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'Hand of God' beats British
By BRUCE LOWITT
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 8, 1999
It wasn't his best goal of the game -- Diego Maradona saved that for later -- but it became perhaps the most famous (or, for England, infamous) one in World Cup history.
The quarterfinal against Argentina on June 22, 1986, was the countries' first meeting on a pitch since the Falklands War four years earlier. There were fights among some of the 114,580 spectators in Mexico City's Aztec Stadium but no incidents on the field.
That the World Cup was being played in Mexico was, in itself, remarkable. Colombia had been awarded the games, but financial woes forced it to surrender the competition.
Mexico, with three years to prepare instead of the usual six, pulled it off -- even rebuilding itself after an earthquake hit Mexico City, killing 25,000 and causing massive damage.
Five minutes into the scoreless second half, Maradona attempted to play the ball into the penalty area, but English midfielder Steve Hodge beat him to the ball and looped it back toward goalkeeper Peter Shilton.
In a flash, Maradona caught up to the pass, arriving at the ball just as Shilton did. Maradona leaped and appeared to knock the ball into the net with the back of his left hand rather than with his head. Television replays confirmed it.
Despite howls of protest from the British, particularly Shilton, Tunisian referee Ali Bennaceur let it stand. Maradona would never say his hand had touched the ball. "The hand of God" sent it into the net, he said.
Four minutes later, Maradona put on a 10-second, one-man show unequaled in World Cup.
Taking the ball near the right sideline 10 yards on Argentina's half of the field, he executed a 180-degree spin that rooted Peter Reid and Peter Beardsley to the spot, sprinted down the sideline past Ray Wilkins, avoided an attempted tackle by Terry Fenwick, faked past Shilton, who had come out to block him, and finally escaped a tackle by Terry Butcher and kicked a low 10-yarder into the unguarded goal.
England could manage only one goal and lost 2-1.
Even British coach Bobby Robson could not contain his admiration for Maradona's goal. "Today he scored one of the most beautiful goals you'll ever see," he said. "That first goal was dubious; the second one was a miracle, a fantastic goal. It's marvelous (for soccer) that every now and then the world produces a player like Maradona. I didn't like his second goal, but I admire it."
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.