Editor’s note: Each day between now and the kickoff of the first match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Nov. 20, we’ll unveil a different memory from World Cup history. The countdown from 101 continues with Maradona’s “Hand of God.”
It couldn’t happen in the era of video assistant referees, but that only adds to the lore. Diego Maradona was at the absolute height of his powers at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where the tiny Argentine assassin cemented his status as far and away the best player in the sport.
Peak Maradona could beat an opponent in any possible way. Against England in the quarterfinals at Estadio Azteca, he proved it.
With the match still scoreless early in the second half, Maradona contested an aerial ball in the English box with Three Lions goalkeeper Peter Shilton. When the Albiceleste No. 10 realized that Shilton would get to it first, he sneakily tucked his fist near his ear and punched the ball past the much taller backstop and into the net.
Shilton didn’t see the infraction. Several incredulous English players did, though, and they pleaded with Tunisian referee Ali Bennaceur — whose view of the play was obstructed — to consult with his assistant. After a brief discussion, the goal was given. Maradona would score again on a spectacular solo run later in the game, and Argentina went on to win the game en route to their second World Cup title.
Asked about the handball after the game, Maradona delivered a line that has become almost as famous as the goal itself, saying it was scored “a little with the head of Maradona, and a little with the Hand of God.”
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