Argentina’s 2-1 victory over England in front of 115,000 fans on June 22, 1986, is remembered entirely for the two moments from Maradona which would ultimately settle a contest simmering with political overtones.
Four years earlier, Britain and Argentina had fought a bitter conflict in the South Atlantic over the Falkland Islands, which ended in defeat for the South American nation’s military junta.
Diego Armando Maradona, Argentina’s greatest-ever player, scored both his side’s goals in the 2-1 victory. Six minutes into the second half, Maradona cut inside from the left and played a diagonal low pass to the edge of the area to team-mate Jorge Valdano and continued his run in the hope of a one-two movement.
Maradona’s pass was played slightly behind Valdano and reached England’s Steve Hodge, the left midfielder who had dropped back to defend.
Hodge tried to hook the ball clear but miscued it. The ball screwed off his foot and into the penalty area, toward Maradona, who had continued his run.
England goalkeeper Peter Shilton came out of his goal to punch the ball clear. Maradona, despite being 8 inches (20 cm) shorter than the 6-foot-1 (1.85 m) Shilton, reached it first with his outside left hand.
The ball went into the goal. Referee Ali Bin Nasser of Tunisia claimed he did not see the infringement and allowed the goal, much to the chagrin of the English players and management.
Maradona later said, “I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came… I told them: ‘Come hug me, or the referee isn’t going to allow it”.
At the post-game press conference, Maradona facetiously commented that the goal was scored “un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios” (“a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”), after which it became known as the “Hand of God” goal.
The goal helped intensify the footballing rivalry between the two nations: the English now felt that they had been cheated out of a possible World Cup victory, while the Argentines enjoyed the manner in which they had taken the lead.
Just four minutes after the Hand of God goal, however, came The Goal of the Century, so called because it is often claimed to be the greatest individual goal of all time. Later on the game, Gary Lineker scored for England but they were unable to score an equalizer and Argentina won the match 2–1.
Following the game, Maradona stated: “Although we had said before the game that football had nothing to do with the Malvinas war, we knew they had killed a lot of Argentine boys there, killed them like little birds. And this was revenge”.