The 1986 FIFA World Cup, the 13th FIFA World Cup, was held in Mexico from 31 May to 29 June 1986. The tournament was the second to feature a 24-team format.
Three teams qualified for the World Cup for the first time: Canada, Denmark and Iraq .Canada clinched its spot after winning the final match against Honduras 2–1 in St. John’s, Newfoundedland. Iraq played all their home matches on neutral ground because of the Iran-Iraq War. South Korea qualified for the first time since 1954, Paraguay for the first time since 1958, and Portugal for the first time since 1966. As of 2018, this was the last time that Hungary, Canada, Iraq and Northern Ireland qualified for the finals.
The first round of the finals began in Group A, where Italy were held 1–1 by Bulgaria. Meanwhile, Argentina beat South Korea 3–1, with Diego Maradona playing a major part. Italy and Argentina drew 1–1, Maradona and Alessandro Altobelli scoring. South Korea and Bulgaria also drew 1–1 in a downpour. The final set of matches saw Argentina beating Bulgaria 2–0, and Italy narrowly defeating South Korea 3–2.
In Group B Mexico beat Belgium 2–1, and despite being held 1–1 by Paraguay, they won the group after a further win over Iraq, 1–0. Paraguay and Belgium also progressed after both beating Iraq and drawing with each other.
Group C pitted a strong Soviet Union side against the reigning European champions France. They drew with each other 1–1, with a goal scored by Vasyl Rats. France beat Canada 1–0 and finished in 2nd place in the group after beating Hingary, 3–0. Hungary had earlier lost 6–0 against the Soviet Union, which won the group due to goal difference.
Group D saw Brazil start against Spain, winning 1–0 after the referee failed to validate a legal goal scored by Michel. Northern Ireland began their campaign with a draw against Algeria. Northern Ireland were then narrowly beaten by Spain before losing to Brazil 3–0 in their final match. This match saw a goal from Josimar on his debut and was also the final time Pat Jennings played for Northern Ireland. Spain qualified along with Brazil after defeating Algeria 3–0.
Denmark stormed through Group E, dubbed the group of death, with a 100 per cent record. They beat Scotland 1–0 in their first game, and then hammered Uruguay 6–1, with Preben Elkjaer hitting a hat-trick. Denmark beat one of the favourites to win the tournament, West Germany 2–0 thanks to a Jesper Olsen penalty and a goal from John Eriksen. After losing to Denmark, Scotland took the lead against West Germany thanks to a Gordon Strachan goal, but the West Germans fought back to win 2–1. After a violent 0–0 draw against Uruguay, the Scots were eliminated from the tournament. During that game Jose Batista of Uruguay was sent off after less than one minute of play for a foul on Strachan, a World Cup record that still stands. West Germany went through to the second round despite a loss against Denmark.
Morocco topped Group F after holding both Poland and England to goalless draws, and beating Portugal 3–1. By doing so, they became the first African team, and only the second nation from outside Europe and the Americas (after North Korea in 1966), to reach the second round. England lost 1–0 to Portugal, followed by a 0–0 draw against Morocco in which they lost captain Bryan Robson to injury (for the remainder of the tournament) and vice-captain Ray Wilkins to a red card (he was never to be selected for England again, even after having served his obligatory one-match ban). In their last first-round game, with the captaincy taken over by Peter Shilton in goal, a first-half Gary Lineker hat-trick helped the reshaped side beat Poland 3–0 – although losing yet another player to a ban for the next round, Terry Fenwick receiving his second booking of the tournament. Poland had previously beaten Portugal, and in the end the Portuguese were the only team from Group F to be eliminated in the first round. Portugal, making their first appearance in 20 years, went on strike (in the Saltillo Affair) during the competition. Players refused to train between their first and second games (against England and Poland) and were eliminated after a loss to Morocco in the final group match.
Second round and quarter-finals
Belgium beat the Soviet Union 4–3, despite a hat-trick by the Soviets’ Igor Benalov. The game was level at 2–2 after 90 minutes, and in extra time Stephane Demol and Nico Claesen put Belgium 4–2 up. Belanov scored from the penalty spot with nine minutes remaining, but neither he nor any of his teammates could find a fourth goal for the Soviet Union. At the Olympic University Stadium in Mexico City, the European champions France ended Italy’s reign as world champions with a 2–0 victory thanks to goals from Michel Platini and Yannick Stopyra. In the rematch of the 1930 FIFA World Cup Final, Argentina just edged out South American champions Uruguay in Puebla thanks to a 42nd-minute strike from Pedro Pasculli. The all-South American affair had a Diego Maradona’s goal disallowed.
In Querétaro, Denmark were eliminated as they went from a 1–0 lead to a 5–1 battering against Spain; key player Frank Arnesen was suspended for the game after being sent off against West Germany in their last group match, for taking a swipe at German playmaker Lothar Mathaus. The Danes scored first, with a Jesper Olsen penalty, but they were then taken apart by a devastating performance from Butragueno of Spain, who scored four of his team’s five goals. At the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, England progressed to the quarter-finals comfortably when they saw off Paraguay 3–0, while Brazil brushed aside Poland 4–0. West Germany had a much harder time getting past Morocco, for whom goalkeeper Badou Zaki had an outstanding game. Morocco held out until the 87th minute, when Lothar Matthäus scored the only goal of the match with a free kick. Mexico won 2–0 against Bulgaria with an outstanding scissor-kick goal by Manuel Negrete which is honored by a remembrance plaque at the Azteca.
In the quarter-finals, France faced three-time world champion Brazil in Guadalajara. Brazil were well on top in the early stages, and Careca put them one up after 18 minutes. Five minutes before half-time, France drew level when Michel Platini scored his 41st goal after converting a cross from Dominique Rocheteau. Brazil had a chance to regain the lead in the second half when Branco was fouled by French keeper Joel Bats in the penalty area. Zico got up to take the kick, but Bats saved Zico’s penalty.
The match went to extra time, and France finished slightly the stronger of the two sides. No more goals were scored, and so it was time for a penalty shoot-out. Socrates, who had earlier missed an open goal and headed an easy chance straight into the French keeper’s arms, failed with the first kick for Brazil. The next six penalties were all converted, and then Platini fired over the bar. Brazil were back on level terms – but not for long. Julio Cesar struck the post with his penalty, and Luis Fernandez then scored to put France through 4–3 on penalties.
Two other quarter-finals were also decided on penalties. Jan Ceulemans put Belgium ahead against Spain in the 35th minute, but Spanish substitute Señor equalised with five minutes to go. No more goals were scored in extra time, and Belgium won the shoot-out 5–4. West Germany and Mexico drew 0–0 after extra time, and the West Germans eliminated the hosts 4–1 on penalties. As a curiosity, the German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher jumped to the right in the three Mexican penalties (stopping two of them).
The quarter-final between Argentina and England at the Azteca featured two very different goals in the second half by Diego Maradona (was hit by a nudge from Terry Butcher not seen by the referee in the first half): the first was scored illegally, as he punched the ball into the goal past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. The referee did not see the handball and the goal was given as valid. After the game, Maradona claimed the goal was scored “A bit with the head of Maradona and another bit with the hand of God”; it became known as the “Hand of God” goal. For his second goal, voted “Goal of the Century” in 2002 on the FIFA website, Maradona dribbled half the length of the field past five English players before scoring. With 20 minutes to go, the introduction of John Barnes as a substitute changed the tide of play in England’s favour, as he pinged cross after cross into the Argentine penalty area: with 9 minutes to go, Lineker got on the end of one and scored, then almost repeated the dose six minutes later but was just unable to reach the ball thanks to a timely block by Olarticoechea: 2–1 to Argentina was the final score. In Argentina, the game was seen as revenge for the Falklands War.
Semi-finals, third-place match, and final
In the first semi-final match, Andreas Brehme put West Germany 1–0 ahead against France in the ninth minute in Guadalajara, but the outcome remained in doubt until two minutes from time when Rudi Voller made it 2–0, and West Germany were in the final for the second World Cup in succession. In the second semi-final match, Maradona struck twice in the second half as Argentina beat Belgium 2–0 at the Azteca. France went on to defeat Belgium in the third-place match, 4–2.
So it was to be the South American Argentina vs the European West Germany at the final at the Azteca, the second time this massive stadium would host a World Cup Final (the first in 1970). Jose Brown put Argentina one up midway through the first half of the final, and when Jorge Valdano scored a second for the South Americans in the 55th minute, Argentina looked to be strolling to victory. West Germany then staged a spirited comeback. Karl Heinz Rummenigge pulled one back in the 74th minute and six minutes later Rudi Völler hit the equaliser. With seven minutes remaining, a pass from Maradona gave Jorge Burruchaga the chance to score the winner for Argentina. Eight years on from their home triumph, Argentina regained the world title and 30 million people in Argentina celebrated in the streets after the final victory.
Maradona was the Golden Ball winner as the best player of the tournament, while Gary Lineker of England won the Golden Boot as the leading scorer of the World Cup with six goals.