico        1 1  Paraguay     (Azteca, Mexico City)
Iraq          1 2  Belgium      (Toluca)
Iraq          0 1  Mexico       (Azteca, Mexico City)
Paraguay      2 2  Belgium      (Toluca)

Mexico         3  2  1  0  4  2  5      
Paraguay       3  1  2  0  4  3  4      
Belgium        3  1  1  1  5  5  3 
Iraq           3  0  0  3  1  4  0 

Mexico's group looked the weakest on paper, and the hosts managed an strife-free passage to the next stage. The major addition to football culture here was the introduction of the Mexican Wave. It was actually produced due to the immense humidity and heat in the stadium, fans began fanning themselves. The most fresh air could be produced by a whole column of fans doing so at the same time and this led to the 'wave' spreading round the stadium.

In the event Mexico, managed to qualify comfortably from their group. Paraguay were runners-up and in the best game of the group drew 2 each with Belgium. Both Paraguay's goals were scored by Roberto Cabanas formerly of New York Cosmos. Iraq could not match the football played by the other teams in the group and went home without a win and only one goal, scored against the Belgians who started off poorly but would improve as the tournament progressed.

	Group C						

Canada         0 1  France       (León)
Soviet Union   6 0  Hungary      (Irapuato)
France         1 1  Soviet Union (León)
Hungary        2 0  Canada       (Irapuato)
Hungary        0 3  France       (León)
Soviet Union   2 0  Canada       (Irapuato)

Soviet Union     3  2  1  0  9  1  5      
France           3  2  1  0  5  1  5      
Hungary          3  1  0  2  2  9  2 
Canada           3  0  0  3  0  5  0  

The French had come with high hopes as European championship winners, but they stuttered through their opening game against a Canada team mainly consisting of college students. A late strike from Jean-Pierre Papin gave France a one nil victory. Meanwhile in the other opening game Hungary were gubbed six goals to nil by the USSR. The scoreline reflected the Soviet Union's early dominance and goals and Hungary caved in and their campaign never recovered from this disastrous start.

So the game between France and the USSR would decide the group winner. It was a close contest but the humidity clearly affected the pace the game was played it. Vasili Rats scored first for USSR, a long range effort from about thirty yards out that was caught sweetly and flew past the French keeper Joel Bats. France equalised through the youthful component of their aging midfield Luis Fernandez and a draw would be the final outcome. Hungary managed to beat the Canadians to give their fans something to cheer about, for the Canadians it was an achievement just to be there, and despite not scoring a goal they never looked out of place in the tournament.

	Group D						

Spain            0 1  Brazil           (Jalisco, Guadalajara)
Algeria          1 1  Northern Ireland (Tres de Marzo, Guadalajara)
Brazil           1 0  Algeria          (Jalisco, Guadalajara)
Northern Ireland 1 2  Spain            (Tres de Marzo, Guadalajara)
Northern Ireland 0 3  Brazil           (Jalisco, Guadalajara)
Algeria          0 3  Spain            (Tecnologico, Monterrey)

Brazil            3  3  0  0  5  0  6      
Spain             3  2  0  1  5  2  4      
Northern Ireland  3  0  1  2  2  6  1 
Algeria           3  0  1  2  1  5  1 

The opening game of Group D was between Spain and Brazil, an entertaining affair which was decided by a late goal from the Brazilian midfielder Socrates. In their next match Spain took revenge for their 1982 defeat from Northern Ireland by comprehensively beating them 2-1, thanks to goals from Emilio Butragueno and Julio Salinas. As Northern Ireland had failed to neat the final team in the group Algeria, they would require a good result against Brazil to progress to the next round.

Brazil swept aside Northern Ireland, who could find no answer to the attacking forward runs of right-back Josimar and the finishing of Careca. Goalkeeper Pat Jennings earned his 119th cap for Northern Ireland in this match setting a new world record.

	Group E						

Uruguay       1 1  West Germany    (Queretaro)
Scotland      0 1  Denmark         (Nezahualcoyotl)
West Germany  2 1  Scotland        (Queretaro)
Denmark       6 1  Uruguay         (Nezahualcoyotl)
Denmark       2 0  West Germany    (Queretaro)
Scotland      0 0  Uruguay         (Nezahualcoyotl)

Denmark          3  3  0  0  9  1  6      
West Germany     3  1  1  1  3  4  3      
Uruguay          3  0  2  1  2  7  2 
Scotland         3  0  1  2  1  3  1  

Scotland had qualified for the 4th World Cup in a row, this time managed by Alex Ferguson who had taken the job after the death of Jock Stein due to a heart attack at Cardiff Arms Park during the qualification match against Wales. The opening game was with Denmark, playing in their first World Cup. They were a good side though and triumphed one nil, with a goal from Preban Elkjaer. Denmark would prove woat a good team they were with a 6-1 defeat of Uruguay. Elkjaer scored a hat-trick in this game but the real ringmaster was Michael Laudrup, who bemused the Uruguay defence with his dribbling skills and vision.

Next Scotland would play West Germany, and would take the lead through the little flame-haired midfielder Gordon Strachan. It was a lead that would soon be wiped by a well organised West German side who would go onto control and win the game. In the last game Scotland needed a win, while Uruguay, who had secured a draw against the Germans, simply required another draw to progress. The cynical game Uruguay played was epitomised by the crude challenge by Jose Batista on Strachan in the opening minute of the game. Batista was sent off and the game would be an excruciating dull affair as Scotland failed to create chances for their attackers, while Uruguay would sit back and kill the game at any opportunity. The game ended goalless and Scotland went home.

In the other game, Denmark further demonstrated their ability by beating the Germans, though key players from both sides were rested in this game.

	Group F						

Morocco      0 0  Poland     (Universitario, Monterrey)
Portugal     1 0  England    (Tecnologico, Monterrey)
England      0 0  Morocco    (Tecnologico, Monterrey)
Poland       1 0  Portugal   (Universitario, Monterrey)
Portugal     1 3  Morocco    (Jalisco, Guadalajara)
England      3 0  Poland     (Tecnologico, Monterrey)

Morocco         3  1  2  0  3  1  4      
England         3  1  1  1  3  1  3      
Poland          3  1  1  1  1  3  3 
Portugal        3  1  0  2  2  4  2 

Group F threw up a range of quirky results. England lost their opening game to Portugal, due to a combination of bad defending and an inability to play in humidity. England were also hampered by their captain Bryan Robson who was playing despite not being fully fit and with a shoulder that had been dislocated three times in the previous year. In their next match against Morocco, Robson's shoulder popped out again and he had to depart from the tournament. Then the stand-in captain Ray Wilkins was sent-off for throwing the ball at the referee, and ten-man England were fortunate to hold out for a goalless draw against Morocco.

Poland, the seeded team of the group had also failed to score or concede when they played Morocco, but had beaten Portugal in their next match, in two forgettable games. England would need to beat Poland to progress. Bobby Robson, under pressure from his players, reshuffled his pack for the Poland game, replacing the uninspiring Mark Hateley with Peter Beardsley and bringing Peter Reid, Trevor Steven and Steve Hodge into the midfield. The changes clicked, and Gary Lineker, granted more room to work in due to the unselfish runs and play of Beardsley scored three in the first half.

In the other game Morocco suddenly discovered how to score with Abderrazak Khairi scoring two, and deservedly beat Portugal, who had deteriorated into internal squabbling after their opening victory. Morocco unexpectedly topped the group, becoming the first African team to successfully negotiate the opening round of a World Cup.

Second Round

Bulgaria 0 2 Mexico
(Azteca, Mexico City)

Mexico easily won this one against a one-dimensional Bulgarian team. Manuel Negrete opened the scoring with a spectacular volley.

Denmark 1 5 Spain

Denmark had emerged as one of the surprises of the tournament, and got off to a reasonable start in this game, going ahead thanks to a Jesper Olsen penalty. But just before half time Olsen carelessly played a loose ball across his own penalty area and the vulture, Emilio Butragueno pounced to convert this simple chance.

After half time, Butraguenoo scored again, this time with a header from a corner. Denmark wobbled, and threatened to fight back, but when a penalty was conceded after Soren Busk fouled the rampaging Butrageuno Denmark simply fell apart. Butrageuno ended the game with four goals, the first player to achieve such a feat in the World Cup since Eusebio in 1966 against North Korea.

Belgium 4 3 Soviet Union

One of the best games in the World Cup, the Soviets seemed capable of overcoming a Belgian side that had done little of note so far in the tournament. Two goals from the Russian striker Igor Belanov had handed the initiative to the USSR, although Belgium had scored through the little Sicilian=bred midfielder Enzo Scifo. But late in the game a long ball beat the offside trap set by the Soviet defence and the Belgium forward Jan Ceulemans only had Rinat Dassajev the goalkeeper to beat, and Ceulemans scored.

So extra time was needed, and the Belgiums were better mentally equipped, compared to the Soviets whose minds were perhaps already on the quarter-finals. Belgium scored two cheap goals, and although Belanov was able to complete his hat-trick with a late penalty, once Belgium had their foot in the quarter-finals they would not relinquish their prize.

Brazil 4 0 Poland
(Jalisco, Guadalajara)

The scoreline here is a little misleading, Brazil did not dominate this game, they just converted their chances whereas Poland wasted theirs. Brazil also benefited from two penalties, and in the end won control of the midfield with quality players such as Junior, Socrates and Alemao.

Argentina 1 0 Uruguay

Argentina versus Uruguay was one of the oldest rivalries of the World Cup, and the elements responded to the enmity of the River Plate by unleashing a thunderstorm during the second half, drenching players but unable to stifle the talent of Diego Maradona. Despite the efforts of Uruguayan Miguel Bossio to man-mark Maradona, the little Argentinean ran the game. Not only did a Maradona run pave the way for Pedro Pasculli's goal, he caused problems for the Uruguayans all through the game, hitting the crossbar from a free kick and having another goal unjustly ruled out for foul play.

France 2 0 Italy
(Olympico, Mexico City)

Italy, the holders were knocker out at this early stage, but never looked like trobling a strong French side. Michel Platini, despite not looking fully fit at any time in the tournament, opened up the scoring with a clever chip. France put together several good, fluid, passing moves that invariably led to chances and in the second half their victory was made complete by Yannik Stopyra.

Morocco 0 1 West Germany
(Universitario, Monterrey)

A dull game, Morocco played well but defensively against a sterile German side and neither side would create much in the way of chances. Maybe the heat had a part to play in this. West Germany improved a tad in the second half after Pierre Littbarski but the only goal would come in the dying minutes of the game.

A freekick was awarded to the Germans just outside the penalty area. Lothar Matthaus took the kick, directing the ball through a visible gap in the Moroccan wall, and into the goal.

England 3 0 Paraguay
(Azteca, Mexico City)

A comfortable England win in the end, but not before the English goalkeeper Peter Shilton had performed some top-class skills after dodgy defending by his centre halves Terry Butcher and Alvin Martin. The team that had demolished Poland could still cause Paraguay problems, and two more goals from Gary Lineker plus one from Peter Beardsley gave England the victory.

Quarter Finals

Brazil 1 1 France (3:4 penalties)
(Jalisco, Guadalajara)

Brazil and France were the two most technically gifted sides in this World Cup, and produced a great game leaving the neutral bemoaning the fact that one of the sides had to depart.

Brazil started the brighter but a string of chances in the first twenty minutes of the game only produced one goal from Careca. After this the French defence grew more composed, but Brazil still had the potential to quickly create chances. Then shortly before half time Dominique Rocheteau crossed in from the right a ball the Brazilian defence failed to deal with and Platini equalised.

The second half showcased some great football, and the French goalkeeper Joel Bats executed some excellent saves, but then rashly brought down Branco the Brazilian left back in the penalty area. A penalty that Zico would take, but Bats redeemed himself by saving it. This save took the wind out of Brazil's sails, and France slowly gained the ascendency. The game went into extra-time and France looked the likeliest to win, indeed France should have gained a penalty after Bruno Bellone was bundled over by the Brazil keeper Carlos.

So to penalties. Socrates Brazil's captain missed the first penalty for Brazil, but Platini put his kick over the crossbar to even the scores up. France went through after Julio Silva's effort was brilliantly saved by bats. They were fortunate though that the referee failed to spot that Bellone's penalty shouldn't have counted. It went in after hitting the post and bouncing back hit the body of Carlos, and so into the net. So technically the attempt should have been over after the ball stopped moving towards the goal, and by the time the error was noted the shoot-out was over and France made the semi-finals.

Mexico 0 0 West Germany (1:4 penalties)
(Universitario , Monterrey)

Dull, dull, dull. West Germany, playing in foreign conditions and against a partisan crowd were contend to sit back and wait for penalties. Mexico lost their most influential player Tomas Boy in the first half and after that failed to produce much of a threat, with Hugo Sanchez anonymous. West Germany's Thomas Berthold was sent off in the second half, and in extra time the Mexican Javier Aguirre followed him off the park.

The penalty shoot-out would decide again, but the Mexicans could not score. Only Manuel Negrete could score for Mexico, while the German's efficiently converted all of theirs.

Argentina 2 1 England
(Azteca, Mexico City)

This was the first football game between England and Argentina since the Falklands War of the early eighties. It would gain notoriety for showcasing the two sides to Diego Maradona's game. Maradona put Argentina into the lead early in the second half with the infamous 'Hand of God' goal. Breaking up an Argentinean attack, English midfielder Steve Hodge looped a high ball over his head, intended for the keeper Peter Shilton to gather. But somehow the 5"6 Maradona managed to beat Shilton to the ball, which ended up in the England goal. How had Maradona managed this feat? By connecting with the ball using his fist, not his head, an act which the referee failed to spot. Argentina were in the lead.

Five minutes later Maradona demonstrated his enormous talent to score one of the most glorious goals ever scored in the World Cup. To be fair to the England defence, they were still shell-shocked after Maradona's first goal, but that should not detract from Maradona's achievement. Receiving the ball in his own half, Maradona dribbled through the England midfield and defence, slaloming past the English players with a feint here and a body swerve there. Buliding up a head of steam he arrived in the penalty are and casually flicked the ball past Shilton to score an unforgettable goal.

England tried to fight back, bringing the winger John Barnes on to run at Argentina's defence, and ten minutes from time, Barnes beat Ricardo Giusti and sent in a cross that Gary Lineker headed home for his sixth goal in three games. Then with time running out the game flowed from end to end, and Barnes repeated his feat only for Lineker to agonizingly fail to connect and end up falling into the net. A minute later the Argentine substitute Carlos Tapia exploiting the space as the game spread out hit the England post. Argentina made it to the semi-finals, being the only team not to need a penalty shootout to do so.

Belgium 1 1 Spain (5:4 penalties)

A close game, with Belgium sitting back while Spain had the lions share of possession to try and hit on the counter-attack. The Belgium defence was good enough for this to be an effective way to play, even against Butraguneo, and so it went that Jan Ceulemans put the Belgians in the lead (although Julio Salinas really should have score first for Spain). In the second half Spain pressured and pressured and eventually Belgium had to cave in. A free kick was laid off to Juan Senor who rifled in a shot from 30 yards that beat the excellent Belgium goalkeeper Jean Marie Pfaff ].

Extra time came and went, so for the third quarter-final it went down to penalties. Pfaff excelled again by saving José Eloy's kick, which set up the opportunity for Leo Van der Elst to put Belgium into the semi-finals. he scored and Spain, promising so much, went home too soon.

Semi Finals

France 0 2 West Germany
(Jalisco, Guadalajara)

This semi-final would give Harald Schumacher and Patrick Battiston the chance to renew their acquaintance after their meeting in the semi-final 4 years ago, they would shake hands before kick off. But the match could not live up to the excitement of the 1982 game.

France conceded a soft early goal and from then on faced a mountain to get back in the game. Andy Brehme as rolled the ball from a freekick and curved his shot round the fall. Bats diving, managed to grab the ball, but it ran under his body and into the net. France had chances to equalise, the most blatant being when a Platini volley was spilled by Schumacher, only for the defender Maxime Bossis to shoot over the top when faced with a gaping net. bats also pulled off a few good saves to make up for his earlier blunder and keep France in the game.

But the effort of the Brazil encounter had drained France and they faded towards the end of the game, and so in the last minute Rudi Voeller scored a second for West Germany, who had now made the final for the second World Cup in a row.

Argentina 2 0 Belgium
(Azteca, Mexico City)

Belgium had managed to subdue Maradona and defeat Argentina in the 1982 World Cup, but they could not manage the task this time round. The Belgium defence was stretched to the limit in the first half and they failed to create any chances for themselves up front. Then in the second half, Maradona met a cross from Jose Burruchaga and scored with the outside of his left boot. Minutes later Maradona used his magic again, this time picking the ball wide on the left of the Belgian defence, he mesmerised his way past opponents on the perimeter of the penalty area before sending a left footed shot past Pfaff and into the goal. The brilliance of Maradona had got Argentina into the World Cup final.

Third Place Match

Belgium 2 4 France


Argentina 3 2 West Germany
(Azteca, Mexico City)

Argentina: Neri Pumpido, Jose Cuciuffo, Oscar Ruggeri, Jose-Luis Brown, Julio Olarticoechea, Ricardo Giusti, Hector Enrique, Sergio Batista, Jose Burruchaga (Marcelo Trobbiani), Diego Maradona, Jorge Valdano

West Germany: Harold Schumacher, Andy Brehme, Karl-Heinz Forster, Ditmar Jakops, Hans Peter Briegel, Norbert Eder, Lothar Matthaus, Felix Magath (Dieter Hoeness), Thomas Berthold , Klaus Allofs (Rudi Voller), Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

A reasonably entertaining game but never a classic, the shame was that Maradona, so influential on the way to the final could not make a big impact on this game. This was largely due to the sacrifice of West Germany's best player Lothar Matthaus who spent the game man-marking Maradona. But this tactic gave other Argentine players the chance to seize the limelight. Having said that Argentina's opening goal was a result of a bad tackle by Matthaus on Maradona, after the latter's backheel had bamboozled Matthaus. Jose Burruchaga floated the ball into the penalty area, and Schumacher, coming out to collect what should have been a simple ball, instead missed it, giving Jose-Luis Brown a free header at the back post. One-nil Argentina.

Losing a goal meant the defensively minded West Germany were required to attack, but could not mount anything of note in the first half. Maradona came closer to scoring when a clearance by Schumacher rebounded off his chest, but the ball went wide. In the second half the Germans lived dangerously at the back, and when Jorge Valdona found himself unmarked with the goal in sight, he took his chance and put the ball past the advancing keeper. Argentina could not relax though as their sweeper Brown, injured his shoulder, but played on till the final whistle.

Somehow the Germans hauled themselves back into the game. Andy Brehme took a corner, which the substitute Rudi Voller managed to flick on, and the veteran Karl-Heinz Rummenigge pounced to slot the ball past Neri Pumpido. With ten minutes to go, West Germany pressed forward more, Matthaus getting more involved and another corner was won. Brehme crossed in again, this time Thomas Berthold flicked on and Voller headed home.

Five minutes to go and the match was all-square. Just enough time for Maradona to make his contribution, a well-placed pass to Burruchaga sent him through on goal, and Burruchaga calmly scored the winning goal. Argentina were worthy winners, and the 1986 World Cup would become synonymous with Diego Maradona.

Top Scorers

6 - Gary Lineker (England)

5 - Emilio Butragueno (Spain), Careca (Brazil), Diego Maradona (Argentina),

4 - Alessandro Altobelli (Italy), Igor Belanov (Soviet Union), Preban Elkjaer (Denmark), Jorge Valdano (Argentina)

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