When it comes to F.I.F.A. world cups, the 1986 tournament is easily one of the most interesting to say the least. During a meeting in Stockholm during the summer of ’74 Columbia were awarded the thirteenth world cup, it was they who would be hosting the world cup of 1986. However, during the early 1980’s Columbia was experiencing dire financial difficulties so they had to inform F.I.F.A. that they wouldn’t be able to host the tournament after all. In came the USA, Mexico and Canada with offers to host the ’86 world cup, F.I.F.A. decided Mexico had the better offer so it was they who became the thirteenth hosts of the football world cup, therefore becoming the first country to host the tournament twice. There would be no increase in qualified teams taking part in the finals in Mexico; however the ‘Mexico 86 world cup would see a change in format, the second group phase made way for an immediate knock out stage straight after the initial first group stage. Another change to the finals competition was that four best third placed teams would also progress to the round of sixteen.
The ’86 world cup had six seeded teams; they were the host nation Mexico, defending champions Italy, then West Germany, Poland, France and Brazil. Incidentally, about eight months or so before the start of Mexico ’86 quite a large earthquake occurred in the Mexican capital resulting in quite a lot of damage in many other Mexican cities. Luckily though, none of the stadiums that were to be used in World Cup ’86 suffered any damage. Mexico ’86 used twelve stadia, they were the Azteca Stadium and the Estadio Olímpico Universitario in Mexico City, the Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, the Estadio Cuauhtémoc in Puebla, the Estadio Universitario in San Nicolás de los Garza, the Estadio La Corregidora in Querétaro, the Estadio Tecnológico in Monterrey, the Estadio Nou Camp in León, the Estadio Neza 86 in Nezahualcoyotl, the Estadio Sergio León Chávez in Irapuato, the Estadio Tres De Marzo in Zapopan and the Estadio Nemesio Díez in Toluca. Argentina had won the world cup for the first time in 1978 when they hosted the tournament so they qualified for the next world cup in Spain four years later.
Unfortunately for Argentina, they failed to make the knock out stage in Spain finishing bottom of Group C during the second round group phase, losing to Italy and neighbours Brazil. Having not made much of a splash in Spain as defending champions, they were determined to qualify for Mexico. As South Americans, the Argentine are members of CONMEBOL, which stands for Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol which in essence is the South American Football Confederation. Back then Carlos Bilardo was the Argentine team manager. During his playing career he had been a midfielder for Estudiantes de La Plata during the sixties. Bilardo took the managerial reins of Argentina in ’83, and would remain in the job for seven years. In order to reach Mexico they had to negotiate their way through C.O.N.M.E.B.O.L. Group One. In that group they were joined by Peru, Colombia and Venezuela.
Argentina’s first group game was away to Venezuela in the late May of ’85, at the Estadio Polideportivo de Pueblo Nuevo, in San Cristóbal. In front of 30,000 fans Argentina made a good start to their qualification campaign, recording a 3 – 2 victory, the goals coming from Daniel Passarella and a couple from Diego Maradona. About a week later they were walking out into the Estadio El Campín in Bogotá, for their qualifying match with Colombia. Another good performance resulted in a 3 – 1 win for Bilardo’s team, the goals coming from Jorge Burruchaga and Pedro Pasculli with a brace. A week later saw Argentina’s first home match of the qualification phase for Mexico ’86. The visitors were Venezuela at the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti in Buenos Aires, Argentina ran out 3 – 0 winners. Next up was another home match on June 16th at the same venue, against Colombia. A single goal by Jorge Valdano was enough to give Bilardo’s team the points. Their final two games resulted in a 1 – 0 defeat to Peru in Lima, and a 2 – 2 draw at home in Buenos Aires, also against Peru. At the end of the group phase, Argentina had topped the group with nine points from six games.
Once in Mexico, Argentina were drawn into Group A along with defending champions Italy, South Korea and Bulgaria. The teams were allowed to pick a twenty two man squad to take with them to the world cup. Carlos Bilardo’s twenty two man squad consisted of three goal keepers who were Héctor Zelada of Mexican club Club América, Nery Pumpido of River Plate and Luis Islas of Estudiantes. The defenders were José Luis Brown of Deportivo Español, Oscar Ruggeri of River Plate, Julio Olarticoechea of Boca Juniors, Daniel Passarella of Italian club Fiorentina, José Luis Cuciuffo of Vélez Sarsfield, Néstor Clausen of Independiente and Oscar Garré of Ferro Carril Oeste.
The midfielders were team captain Diego Maradona of Italian Club Napoli, Sergio Batista of Argentinos Juniors, Carlos Tapia of Boca Juniors, Ricardo Bochini of Independiente, Jorge Burruchaga of French club Nantes, Claudio Borghi of Argentinos Juniors, Héctor Enrique of River Plate, Ricardo Giusti of Independiente and Marcelo Trobbiani of Spanish club Elche.
The forward contingent consisted of Pedro Pasculli of Italian club Leece, Jorge Valdano of Real Madrid and Sergio Almirón of Newell’s Old Boys. The first match of Group A saw defending champions Italy grind out a 1 – 1 draw with Bulgaria, on the 2nd of June Argentina walked out into the Estadio Olímpico Universitario, in Mexico City. 60,000 fans witnessed the Argentines record a fairly comfortable 3 – 1 victory against South Korea.
Argentina didn’t take long to get to work when Jorge Valdano scored in the 6th minute, twelve minutes later Oscar Ruggeri made it 2 – 0. On the stroke of half time Valdano scored his second to make it 3 – 0. Park Chang-Sun of Dawoo Royals scored a consolation goal for South Korea. Three days later Argentina traveled eighty miles south east to Puebla City for their second group game, this time Italy were awaiting them at the Estadio Cuauhtémoc. The teams played out a 1 – 1 draw with Italy scoring first via a penalty converted by Alessandro Altobelli in the sixth minute, just after the half hour mark Diego Maradona leveled the game for Argentina.
For their final match in Group A, Argentina were back at the Estadio Olímpico Universitario in Mexico City for their meeting with Bulgaria. 65,000 fans saw Argentina take the game 2 – 0 thanks to goals from Valdano and Burruchaga. That run of decent results meant Argentina finished top of Group A. So as mentioned earlier, teams qualifying for the next stage went straight into a knockout round. The second group phase seen at previous world cups, done away with. So into the round of sixteen and awaiting Argentina were fellow South Americans and neighbouring country, Uruguay. For this encounter Argentina traveled back to Puebla City and the Estadio Cuauhtémoc. As you can imagine, this was a massive game for both teams, neither team had much love for the other. A close game saw Argentina come away with a narrow 1 – 0 win, the goal scored by Pedro Pasculli. That meant a return to Mexico City for Argentina, for a quarter final meeting with Bobby Robson’s England.
Of course this was the quarter final with saw Maradona score a goal with his “hand of God” and it was also the game which saw Maradona run past several England player to score that quite excellent goal at the end of a long and winding run. The final score was Argentina 2 England 1, the English had good reason to feel robbed and cheated in this game. Yes, Maradona’s second goal was world class, but that “hand of God” goal saw Maradona put the ball past Peter Shilton with his hand, and everybody saw it except the Tunisian referee. Not the first time that Argentina had courted controversy at a world cup tournament.
During the 1978 world cup in which the Argentinians were the hosts, Peru had complied to throw a game against the eventual tournament winners Argentina in order to help the hosts progress at the expense of Brazil. Argentina needed to win their second round game by four clear goals in order to reach the final at the expense of their arch rivals Brazil and did indeed secure a 6-0 win. There have always been suspicions about the game which led to Argentina lifting the trophy by beating Holland 3-1 in the final. Recently Peruvian Senator Genaro Ledesma has confirmed the shock result was agreed before the match by the dictatorships of Peru and Argentina.
Ledesma made the accusations to Buenos Aires judge Noberto Oyarbide, who issued an order of arrest against former Peruvian military president Francisco Bermudez. He is accused of illegally sending 13 Peruvian citizens to Argentina as part of the so-called Condor Plan, through which Latin American dictatorships in the ’70s cooperated in the repression of political dissidents. Once in Argentina, the prisoners were tortured by the brutal military regime and forced to sign false confessions. Ledesma was an opposition leader at the time and claims Argentinian dictator Jorge Videla only accepted the political prisoners on condition that Peru deliberately lost the World Cup match by enough goals to make sure Argentina got to the final.
“Videla needed to win the World Cup to cleanse Argentina’s bad image around the world. So he only accepted the group if Peru allowed the Argentine national team to triumph.” Genaro Ledesma
Group B in the second round was consisted of Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Poland. After Brazil beat Peru 3-0, then went on to beat Poland 3-1. Argentina had to win the game against Peru by at least four goals. They did so with a dubious degree of ease that led to rumours that Peru might have been bribed. Other rumours claimed the beaten side had been offered a large shipment of grain to throw the match. Argentina caused controversy by delaying their games until the outcome of the other result in Group B, so they knew exactly what they needed to do before every match.
“With what I know now, I can’t say I’m proud of my victory. But I didn’t realise; most of us didn’t. We just played football.” Leopoldo Luque
In the semi-final Belgium were waiting for Argentina, confident in the knowledge that they had gotten away with their gamesmanship in Mexico City Argentina made light work of the Belgians thanks to two goals from Maradona.
Franz Beckenbauer’s West Germany were Argentina’s opponents at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. With goals from José Luis Brown, Jorge Valdano and Jorge Burruchaga Argentina lifted their second world cup in eight years; the final score was Argentina 3 West Germany 2. Some say with good reason Argentina should have had the world cup trophy of 1978 taken away, suffice to say though West Germany gained revenge four years at Italia ’90, a final that left Maradona in tears.