SuperSport viewers on DStv and GOtv will be counting down the days to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, with the tournament set to run from 21 November to 18 December and provide the most thrilling distillation of ‘The Beautiful Game’.
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To say that a FIFA World Cup can be dominated by one man seems ridiculous, but Argentine master Diego Armando Maradona is associated with his genius performances at the 1986 finals in Mexico perhaps more so than any other player with any other tournament in history.
With five goals and five assists, 25-year-old Maradona led La Albiceleste to their second World Cup triumph – and created iconic moments in football history along the way, including two goals against England in the quarterfinals for what must be the most famous brace in the sport ever.
One goal was the famous ‘Hand of God’ strike, in which he got away with a sneaky touch over goalkeeper Peter Shilton, and the other was the ‘Goal of the Century’ in which Argentina’s number 10 carried the ball for more than half of the length of the field, passing four English outfield players (Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Butcher [twice] and Terry Fenwick, before feinting to put Shilton on his bottom and slotting the ball into the empty net to make the score 2-0.
On this genius goal, Maradona said: “I made the play to give it to [Jorge] Valdano, but when I got to the area they surrounded me and I had no space. Therefore, I had to continue the play and finish it myself.”
He later complemented the fair play of the English team, saying, “I don’t think I could have done it against any other team because they all used to knock you down; they are probably the noblest in the world.”
Maradona scored two more goals in the semifinal against Belgium, and then in the final provided one of the World Cup’s great assists to tee up Jorge Burruchaga to net the decisive goal in a 3-2 win over West Germany.
Argentina, of course, were a fine team and created the platform for Maradona’s genius to lift them to a higher level. As goalkeeper Nery Pumpido explained: “Remember that the pre-finals Diego was not the same as the one in Mexico, where he became the best in the world. I think we were lucky that Diego was in the team, and we took advantage of that, but Diego also capitalised on having that team behind him.”
He added, “That team could bounce back from anything, not only in terms of the football and the physical toll, but mentally too, which is why we had such self-belief. In addition, Germany weren’t as well adapted to Mexico City as us and were physically spent [by the end]. Even after making it 3-2, we could’ve scored another goal or two.”