If anything, compared to the other great teams, Argentina was the most stable team, and all players, besides Maradona, performed excellently: the Real Madrid striker Jorge Valdano had scored three goals, Jorge Burruchaga from Nantes was extremely strong in midfield, while the defence organization around River Plates’ Jorge Ruggeri, Jose Luis Brown and Sergio Batista was probably the best of the tournament. In the first round Argentina had started by tying 1-1 with the defending world champions of Italy, while defeating South Corea and Bulgaria. In the last-16 they had met their eternal arch-rivals from Uruguay, whom they defeated 1-0. In the quarter-final Argentina defeated England 2-1 in a controversial match, where Maradona scored both goals, one being the infamous hand-of-God goal, and another that has been hailed as the best goal in world cup history. In the semi-final Maradona again scored two beautiful goals to give Argentina a 2-0 victory over Belgium and a place in the final.
In Spain in 1982 the German team had been extremely unpopular. In Mexico, the Germans were not particularly popular either, with a cynical and result-oriented style: in the first round they had progressed behind Denmark, after tying to Uruguay, defeating Scotland 2-1 and then losing 2-0 to the Danes. With second place, the Germans had avoided playing against the strong Spanish in the last-16 (whom the Danes lost 5-1 to), and instead faced Morocco, whom they were somewhat lucky to defeat 1-0 on a late strike by Lothar Matthäus and excellent goalkeeping by the 1982 villain, Harald “Toni” Schumacher.
Schumacher also took the headlines in the quarter-final against the Mexican hosts: in a boring 0-0 match, Schumacher made two consecutive saves on the penalty shoot-out to give West Germany a 4-1 victory.
The semi-final was a repeat of the 1982 legendary quarter-final between France and West Germany. Although the French were now the favourites, West Germany played their best match of the tournament and won 2-0, qualifying for their second consecutive World Cup final, after losing the 1982 final to Italy.
Argentina were favourites as the teams walked onto the pitch, not least because of Maradona, who had scored four goals in the previous two matches before the final. Knowing this, the Germans would aim their entire tactics on neutralizing Maradona, by putting the outstanding Bayern Munich midfielder Lothar Matthäus to mark him. But before the match the Argentinean coach Carlos Bilardo had expected the Germans to mark Maradona, and predicted that the match would be decided in the duel between Real Madrid’s striker Jorge Valdano and Hellas Verona’s defender Hans Peter Briegel.
And in the shadow of Maradona, the other Argentinean players stepped in to show that they would be worthy world champions. The first half hour of the match completely belonged to Argentina, who after 22 minutes went ahead by 1-0 on a header by the veteran defender Jorge “Tata” Brown, after a free-kick taken from the right-hand side by Jorge Burruchaga. Harald Schumacher, who had otherwise been the best goalkeeper of the tournament, completely mistook the trajectory of the ball, and let the Argentinean defender score.
Brown had been doubtful for the final due to a serious shoulder injury, but had insisted on playing, and this was the only goal he ever scored on the national team.
The Germans now had to step forward, but were still losing 1-0 at half-time.
Entering the second half the West Germans put the Werder Bremen striker Rudi Völler onto the pitch for Klaus Allofs, signalling that they would start attacking. However, 10 minutes into the second half, Argentina went ahead 2-0: Maradona and River Plate’s Hector Enrique combined quickly, and caught the advancing German defence on the wrong side of the off-side trap as Jorge Valdano pushed forward. Valdano ran directly toward the goal and coldly placed the ball to the left of Schumacher.
Everything seemed to go Argentina’s way, but as everyone knows, the Germans never give up.
West Germany’s coach Franz Beckenbauer now put on an extra striker, Bayern Munich’s veteran Uli Hoenness, and started pressing forward against the Argentineans who seemed to think the match was over, as Valdano admitted afterwards, “we thought we were already world champions…”
In the 73rd minute another Bayern Munich veteran, Karl-Heinz Rummennigge pulled one back for West Germany after a corner-kick, where the Argentinean defence looked to stand still as Rummennigge lurged forward in front of the goal inside the Argentinean area.
Eight minutes later West Germany had a corner-kick from the exact same place as the previous goal, but this time it was kicked towards the far post, where Thomas Berthold headed the ball into the six-yard box; a completely unmarked Rudi Völler came forward and headed the ball into goal.
2-2, and Argentina seemed to have thrown it all away withing ten minutes.
However, only four minutes later Maradona, who closely marked had been quite anonymous the entire match, showed one moment of brilliance when he made a perfect through-pass to Jorge Burruchaga at the very moment when Hans-Peter Briegel was pushing forward to put the player off-side. Burruchaga rushed towards goal with a desperate Briegel behind him, and put his shot under Schumacher before Briegel could tackle.
Argentina was now ahead 3-2, and were now confident that in the final six minutes, the Germans would not get back into the match.
West Germany had lost its second consecutive World Cup final, while Argentina had won its second World Cup title. In the eight years since the previous title in 1978 Argentina had undergone significant changes, become a democracy, and this victory seemed sweeter amid the controversies of the 1978 victory. There was no doubt that Argentina, led by Maradona, had been the best team of the tournament.
- 29th June, 1986, Estadio Azteca, Mexico City
- Attendance: 114,590
- Referee: Romualdo Arppi Filho (Brazil)
Goals: 1-0 Brown (22), 2-0 Valdano (55), 2-1 Rummenigge (73), 2-2 Voller (81), 3-2 Burruchaga (84)
Argentina: Pumpido, Cuciuffo, Brown, Ruggeri, Olarticoechea, Batista, Giusti, Enrique, Burruchaga (Trobbiani), Maradona, Valdano
West Germany: Schumacher, Brehme, K.H. Forster, Jakobs, Briegel, Eder, Matthaus, Magath (Hoeness), Berthold, Allofs (Voller), Rummenigge