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Mexico '86 story
Story of Mexico '86
Originally Colombia was
awarded the 13th World Cup, but the South American country had to throw in the
towel because of financial reasons in 1983. Mexico made sure the cup stayed in the western hemisphere
when they took on the responsibility on short notice to host the greatest event in sport and thus became the first
nation to do so twice. A horrific tragedy struck Mexico in September 1985 only
eight months before the tournament started when around 20,000 people died in an
earthquake. Once again the tournament was in jeopardy, but the stadiums were not affected.
The country picked up the pieces and went on to stage a fine
tournament despite all the obstacles.
The World Cup once again changed its competition schedule. The two-phase
groupstage format used since 1974 was now dropped and replaced by the knock-out
format. In Spain 1982 the second phase groupstage contained only three teams of
four groups leaving one team inactive and unable to control its own
destiny in the final game. In Mexico the four best third placed teams would
join the six groupwinners and runners-up into the KO-stage round of 16. The
matches in Mexico were played at high altitude and at difficult hours of the
day. Kick-off was at noon and 4:00pm in broiling mid-day sun to get optimal
The hosts brought back topscorer Hugo Sanchez from Spanish football to lead the
attack on home soil, but "Hugol" spent most of the time complaining to the
referee and received unnecessary bookings. Mexico still advanced to the
quarterfinal where they lost on penalties to West Germany, but it was a
creditable overall showing by the hosts.
West Germany like France and Brazil kept faith in ageing superstars. Karl-Heinz
Rummenigge, Michel Platini and Zico all felt they had the ability to shine in
one more World Cup, but only Platini came remotely close to old standard.
Rummenigge and Zico struggled with knee-problems and rarely played full games
where as Platini lifted his game in the KO-stage as the opposition got tougher.
France and Brazil met in an epic do-or-die quarterfinal in Guadalajara. A
number of legendary players in their thirties left blood, sweat and tears on
the field for two full hours before France emerged as winners on penalties
even if Platini missed from the penalty spot. Zico missed in regulation time.
France then met West Germany in a semifinal replay of 1982, but this game had
none of the drama and action of four years earlier as the Germans once again
came out on top.
The Soviet Union, Denmark and Belgium, the latter after a slow start, were other teams who
impressed. Especially the former two looked like title contenders early on and
showed impressive attacking strength. The Soviet Union, or Dynamo Kiev plus
Dasaev in goal, played a fast paced mordern game with Belanov up front causing
all sorts of problem. Denmark with dynamite-duo Laudrup and ElkjŠr got through
the first round with three wins, but vulnerable defences were exposed in the
second round as Denmark crashed to four-goal-Butrague˝o's Spain and the Soviets messed up against
Belgium in a seven-goal thriller that could have swung their way with a little
bit of luck.
Luck was not on England's side either when the referee ignored the handball
goal scored by the man the 1986 World Cup has become synonymous with: Diego
Armando Maradona. Never has one man dominated an entire tournament such as
Maradona in 1986. Coach Bilardo built his whole team around this stocky figure
who was determined to redeem himself after Spain '82. His solo-goal against
England brought back memories of what football used to be like among kids in
the streets and parks ages ago. One player running circles around others.
Maradona did this in the World Cup knock-out stage in the most high-profile
games. Argentina won a well-deserved title after a classic final against West
Germany. Maradona's personal contribution in this World Cup was five goals and five assists.
Burruchaga, Valdano and Ruggeri were other key players in this team.
It wasn't the best of World Cups for the unfancied nations. Iraq and Canada
made their debut, but made little impression. South Korea ended last in
Argentina's group, but showed off some impressive long-range shooting. Africa
though continued their improvement and wrote history when Morocco became the
first country from that region to advance to the second round - they even won
their group which also contained England, Poland and Portugal.
England's campaign looked disastrous before Gary Lineker scored a hat-trick in
the final first round game against Poland. No goals scored, captain Bryan
Robson sent home with a shoulder injury and Ray Wilkins sent off against
Morocco. Things suddenly turned for England and Paraguay were brushed aside
with ease before Maradona awaited. Lineker's six goals made him the first ever
English topscorer in a World Cup. That was some consolation.
Portugal and Poland both disappointed. Zbigniew Boniek now played deeper for
the Poles, but the team lacked overall individual talent which had graced
Poland over the previous three World Cups. Portugal became the first country
in history to beat West Germany in a qualifying game, but stumbled after
beating England in the first round group's opening game.
But 1986 was all about Maradona.
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