Diego Maradona, a young Argentine midfielder, was just 25 in 1986 and this was the world cup where he had his two most iconic goals, which came within four minutes of each other
The 1986 quarter-final between England and Argentina is famous for one of football's most iconic moments. It was June 22, a blistering Sunday in Mexico and two teams who hadn't had an encounter in about twenty years, were about to go face off in a quarter-final shootout.
The match was already a high energy one but no one knew something even more extraordinary was waiting for them and the entire world which wouldn't only be the talk of that particular day but for years that would follow.
Diego Maradona, a young midfielder, was just 25 in 1986 and this was the world cup where he had his two most iconic goals, which came within four minutes of each other.
Argentina vs. England
Team Argentina went to Mexico with something to prove and for Maradona, even more was at stake. Four years earlier in Spain, his first World Cup had ended with early elimination and a red card for a spectacular foul against Brazil.
Four years later during the greatest show on earth, Argentina faced an old rival – England.
England had finished second in their group and beaten Paraguay in the round of 16 to qualify for the quarter-finals in the World Cup of 1986. Argentina, on the other hand, were unbeaten and had seen off Uruguay.
The first half was painfully cagey and passed without any goals.
In the second half, however, in the 51st minute, young Maradona beat three men in midfield. With his way blocked, he pinged a pass to Valdano and set off in anticipation of a return.
Steve Hodge stole the ball. The back-pass to the goalkeeper was still legal and that's what the England midfielder tried.
"The ball bounced nice," Hodge said later. "I caught it absolutely spot on. It was the contact I wanted, looping it back with a bit of dip. When I caught it, I didn't have a moment's thought that it could be a problem, because I didn't know where Maradona was."
Maradona was racing toward the goal as Peter Shilton advanced to catch the ball. Maradona's left hand flicked the ball between Shilton's open arms and into the goal. And, bam! History happened.
None of the officials spotted the entire hand business - and so did no one else, for a while, except the England players in the vicinity who began their desperate appeals to referee Ali Bin Nasser.
The English commentator, Barry Davies, wondered why they were claiming an offside when 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's celebration, of course, was indeed a good way of selling the whole act by wheeling away in celebration.
Bin Nasser, standing outside the box closer to England's left touchline, probably had his sightline partially blocked by Shilton and the crowd of bodies but the linesman on the opposite side, Bogdan Dotchev, should have had an unobstructed view.
England pushed forward in an attempt to respond but a few minutes later, Maradona doubled Argentina's lead with a goal that, as Davies put it, there was no doubt about.
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 was clear - if a colleague was in a better position than mine, I should respect his view."
England manager Bobby Robson was more certain about what he saw. "I saw the ball in the air and Maradona going for it," said Robson. "Shilton went for it as well but Maradona handled the ball into the net. You don't expect decisions like that at the World Cup level."
Even Robson, however, could have no complaints about the second. "A brilliant goal," he added. "I didn't like it but I had to admire it."